Create a Memorable 2007

I completed my end-of-year SWOT and found it enlightening. What’s next?

Stephanie Houseman, DMD

Dr. Houseman practiced dentistry in St. Louis for 25 years. She is married to a dentist, has two grown children, and understands all too well the demands we place on ourselves. She now works with dentists who want to simplify their lives so that they can enjoy themselves again. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, creator of the 7 Steps 2 a Balanced Life Program, and author of “The Balance Beam,” a weekly e-newsletter about balance and life. Reach Dr. Houseman at or (618) 639-5433.


I completed my end-of-year SWOT and found it enlightening. What’s next?


When you stop and put your practice under the microscope, you are able to see a great deal that goes unnoticed throughout the year. Or maybe you do see it, but it gets swept under the rug. The SWOT uncovers the health of your practice, in black and white. Use the information obtained last month to guide your planning for the New Year.

What’s next? Focus on the four components of your end-of-year SWOT:

Strengths: These are often ignored and not given the attention they deserve. Make a list of your top 10 strengths and post it in your break room. Then:

  • Celebrate your strengths! Keep a success journal, update it regularly, and read it often to inspire you and your team. Celebrate your success in small and meaningful ways throughout the year - luncheons, a day at the spa, gift certificates. It is important to focus on your strengths (while not ignoring your weaknesses), because what you focus on is what you get.
  • Play up your strengths in all that you do at the office.
  • Ask what you can do to kick up your strengths another notch. Then do it!

Weaknesses: This is the time to get real about where your practice is falling short.

  • Look for patterns here. Are your shortcomings people-related? Are you and/or your team not doing what you are supposed to be doing? Are your patients not following through with treatment? Are the office systems breaking down? Have you been to any CE courses lately to improve your skills? Is money tight and overhead too high? These patterns will make it easier for you to see where changes are necessary.
  • Pick the top three weaknesses to improve, change, or delete that would have the greatest impact on your practice. Is it time to raise your fees, release nonproductive services or employees, take a hands-on cosmetic course, or revise your systems?
  • Set aside the time, roll up your sleeves, and involve the entire team in problem solving. Delegate responsibility to the appropriate person(s) and regularly schedule follow-up evaluations during team meetings. Get going - your practice is waiting!

Opportunities = Vision: You must know what your practice vision is before you start making any changes. Your ideal practice “picture” serves as your blueprint for all that follows. Keeping the end in sight gives you direction and rationale for the changes you are making.

  • Make a vision poster. Use your creativity to construct a collage of all the components of your best practice. Place it in the break room and be inspired daily.
  • Create your one-year vision. Write down what has to happen in one year for you to be on track for your grand vision.
  • Set your goals in three-month intervals. What has to happen to keep you on course for the memorable 2007 you desire? Revisit your goals monthly so you can chart progress and/or make course corrections.

Threats: What is standing in the way of your success?

  • Start with a mirror check. As the leader of your practice, you inspire and motivate your team so that everyone buys into the success of the practice. If you allow negativity, self-doubt, and destructive habits to enter the picture, you will lose the battle. Practice success begins with you.
  • Always do “what you ought to do.” The late Walter Hailey coined the phrase “I always do what I ought to do, when I ought to do it, whether I want to or not. No debate!” Does this describe you? Change involves commitment, time, dedication, desire, and purpose. It requires your energy.
  • You can benefit from hiring a coach to support you. An outside observer often sees things that you and your team overlook. A coach will become your partner, hold you accountable for making changes, and cheer your success.

You do not have to change everything at once. Start with the concerns that are causing the most headaches and the improvements that will reap the most benefits. As you work through these and begin to see improvements, move on to three other concerns. Know that you will encounter struggles and have to make difficult decisions along the way. Do not let these deter you from your dreams. Keep the big picture in mind and a memorable 2007 will be yours.

© 2006 Stephanie Houseman, DMD

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