To thrive in the challenging new dental economy, dentists should think strategically. The best way for practices to approach this is to engage in strategic planning — an essential business skill that is easier to acquire than many people think.
Schedule a special staff meeting to create the plan
I suggest that dentists hold an annual half-day strategy meeting with their team, preferably off-site. Base the meeting agenda on the following steps:
1. Start by having team members identify at least 20 items that have gone well during the past 12 months. List these on a white board or flip chart so everyone can see them.
2. Then, ask the team to come up with a list of 20 items that have not gone very well during the year. Encourage team members to speak openly, because these problem areas represent opportunities for improvement.
3. Review and discuss the two lists — what went well, what did not — with the objective of coming up with ideas for improvement. For example, something that has gone well might be expanded or applied in other areas of practice operation. For something that did not go well, think instead about innovative alternatives.
4. As a group, select the three best ideas created in Step No. 3. Then apply metrics. How much will it cost? How long will it take? Who will be responsible for doing it? How will results be measured? What is the expected return on investment, and in what period of time? These are all key strategic planning questions.
5. These three ideas, restated as three strategic objectives, are your strategic plan.
This may sound overly simple, but it is an excellent way to start. The practice owner and team already have many responsibilities, so a basic, step-by-step approach like this makes implementing the strategic plan much easier. Even so, simply meeting three new strategic objectives in the upcoming year can have a dramatic positive effect on the practice.
The importance of team engagement
For strategic planning to be truly effective, team involvement is essential. It’s natural for people to resist new ideas if they have not taken part in coming up with them, and brainstorming is not a one-person exercise. By making the development of a strategic plan a team effort, the dentist will end up with a better plan and get greater team commitment.
To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient, and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center at www.levingroup.com/gp— a free online resource with tips, videos, and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.
Dr. Roger Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., the largest dental practice management and marketing firm in the United States. As a leading authority on dental practice management and marketing, he has developed the scientific systems-based consulting method that will increase practice production and profitability, while lowering stress. Dr. Levin has authored more than 60 books and over 3,000 articles. He presents 100 seminars worldwide each year.