How to set your practice goals for the New Year (and get past your excuses)

A new year is upon us, and it's a perfect time to set some new goals for your dental practice for a more successful 2015. But you have to make yourself avoid excuses. Dental CPA Jonathan VanHorn explains how to focus and find success in a few simple goal-setting steps.

Dec 19th, 2014
Dental Goals

All the practice management gurus talk about helping practice owners reach their goals. But what about the people out there who don’t even know their goals? Sure, we know we’d like more money. But how much? We know we’d like more new patients, but where do we start to get them?

I’ll explain how to set your goals and ignore your excuses. I’ll assume you already have some goals in mind. For example, let’s use new patients a day. This is typically defined as the number of new patients that come in, on average, per working day. Did you know that, assuming you have a decent recall system, you need at least one or two new patients per working day to keep from going into a plateau, or worse, a decline in your practice?

If you want to grow, you either need to go much higher than one to two new patients a day, improve your recall system, up your case acceptance success, or a number of other possibilities. (You see why this can be daunting.) But, let’s assume you’ve used the DentistMetrics report to see what’s obtainable in a successful practice, and the new patients a day number is your new goal.

Let’s say you are currently at 1.75 new patients a day. Here is how you set your goal: (Warning: You will never be able to improve your practice if you’re not honest with yourself. When you look at these numbers in relation to the reality you’re experiencing, do NOT start coming up with excuses.)

If you truly want to make your practice better, follow these steps when looking at what is attainable. This is the same process Fortune 500 use companies when setting multi-billion dollar goals. It will work for you too.

1. Get out a piece of paper and pen. Don’t use your computer. There are very serious subconscious elements at play when you physically take something from your mind and put it onto a piece of paper.
2. Write down the number you’re experiencing in your practice. From our example, 1.75 new patients a day.
3. Write down your “I just won the lottery” number. This number should make you roll your eyes and think, “No way anyone in my area gets that many new patients.” For this example, we’re going to use five new patients a day. (Note: While it is important to pick a high number, you also have to be realistic. If there’s no way your practice could comfortably add 20 new patients a day, don’t put that as your goal unless you’re planning to add additional staff to meet demand.)
4.Pick the top three reasons you believe the numbers from No. 3 and No. 2 are different. (Note: This is where you have to be honest with yourself. Don’t allow yourself to make an excuse here. Just write it down.)
5. Determine if the explanations in No. 4 are excuses or are something truly outside of your control. (Hint: 99% of these are excuses.)
6. Write down at least three solutions to your excuses. If you get stuck, reach out to a mentor, coach, colleague, or spouse, and see what they have to say about your issue. You’ll be surprised what adding another perspective can do.
7. Write down how you’d feel if you reached those goals. Would you be more financially secure? How would that make you feel?
8. Act on those solutions while keeping your goal in mind (the number you picked out in No. 3). Feel free to set a short-term, (less than three months), medium-term, (less than six months) and long-term goal. The most important action is to set the goal.
9. Every morning read these steps out loud. Emphasize the way it makes you feel. It’s important to rewire your brain to reach these goals or you’ll risk losing focus. If you feel like this is a silly exercise, don’t cheat yourself. How much is fixing your practice worth to you? Would you be happy with an extra $15,000 a month? Is being a little silly worth that? What are you truly risking?

If you need help figuring out what numbers are obtainable, and want to read more about what is attainable in dental practices today you can download a copy of our special report, “The Fifteen Numbers that Will Make (or Break) Your Dental Practice.” It includes how to look at your goals, metrics to use as benchmarks that I’ve seen practices achieve, challenges practice owners face today, and more at

Jonathan VanHorn is a dental CPA, dental coach, and founder of He has been helping dentists for the past seven years. DentistMetric’s focus is releasing actionable guides and reports to help dentists meet both their personal and professional goals.

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