Owners suffer on daily treadmill

We were putting in a huge amount of effort without seeing the business improve
Chris Lambert-Rose and Laurinda Watt share how they converted busyness into business growth

In a nutshell...

My business : The High Street Dental Practice, Chippenham, Wiltshire
What we do : Preventative dental care

 

CV: What issues were you experiencing a year ago?
LW: We wanted to grow our business and we knew the theory of how to do this but we were unsure of the best way to go about it and implement the systems we needed.

We were putting in a huge amount of effort on a day to day basis as fee earners, without seeing the business improve. This was very frustrating.

CLR: I think there was a lack of structure for growing the business.

We were measuring some things on an ad hoc basis but didn’t really have systems in place to measure what we needed to measure to drive growth. We weren’t really focused on where our new patients enquiries were coming from, how successful we were at converting enquiries into new patients or how well our recall system was doing.

We wanted to look at other things too, things which affect patient satisfaction such as our typical waiting time for appointments. We wanted to prevent coming up with high value treatment plans and having to tell patients they would have to wait a number of weeks before we could see them.
We also wanted our team to understand the importance of these measurements. When we had asked them to measure things in the past there was an element of ‘why are we doing that?’ It was seen as something extra to do.

LW: There was a lack of cohesion in their thought process. They didn’t connect their day to day actions such as greeting a patient, and carrying out treatments, to getting their pay packet. The middle bit was being lost.

CV: How did you get the help you needed to grow your business?
CLR: We were having conversations with Rob and Lucy of Clear Vision in our board meetings and Rob illustrated the One Page Plan format, and how it gives a straightforward structure for recording and presenting our monthly measurements or ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs).

LW: We could see how this would bring lots of different aspects of the business into a simple, understandable format. For us, we would be able to see how it all comes together.

We could also see how we would be able to share our KPI measurements with our team.

CV: How did you get going with your One Page Plan?
LW: We were so busy in surgery that our leadership wasn’t clearly focused. So we needed someone to come in and help us set it up and train our people appropriately.

Dee at Clear Vision has experience of doing this as well as helping dentists improve their KPI results.

We met with Dee and discussed how she would help us set up our One Page Plan. I didn’t appreciate that it would cover more than just our new patient data. As we spoke with Dee I realised that it would act as a project management tool, and track and measure a whole host of other things too.
So we could see how it would work for us.

CLR: Some of the KPIs we wanted to track we could get from our Practice software but we didn’t know how to do this so we needed someone who could let us know. Dee was this person.

I am very in favour with everything being systemised and as Dee described the process I could see how anyone could run with the One Page Plan system. It’s not something that comes under one person’s domain so works even when people take holiday.

CV: How did the One Page Plan set up go?
LW: Dee came in and began the process of setting up the measurement systems and training the appropriate team members on getting the KPIs together and putting them on the bespoke One Page Plan software she comes with.

She’s very approachable and I was impressed at how she didn’t upset people when she came. She was very tactful in helping us implement the One Page Plan and the system changes which come along with it.

CLR: It started working very well. Dee helped us put some new centralised systems in place to measure things like the new patient enquiries we receive and whether these convert to appointments. She also helped us when the measurement process threatened to tail off, so we kept with it and made sure the measurements were accurate.

CV: Where did you start to see the benefits?
CLR: The beauty of the system Dee introduced and the way it is organised is that you can focus on different phases of the patient journey and see where you need to spend more effort and where you are doing ok and things don’t need changing.

You might spend a lot on your website and advertising and get plenty of enquiries, but if your KPI results show you don’t convert these enquiries to appointments, there is an issue with your reception function. And if having seen the dentist for a first appointment, the second appointment rate is lower, there’s something happening in the surgery which is not quite right. So it allowed us to work in depth on the whole patient journey.

One of the key outcomes was seeing how successful we were in converting that enquiry into an ongoing, regular patient.

LW: It’s getting our team to dig that bit deeper and be able to analyse how well we are doing and I don’t think on our own we’d have come up with an effective system for doing that.

We can now look at the Practice as a whole. Chris and I are expense sharing partners and it has really helped to cement our relationship and we know the business goes better if the two of us are working in the same direction. The One Page Plan process is extremely helpful with this.

CLR: This KPI improvement process provides a commonality of purpose. As partners we have to engage with the process in the same way and do the same things to make it worthwhile.

CV: What differences in your business do you see now compared to a year ago?
LW: I now feel confident that the Practice as a whole will keep on improving and growing. We’re letting less money slip through the net as we’re tracking and making sure enquiries convert, our patients complete their courses of treatment and so on. The answer to a successful business is not just that it is busy. Being profitable is a different thing.

Our team know we are tracking and recording progress. So they are more focused on our patient journey which certainly makes me less stressed. I can trust that the business is being run the way I want it to be run as I work away in surgery.

CLR: We now have a new Practice Manager and have shown her the structure we have in place to carry on growing the business and how we are quantifying this. 

It just makes running your business a lot easier and you can pick up any negative trends a lot more quickly. A dental practice is like a super tanker, if you try and change direction it won’t just suddenly turn. You need to be able to turn the steering wheel in the right direction early.

So I can see where we’re going and it looks good.

CV: What other benefits do you see from this process for you personally?
CLR: I’ve always produced my own rough KPI figures, even as an associate, but this provides a system to do this on a practice-wide basis. I know the system is in place rather than me having to do it. I can step back from it and just get involved with looking at our One Page Plan results at the end of the month, to discuss the areas we need to work on.

So it frees up my time which is good because I want to grow the referral side of the business and having more free time will help me do this.
Plus as the business continues to grow, I’m looking forward to cutting down my clinical time and increasingly being more selective about the type of treatments I do myself.

Michael Gerber says the only reason to own a business is to sell it. One day in the future this is going to happen. Ultimately the KPI improvement process is adding value to my business. Plus it makes it a lot more saleable.

LW: Having the One Page Plan in place provides a solid and undeniable benchmark on how our business is performing.  The staff have a clearly defined task when completing the report and they know why they are gathering this information.  It helps them understand their part in the profitability and growth of the business and therefore helps in motivation and teamwork.  We have a shared goal.

Personally, this allows me to focus on the day-to-day management of patients.  I do not need to take time out during a busy session to gather snippets of information as I know that I will have the figures at the end of the month and can then make informed choices about the course of my business.  This relieves some of the daily stress that we face and helps the team work towards a common goal.

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