Bringing it together...

I needed some guidance
Ole Behrens shares how the advice to adopt a 3-point system in his business has allowed him to live the life he wants to lead

In a nutshell...

My business : The Behrens Dental Practice
What we do : Dental practice offering general, specialist and aesthetic dentistry, West London



CV: Take us back to 2011, what mostly stands out for you?
OB: I had taken a major step. I was leaving the security of being an associate to open up my own dental business from scratch.

I had a really strong vision for my new business. I knew what kind of treatment I wanted us to do, how many people I wanted to work in it, and so on.

I was jumping into the new business completely and leaving my position as an associate. It was very exciting.

CV: What challenges did you face as you started your practice?
OB: I needed help answering all the questions which come up when are opening a business. What form should it take? How do I fund its development? How do I know how I'm doing? I needed some guidance. The British Dental Association provides some tips but I needed more than this to get it all right.

Plus when we opened there were days when we had one patient. And you’d think ‘ok, I kind of expect this’ and you look at the next days and see you are a little but busier. I just tried to use the extra time I had usefully to get through all the things you need to do in a new business.

CV: What did you do to generate new patients and how did this go?
OB: It was online marketing. This worked very well for us and gradually the new patients arrived. So that side of things was taken care of.  

CV: How about getting the extra support you needed as a new business owner? How did you get this?
OB: I had met Clear Vision at an industry event and at first Rob just discussed some fundamental points with me - about funding the business, whether to create a limited company or not - even without me being a client. We couldn't afford Clear Vision's help at first and the support I got was complimentary at the time. So a lot of goodwill was built while we were still increasing our income. This went on for about six months before we took up some formal support.

This initial support was very important to me and my business. It was really valuable and it was a natural transition to take on formal help when we could afford it.

CV: What support did you seek?
OB: I was important to me to have an outsider look at my business every few months and talk things through with me. So I wanted to have quarterly board meetings. This meant I also benefited from Rob’s knowledge of what is working for dentists around the country which provides a great point of reference.

As a new business owner I could ask whether I am doing things right or wrong, or whether a particular idea was totally crazy.

CV: How are your board meetings structured?
OB: At the beginning of each year, we sit down and look at personal goals and what we need to achieve them.

What was particularly important for my wife and I was buying our family home. Two years after we opened the practice we were able to buy our property and two years after that we renovated it. It was all very money intense. But having the board meetings made it possible and we’ve got a great asset now, a beautiful place to live. So very important, of course.

CV: How did you feel confident to go ahead with such a major purchase?
OB: The quarterly management accounts we get to review at our board meetings are vital. I've just got a new pack today from Ben.

I can really see how my business is performing. On a daily basis I can see my bank balance, the bookings we have and our daily takings, but our management accounts show us where these results have come from – where we are performing strongly and where we are not performing strongly, and we can take appropriate action.

For instance, I can see how profitable our dentists and hygienists are to the business. It turns out our hygienists are much more profitable than our dentists. I have room for another chair in my practice, so it’s very clear that this will be for a further hygienist and I will continue to focus on developing this side of my business.

Monitoring these areas means we are maximising the business income and there is a higher level of funds to utilise.

Working with Matt and Ben on the development of my quarterly management pack has also helped me gain a better understanding of the financial side, for instance I now keep track of the EBITDA figure and get support in maintaining this, something which drives the value of my business and will be important should I come to sell it.

CV: Tell us about the non-financial numbers you measure...
OB: This process was introduced to me by Clear Vision.

Everything we do in terms of marketing we measure. So I know how much money we spend on marketing each of the treatments we provide. For example on promoting implants, how many implant enquiries we are getting and how many turn into patients. Our return on investment is clear.

So it directs our marketing and we can react to a situation straightaway.

We changed our marketing company at one point which involved more expense but also promised more return on investment. It worked out initially and then our new patient rate dropped. So we made a change and now it’s better again.

The combination of my board meetings, the financial reports and non-financial measures I receive have totally accelerated the development of my business. The three things really work together. I couldn’t imagine not having the board meetings or only having the board meetings, because you need the numbers to support your discussions and a deep know-how of what is going on financially and operationally in the business. It’s a great combination. I know we can sort things out if there are any issues and put the ship back on the right course, in support of both my business and personal goals.

CV: How does your team help you improve the performance of your business?
OB: I have really seen my Practice Manager grow in her role. We have established a monthly schedule for her to follow and she's really got a handle on our KPIs and   the process of improving them. She doesn’t have to worry about completing the bookkeeping for the company as Bethan at Clear Vision has taken this off our shoulders, so she can dedicate more of her time to driving the productivity of the business.

CV: Have there been any team issues for you to overcome?
OB: Yes. A while ago I found one of my hygienists was creating problems in the practice. I didn't see it at first but once she had gone everything came out of the woodwork. How she affected patients and my team. I found it challenging but I got great support in approaching the situation.

It has been a learning curve because I was never really comfortable confronting people, but you have to do it sometimes. I think I had to learn this the hard way. In the end I just had to face up to being the boss with a business to protect.

CV: What is the biggest difference you see in yourself these days?
OB: I'm more of a business person. I am able to analyse the business really quickly, to see what will work and what won't work.

I feel my leadership skills have improved. My team is happy anyway!

CV: It's clear your '3-point system' has really helped drive the development of your business and you've also developed on a personal basis. What's next for you and your business? OB: The business is now almost six years old. It’s been stressful at times and we needed to extract all the funds possible to buy our home. This year I think it’s about continuing to run the business really smoothly and enjoying more of the fruits of our labour.

There is still a whole floor in the building which is not developed and I’m looking to put another surgery in there. I am also planning to buy the business building.

Our appointment book continues to be pretty much fully booked. So now it’s about better performance. I am looking forward to driving this – there is always room for improvement.

On a personal basis, I would like more time for my friends and family and to get back to my sport again, I used to sail competitively which I gave up while getting the business running. So work a little bit less, look after my health and focus on my personal development now.

It’s all about talking about goals and setting them. We do this every three months at our board meetings. So I think with my financial and non-financial reporting in place as well, I will continue to achieve these things working with Clear Vision.

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