Practice Plan’s Louise Bone looks for answers to the questions you’re asking…
The impact of the Coronavirus means dental practices are facing what is surely their most testing time ever. While dealing with the immediate challenges of any kind of crisis or hardship, it is also important to begin thinking longer term about the recovery of your business.
Contemplating the future while in the midst of a crisis can feel overwhelming. However, often, beginning to put a plan in place, and even putting some of it into action where possible, can go a long way to mitigating those feelings, and it is crucial for the survival of your business.
Bearing that in mind, I asked Andy Acton, Director at Frank Taylor & Associates (FTA): How can I recover my business from a hardship?
Andy: ‘It is worth putting hardship in context, we will all suffer numerous hardships through our lives and survive them. It is also comforting that in most cases you will not be alone and having company when dealing with a difficult situation helps, the old saying “a trouble shared, is a trouble halved” is never more true than in current circumstances.
The recent COVID-19 virus has caused hardship across the globe. It’s impossible to think of an individual or an organisation who hasn’t been affected by it. The range of hardship is enormous; personal tragedies, financial hardships and the closure of most dental practices.
The speed of your recovery and success will be partly dependent on how you entered hardship and conducted yourself through this difficult period. This is mostly about the quality of your communication. Did you communicate with your team, patients, suppliers, your bank and those close to you?
Whilst it is your business, your team will also be directly affected by the hardship and will be worried about themselves. In the case of COVID-19 did you let patients know you were closing, how to keep in touch and what to do in the case of an emergency? The same applies to your bank, suppliers, HMRC and not least friends and family. Having an army of supporters as you come out of hardship will allow you more time than if you do it alone.
To come back strong from hardship requires a strategy and vision, and a good deal of grit and determination.
In the early days it’s important to establish what your leadership and management priorities are. There will be a myriad of tasks but identifying those that are critical to restoring your business to its former health must be your top priority. Engage others in this process as there will be excellent managers in your business that can share the burden.
…A well-managed recovery can be a powerful force for those that are part of it.’
There will be hard days ahead and you need to have a positive mindset, and ideally a growth mindset (Carol Dweck covers this topic superbly well in her book Mindset), which will position you well to embrace challenges, show persistence in the face of setbacks and look for others having success to inspire you.
Your team will also be vital as you recover and engaging with them in the right way will accelerate the results. Depending on their competence, and time with you in the business, you should be treating individuals differently. Inexperienced members of the team will need to be given instructions, those more experienced you can delegate to and the elite within your practice you should be coaching with peer-to-peer problem solving.
Leadership and Management
You will benefit from strong leadership through this period – be inspirational, maintain focus on what is important and hold onto your self-belief. Recovery can take time and some days will be testing. Remind yourself and the team that the experience you are gaining now will stand you in good stead for the future; the lessons learned and experiences gained in the next few weeks and months would, ordinarily, take years, if not decades to acquire.
The management of your business requires a different set of skills – stay close to the key metrics in your business so you can track progress. Delegate where possible, ensuring you are passing on a level of responsibility and decision making that is commensurate with your staff member’s experience and ability.
Now is a great time to remind everyone of your vision for the practice, the power of a team with a common purpose is awe-inspiring. The whole truly can be greater than the sum of the individual parts!
If you don’t have a vision, now is the time to create one. Without a compelling purpose, it’s hard to get people excited. Here is a simple four-step process to follow.
- Be clear about where you are going. Your vision is your destination.
- Dream big – if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!
- Have a strong purpose – this is your why and the driving force behind your purpose.
- Set strategic goals – this is your path to get to your vision (the destination).
Ensure you communicate more regularly than usual with your team, patients and suppliers so they know you are making progress. The content and style of these messages will vary depending on the audience.
Above all, you need to set and work towards goals. Goals provide you with the framework to track your progress and the first step to turning the invisible to visible. It can also be very motivating for you, and the team, to achieve the first targets, en route to the long-term strategic goals. Remember to make a series of small, achievable goals, otherwise people risk being overwhelmed or are likely to become demotivated by failure to achieve.
This period will be transformational, perhaps thrust upon you through hardship, but nonetheless it will provide an opportunity to develop as an individual and your team in ways you never knew possible. You will learn to empower others, as there will be so much to do, you’ll need help. Through this process you will also build a level of trust never seen before. A well-managed recovery can be a powerful force for those that are part of it.’
My thanks to Andy for sharing his thoughts and advice on this topic. This will be a tough time for dental practices, and many other types of business, to find a path through and out of the other side.
A combination of having a positive mindset, strong leadership, good management, effective communication and staying focused on your vision, can help you to take the steps you need and make sure you’re on the right road to recovery.
Louise Bone is a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, and has 17 plus years’ experience in dentistry, including NHS and private, including five in practice. Through this regular column, she offers YOU the chance to ask any questions you may have about dentistry and running a practice today. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with your question alongside your job title and location, and let us do the rest!
Andy Acton is a serial entrepreneur developing the FTA group of companies, a full range of business services for the dental profession.
Andy has been involved in the business of dentistry for over 20 years and is the director and co-owner of Frank Taylor & Associates, FTA Finance, FTA Financial & Wealth Management, FTA Law and FTA Recruitment.
Andy is a sought-after public speaker covering topics including leadership, management, marketing and the future value of dental practices.