22 Sep 2017  •  Practice Management  •  6min read By  • Andy McDougall

Business planning to get better results

The analogy we use to explain the journey to achieving your desired goals is the sat nav. When you switch on your sat nav, it locates your current position. It asks where you would like to go (the required result), offers you a choice of routes based on different criteria: scenic, most direct, etc., and then once you decide, it indicates how to achieve your desired destination and provides measures along the way to assess progress and ensure you arrive as planned.Not all results are equal

Business planning is the sat nav for getting better business results. We always get a result, but it isn’t always the right one or the best one. In business there is a hierarchy of results and the one thing that overrides all other outcomes is achieving the desired levels of profit.

Some weeks ago we delivered a seminar to a room of principals and practice managers. In preparing for the day, we considered focusing on marketing, finance, people management … any one of the specific areas of business focus in a dental practice, but in the end we decided to concentrate on results, or more specifically, financial results.

We began the seminar by asking what the role of the manager was, to which we received shouts of ‘to pass the CQC inspection’; ‘to ensure the team are performing well’; ‘to attract new patients’, and so on. And all were true! In each of the scenarios offered you would really want to deliver the correct result. But here’s the rub: if you scored excellent in every one, but the business made a financial loss, have you had a good year and did the manager do well? No! Everything must come back to the numbers.

An intangible vision is a delusion

Most businesses continually look for better results, and their owners have an idea or a vision of how they would like the business to look in the future, but in the vast majority of cases the vision ends up a delusion. Why? Because it isn’t based on anything tangible. We recently asked a principal for his vision and he said ‘to be the number one dental brand in his county’. Number one for what we asked: employer, quality, volume, price, breadth of treatment, number of patients, profitability, turnover? He didn’t know. So what criteria would his business sat nav use to ensure he achieved his desired result? It was a delusion.

Today’s decisions are tomorrow’s destiny

The basic premise is to establish where your business is today and define your vision of what you would like the future to be. In sat nav terms, it means knowing where you are and where you want to go. That’s the easy part. Now you have to decide which route to take, but just like the sat nav, different routes or different decisions will deliver different results. In journey terms, the scenic route may be nicer but it takes longer. In business terms, having to part with staff to downsize may be necessary but difficult.

So, making the right decisions is the first key to obtaining the right results, and at the heart of this is modelling the financial permutations of each decision to see its impact and to ensure you pick the right path. Our experience tells us it only requires a few wrong decisions to get a very different result.

Without action, nothing changes

Having made the correct decision, and choosing your route or strategy, equally vital is the execution. Taking action and delivering change is the hardest thing for most people and organisations, but if you fail to implement, there is no point in figuring out the correct decision. Until there is action nothing changes and if nothing changes why would you expect to see a different result!

The order and sequence of actions have a massive impact. It’s a bit like playing a piano: getting all the right notes in the wrong order won’t get the desired result (unless of course, you’re Eric Morecambe!).

Without followers, there is no leader

Running a business the correct way starts with a vision followed by an achievable strategy (modelled to see the various financial impacts). Then comes decisions backed by actions to implement them, and finally, performance measures to ensure the results remain on track. But who is determining the vision, deciding on the chosen strategy and taking the action?

There are hundreds of definitions of a leader but the only one that truly matters is this one: a leader is someone who has followers. If you can’t get the team on the bus, you will fail. Are you a leader or the boss? Your culture will be closely linked to the answer. If you are a leader, you will have followers, following you in pursuit of the vision. The team will have a shared strategy, with tangible plans and acutely knowing their part in the big picture. They will understand the skills they need to underpin your plans and everyone will be aligned and focused on the end goal.

What gets measured gets done

At the back end of the process is measurement. So often the key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t representative of what’s key and they are disconnected from the financial strategy. Setting the correct metrics, measuring the correct things the right way and knowing how to interpret the results are all key factors in keeping the business on track.

Becoming a results-driven business requires you to have a vision, not a delusion; to pick the correct strategy; to make the correct decisions based on modelling the desired outcome; to implement the change; measure the right things; get the team on the bus and give feedback on performance that takes the team and the business to the highest levels of accomplishment.

So, to answer the question ‘in pursuit of what?’ the answer must be, the right financial result. The bottom line is, it’s always the bottom line that matters.


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