The prospect of change can feel daunting for many. In a dental practice setting that fear and subsequent avoidance of change can prevent real success and business achievement. With this in mind, Regional Support Manager, Sarah Barnard explains why it’s important not to let fear stand in the way of achieving your goals and how, with the right plan and support in place, practice owners can fulfil their visions.
Imagine your ideal dental practice. What does it look like? To achieve your visions, would it need to be refurbished, extended or new equipment brought in? What is it that you want to achieve in your professional life? Might it entail further study or branching out into other clinical areas to complement the treatment you already offer? What would your team look like to help you get to that point? What support might you need from external contractors?
Now consider where you are. How far is the reality from your vision? What do you think is holding you back?
“Many practice owners are concerned about the impact the change may have on patients and the team”
I have been in the dental industry for over 25 years, and, in my experience, for many dentists and their teams, the fear of change is a significant stumbling block. So, you may ask, why is fear so commonplace in dental practices? It is, of course, not something unique to dental businesses, but I do believe that dentistry presents its own, unique set of worries.
For example, many practice owners are concerned about the impact the change may have on patients and the team, plus how this may affect the profitability and sustainability of the business. And this concern is often enough for some practices to sit tight and put their visions or aspirations on hold – with an ‘okay-ish’ business that has the potential to do better. But is that the right approach? Should a practice owner let those fears take hold and prevent progress from taking place? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.
A significant part of what I do at Practice Plan is to guide practices through two big changes; moving from the NHS to private practice and switching dental plan provider. Both types of change create apprehension for the practice and these are concerns that I work closely with every practice on. As a result, I have experienced many scenarios, and been able to support various dentists with vital change management skills who want help overcoming their fears, in order to feel confident and secure to achieve their vision.
Overcoming fear of change
So, how do you overcome this fear of change, particularly when the fears seem very real? It’s not easy, but if you keep your eye on the prize – your vision – those fears can be replaced by an incredible drive towards something positive and a sense of excitement for the future.
First up, I would recommend that your initial step should be to talk to any contemporaries whom you look up to and believe are doing well in business. Learning from their experiences will help to crystallise what you need to do to make progressive change within your practice, as well as setting your mind at rest that a move towards change can be positive and that visions can become reality.
“I would recommend that your initial step should be to talk to any contemporaries whom you look up to and believe are doing well in business.”
Just remember that any recommendations they provide will be tailored to their goals and vision, not yours, so it is important, when the time comes, to seek out the right advice and support for your unique circumstances. This will enable you to do your own due diligence on the best steps forward for your business supported by the right fit of support services and processes to help you achieve your goals.
A partnership approach
In essence, what we are talking about here is change management, which can be challenging but unnecessary to do alone. There are people out there who can support practices in their pursuit of change for the better, such as a dental plan provider with the experience to check the viability of your vision to switch plan providers, and the ability to walk the dental team through all of the potential benefits and how to avoid possible pitfalls.
For instance, when switching plan provider or looking to seek independence from the NHS the fear of losing patients is very real for many practices. However, the right support partner will be skilled in ensuring that the move is well planned and executed for patients and practice alike. As for the team, a dental plan provider worth its salt will be able to offer appropriate guidance and support to minimise any fears and maximise confidence.
“The right support partner will be skilled in ensuring that the move is well planned and executed for patients and practice alike.”
In my experience, educating dental teams so that they understand the long-term value of change to the practice leads the way to a business that is more secure and one with greater job security. Once a vision is clearly understood by the team, alongside the added value for patients, staff feel very happy to support any required changes.
As part of this, it is really important to have well-defined, simple processes that everybody in the practice works to, to make life as easy as possible. The processes cover all sorts of concerns that a practice may have initially, which can be worked through with a good plan and those processes in place. One process might direct who is going to say what to the patients and when, and what that information will comprise. My view is that if everybody works together and is singing from the same hymn sheet, change becomes a much easier task.
“As part of this, it is really important to have well-defined, simple processes that everybody in the practice works to, to make life as easy as possible.”
I know that the decision to switch to a new plan provider is not an easy one to make, whatever your reasons for wanting do so. My clients have offered various reasons for change, such as wanting a better working relationship with their dental plan’s rep, more expert support, and greater marketing assistance, as well as wanting a practice-branded membership plan. To overcome the challenge of making such a change, you need a plan provider with a proven ability to transfer the practice over seamlessly, so that you can start to benefit straight away from the new plan tailored to meet your need for change.
Always remember that your practice’s requirements will be different to any other, and a good, externally-sourced support team will be able to discuss specifically where you need help and offer tailored advice. You deserve to be excited about that change – and the solution to achieving your vision is just around that next corner, if you’re brave enough to look!