Donna Hall speaks to principal dentist and Harborne Dental Practice owner Kirsty Robinson about the changes she is making to build a more resilient business this year…
Donna: How did the last year give you time to analyse your business?
Kirsty: It gave me the chance to step back and look at things a bit differently. For example, I’m looking at my cash flow every week now, which is something I had lost track over the last couple of years prior to the pandemic.
I revisited my cash flow forecasting last March and have kept it up since then. I’m looking at the business as a whole now, which is really helpful to see where efficiencies can be made and the best steps to take in the future.
For instance, before the first lockdown, I hadn’t realised how many private pay-as-you-go (PAYG) patients we had. We all realised when we returned to the practice in June last year just how important the plan was; the security of having that monthly income throughout the time we were closed, saved us during lockdown.
Since then, we’ve been focusing on converting our PAYG patients onto the plan, but not solely for the financial security reasons. We’re keen to reduce the amount of time patients spend in the practice when they’re not in the surgery, and if they don’t need to pay for treatment while there, that helps to reduce the time they’re in reception.
Donna: How has that focus on building up your membership plan worked?
Kirsty: The number of patients we have on our plan has grown.
We began speaking to our PAYG patients about being on the plan when they came in for appointments and helping them to complete the application while they were at the practice. So many of them told us it was something they had been meaning to do, so they were happy to sign up.
We’ve had a lot of new patient enquiries as well and we’re trying to also encourage them to join us on the plan rather than PAYG.
When I explain to the patients that it can save them money, it covers the cost of x-rays and they can receive discounted treatments, a lot of them just sign up straight away.
We really want to increase our private income overall so as well as encouraging new and existing patients onto the plan, we’ve also started opening on Saturday mornings to give us more time to do private work.
Donna: Are there any other changes you plan to make to strengthen your business even further?
Kirsty: We’re looking at moving to a cloud-based software system that will allow us to integrate better with our accounting software, as well as a cloud-based phone system to better manage our calls as we’re having so many enquiries.
We’re also in the process of building a new website and a new micro-site for our Invisalign® offering, which will allow us to track any leads better.
Two of the team are going to become treatment coordinators (TCO), and we’re going to create a new area to support that. We already had planning permission to move our offices into the attic in order to create another surgery space. That all had to be put on hold because of the pandemic. In 2021, we will be creating a scanning room and also a TCO room as those kinds of conversations really need to have their own private, dedicated space.
Donna: Sounds like lots of exciting plans for the future. How do you feel about 2021 and what might lie ahead?
Kirsty: There is definitely a lot going on, which is exciting. I am still concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic and the potential for redundancies which might have an effect on people’s ability or willingness to prioritise their oral health. We just don’t know how long this will last or how long the effects will continue to be felt.
Looking ahead I think we all need to make sure we’re rewarding and incentivising our teams. They’ve worked so hard throughout this whole experience and it’s not been easy – we’re all probably feeling tired, physically and mentally. That effort should be rewarded, not least because this is not over yet.
Donna: Thank you Kirsty, for sharing your experience and your plans for the future.