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a blog by Chris Barrow

The Complete Business Manager

man and woman look at the city

In my 23 years of coaching dentists I have worked with some outstanding dental business managers, business development managers, practice managers and clinic managers.

Over that time the distinctions between these job titles have become very noticeable, as has the inexorable increase in the skill set and attitude required for peak performance and behaviour.

I asked one of my all-time most admired managers (who chose to remain anonymous for this post) to give me a commentary on her weekly roles and responsibilities as well as any further observations.

With consent, I share with you here her own words, unedited.

There will be no comments from me at the end of this piece but I will ask owners to compare this with what support you have around you today – and managers to compare the support that you offer.

(A good deal of my time is invested in helping my clients to identify, recruit, train and coach managers at this standard so if you read this and think “I need someone like that in my business” then let me know)

The Business Manager’s Story

Ok, so I guess ‘expectation’ is a difficult thing to measure as every business owner is so different. There are some dentists who want to be very ‘hands-on’ in the growth of their business, and others who literally want to pitch-up, do the dentistry and go home.

But, I will give you an insight as to what my responsibilities are and how I approach my role. I will also outline the personal qualities that I think are essential for a BM.

Get yourself a cuppa to prepare for my brain dump J………

Will bullet point everything to make it easier to digest:

  1. We are a private practice. 8 surgeries which are fully occupied 80% of the time.

  2. Team of 20 in total. Mixture of specialists, therapists, DN’s, hygienists, admin and TCO

  3. We see between 20 and 60 pts per day

  4. Turnover projected at £2 million

Full operational control, to inc:

  1. Building – utilities

  2. Surgery & equipment

  3. Décor & internal ‘environment’

  4. All repair, renewal, maintenance.

  5. PAT, fire safety, electrical installation, air-con, gas, compressors, chairs, x-ray’s…blah blah – ensure all are serviced and maintained in line with current legislation and/or manufacturers guidelines.

e.g. Have just planned & implemented complete restructure/rebuild of new hygiene suites

Financial Control & Business Development :

  1. Cash-flow forecasting

  2. Liaising with accountants re monthly management accounts & PAYE team

  3. Full access to bank accounts with business debit card

  4. Management of loans/leases/HP

  5. Planning & preparing for future expenditure

  6. Setting financial targets – reporting to team and owners

  7. Liaising with ALL suppliers (from cleaners to web design) to ensure best prices and very best service

  8. Tendering for and termination of, service contracts where necessary

  9. Plan, create and implement business plans – 1, 3, 5 year visions

  10. Create strategic objectives as above

  11. Involve and drive team as above

  12. Identifying additional services

CQC registered manager

  1. Use I-comply to ensure all practice policies are in line with current guidance

  2. Train team to ensure they are aware of individual roles & responsibilities and are knowledgeable & confident with current legislation. (I lead monthly CQC meetings/training)

  3. Thorough knowledge of CQC Fundamental Standards and operate the practice in line with said standards

  4. To ensure that we are ‘inspection ready’ at any point in time.


  1. Manage (and actually ‘lead’) the whole team with confidence, including the owners/dentists.

  2. Manage all recruitment and selection procedures in line with current guidelines – to include the clinical team.

  3. Manage behaviours – disciplinary, capability and grievance with fairness but most importantly, confidence.

  4. Team development – each team member has a personal development plan that is reviewed 6/m

  5. Encourage all team members to undertake additional study – build training and development budget into cash-flow

  6. Create and maintain accurate CPD records for ALL team members

  7. Plan and schedule  CPD for all team members (inc dentists)

  8. Team development – monthly PPI’s and 6/m appraisals/reviews.

  9. Team development – daily huddle (don’t get me started on this – the MOST important part of the day and a very simple way to develop the team in terms on confidence – each team member takes a turn to run the huddle each day – we cover finance – targets – TCO – equipment issues – patient issues, feedback, follow-ups, fta’s – ordering – thank-you’s –rotas – every practice needs to do this)

  10. Chair monthly team meetings.


  1. Train TCO – subsequent implementation of robust TCO and Patient Journey process & procedures

  2. Alongside TCO – implement systems to track and follow up all NP’s to ensure they have the very best patient journey, ascertain average spend per NP, treatment plan uptake, conversion rates.

  3. Patient reactivation

  4. Liaise with TCO to ensure patient journey is maintained at all time

  5. Plan, cost and implement 6 and 12/m marketing plans to include

  6. Website – ongoing development (I update ours nearly every week and create ALL of the content) and SEO

  7. Social Media – Active FB and Twitter accounts – regular updates (2-3 daily) – ensure active growth – ensure messages are responded to. Create content.

  8. PPC – liaise with web company to maintain PPC accounts, monitor and review

  9. Digital E-zine – was monthly, now quarterly (see our website) write all content, liaise with designers to ensure correct distribution.

  10. Pt Journey- ensure referral cards are handed out daily by team – ensure comms cards are posted daily by team – ensure thank-you gifts and end of treatment ‘wow moment’ gifts are delivered as appropriate.

  11. Welcome Pack and ‘in-house’ literature – liaise with designers on design and content. Review every 6/m

  12. All external – we are currently running radio ads – station billboards – bus rears – glossy magazines – shopping centre billboards – gym advertising – leaflet drops

  13. Events – open evenings monthly for FREE cons/implants

  14. Offers – plan and promote as appropriate

  15. Practice Membership plan – implement – train team – grow plan numbers

  16. Charity events  – Plan charity events that all team take part in – the purpose is NOT PR, but very genuinely to “give something back” – we have done Tough Mudder, ½ marathons, coffee mornings, The Colour Run etc etc .

Patients/Customer Care

  1. Ensure robust patient journey in place

  2. Deal with patient complaints in a confident and timely manner (same day)

  3. Ask patients for feedback – discuss with team – ACT on feedback.

  4. Create an environment and train a team where customer service is at the forefront of everything

How do you measure results?:

  1. Growth in NP numbers and average spend per NP

  2. Growth in membership plan numbers

  3. Staff retention (vital)

  4. Growth in turnover and/or reaching monthly/annual targets

  5. Reduction in pt complaints and increase in active, positive pt feedback.

  6. Ensuring all above in place and ‘current’.

So, if I was to own a dental practice, I would be looking for a particular ‘type’ of person to be BM.

For me, essential qualities as below:

  1. Ability to manage AND lead the WHOLE team

  2. Supremely confident – ability to give direct feedback to business owners (even negative where appropriate)

  3. Enthusiastic & happy

  4. Motivated & driven

  5. Ability to work without direction

  6. Ability to plan ahead

  7. Ability to handle stress (your own and that of the team)

  8. Ability to just ‘make stuff happen’.

  9. Innovative

  10. Thoughtful, kind and very people orientated, but equally strong-minded and dynamic

  11. Exceptional communication skills

An important point to make here, is that no matter how awesome, talented or dedicated your BM, if you are REALLY serious about growing and developing your practice you need to understand that the days of coming in at 8am, doing the dentistry and going home at 5pm are long gone. Private dentistry is so competitive right now,  BM’s should not be using their time trying to motivate the business owner into action. The successful practices that I have come across are led by dentists that are equally as focused on business development as they are the dentistry.

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