a blog by Chris Barrow

Working in and working on the Practice – how on earth do you do it? A guest post from Richard Pearce

I’m frequently contacted by people who have products and services of relevance to my clients. For over 20+ years I have maintained a policy that I do not accept introducers fees or commissions – I simply broadcast and comment on good ideas.

Can you write up a treatment plan and answer an email on your phone – at the same time?

What about paying two supplier invoices with online banking, sign a new credit agreement for 30k of new equipment and review three CV’s? This is all whilst a patient is freezing up, you’re already 15 minutes behind and you have guaranteed you can run a child (your child!) to Cubs at 6.30 i.e. you need to leave the surgery in 45 minutes. Does any of this sound familiar?

Having seen both of the above happening, nothing would surprise me as to what happens when practice owners who are dentists, try to work IN and work ON their business at the same time! This approach cannot be beneficial to anyone (patient, dentist or staff) but it is very, very common. Practice owners will always agree that multi-tasking in this way is not constructive so let’s look at what can be done to stop it.

Below, I consider decision-making, communicating and meetings.

At the most basic level, we are talking about the apportionment of time and how it is used effectively. There is no monetary value assigned to working on the business therefore in many Practices it is not given adequate time, hence the need to shoehorn decisions and business administration in alongside patient care. This detracts from both and can work out costly in the long run.

The time that is assigned to working on the business is often poorly used. Let’s remember that you almost certainly have one or all of; Reception, Clinical and Practice Managers, perhaps reporting into a Business Manager. Externally, possibly, a bookkeeper, an accountant, and a solicitor. They can all help enormously but they need clear understanding and direction or they will waste time and cost you money.

Let’s talk about making decisions! In ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell (2005), he says, ‘…decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.’ It is also worth remembering that not all decisions are of equal importance: many decisions can be made quickly, with limited consequences if they are wrong and can be easily changed if they need to be. A few decisions may need more information in order for a choice to be made. So; make decisions, maintain momentum and allow your staff to implement your decisions.

Communication to the management team but also to all staff is fundamental. How do you provide communication and monitor progress? The number of emails in many organisations and even in relatively small dental businesses, can become crazy! Same with WhatsApp. Communication tools like are often much more effective.

Finally, meetings! Hours and days of our lives will have been consumed with them already and regularly we read (and quietly believe) that they are mostly a waste of time. Meetings simply make us feel like we are doing something and so moving forward but if not done properly they can be frustrating for staff and counterproductive.

So, let’s establish some ‘Golden Rules’ for your meetings. If Google, Apple etc. can do this, then why not your Practice(s)? Here