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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 is a suggestion:

  1. There must be an agenda with a maximum of 5 items (sent to attendees the day before)

  2. There must be a responsible person for each agenda item and they must communicate actions for ‘their’ item – WITHIN 12 HOURS OF THE END OF THE MEETING

  3. Reference ‘Blink’, use a clock and limit meeting time to 30 minutes

If you can improve how you work in and work on, the business, your clinical and business performance can transform. Like everything, it needs consideration, a commitment to change and then the self-discipline to make it work. Get this balance right and you give yourself and your staff the opportunity to flourish.

December 2019

Richard Pearce BSc(Hons), MBA, Dip Marketing


An experienced leader/manager (having held MD roles in a number of sectors) and with the last 7 years spent in dentistry (married to a dentist for 20 years!)

Ability to turn strategy into actions quickly. Available for projects, 3-12 mths.

Examples of experience

Project Manager – Sourced and acquired new premises, converted to 2 floor, 4 chair Practice, re-located existing Practice to new premises. Transitioned to 8-8 opening (6 days/week), recruited 3 new Associates, converted 50% of the Practice to self-administered membership plan. Doubled turnover in 12 months.

Business Manager – opened new shopping centre practice, 2 acquisitions completed, 6 Associates recruited, turnover increased from 2 to 5m (on annual basis) in 7 months.

Experience by functional area


  1. Prep of budgets and securing of funding (acquisitions and development)

  2. Preparation of reporting mgmt packs inc. KPI’s (operational and financial)

  3. Provision of due diligence for practice sales


  1. Day to day practice management

  2. Design and project management of installation of new surgeries

  3. Creation of Ops Manuals/Standard Operating Procedures (SoP’s)

  4. Establishment of telehubs/support centres


  1. Recruitment and development of dentists and support staff

  2. Leadership and management of clinical and support teams

  3. Established appraisal routines and individual training plans


  1. Created evidence driven, costed marketing plans

  2. Overseen on and off-line marketing budgets up to 15k/month (200 new patients/month)


  1. Installed software and hardware to improve workflows

  2. Continual focus on maximising effectiveness of PMS

After the 5% of inspiration, I provide the 95% of perspiration (and know how) that actually makes things happen.

  1. 07818 446974


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