The difference between OK and excellent
The difference between OK and excellent
Excellence is achievable if you look in the right place.

By Ross Martin, Management Consultant at Hive Business

Oddly two of our clients — not connected — planned implant referral events and nearly bottled them because of prevarication. Having helped to run these events many times we talked both clients into turning them into implant patient open days instead.

We said: “Look, don’t worry, you’ve got this in the diary, the dentists are allocated to be there, so what have you got to lose?” We gave them guidance on how to run the events and market them and, sure enough, both practices won new business.

One of them, despite the tight deadline, managed to get 60 patients to register, 42 to attend and 22 to return for a consultation and sign up for treatment. Conservatively that’s £100k of new business. It was very nearly £nil.

Who’s to say how many practice owners would have bottled it? I appreciate that feeling unprepared is uncomfortable, especially for dentists, but what’s more uncomfortable: running an event or losing out on £100k? The trouble is, you’ll never know you’ve lost out unless you ask the question.

It’s not that just ‘trying’ is enough, though. What I’m concerned about is the amount of time wasted faffing when dental practices could be achieving excellence. We know what the ingredients are and while the difference between OK and excellent looks impressive and produces a disproportionately large impact on your financial performance, it isn’t actually that much in terms of work.

It’s a non-linear evolution that can appear almost alchemical to outsiders looking in, but it’s quite straightforward. There are things you can do, like the open days I mentioned above, that will get you there if they are consistent and co-ordinated over time. You can get help from an agency like Hive if you feel overwhelmed, as those two practices did. It’s the reason why consultants exist in all industries.

I see a lot of missed opportunity in dentistry, an industry still led by people who aren’t trained in business and who are vulnerable to perfectionism. While you shouldn’t let great get in the way of good, don’t think there is only one way to ‘great’.

The best analogy I can think of is British cycling. In 2003 no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, and Brits had won only one Olympic gold medal since 1908. The new manager Dave Brailsford introduced a concept called the “aggregation of marginal gains”, meaning he was committed to doing whatever he could to produce incremental improvements in performance.

You don’t know where you’re going to get the gains until you try. Look at some of the weird things Brailsford and his coaches did:

  • hired a surgeon to teach riders how to wash their hands to reduce the risk of catching a cold
  • determined which pillow and mattress gave each rider the best night’s sleep
  • painted the inside of the team truck white to help spot dust that could affect the bikes

As these and hundreds of other small improvements accumulated, the results became overwhelming. Five years on the British team won 60% of road and track gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. At London 2012 they set nine Olympic records and seven world records. The same year Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. The next year and in 2015, 2016 and 2017 his teammate Chris Froome won.

It’s not that Brailsford’s interventions generated one or two large evolutions in performance and then stopped, instead they created consistent little improvements that, over time, kept them ahead of the competition.

If you’re already a high performer, you’ve done most of the hard work. Excellence is achievable if you look in the right place and have the right team around you. You can start seeing those exponential returns, just beware faffing. We can help.

Ross Martin
By Ross Martin Management Consultant
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