Leaves on the trees

The security-growth dichotomy

Dan Fine, Practice Development

By Dan Fine, Business Advisor at Hive Business

When we feel too secure we do silly things — “security is mortals’ chiefest enemy”, says Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft in Macbeth. You need security — physical, emotional and financial security — but too much snuffs out your growth, even your life. To grow you must temporarily surrender it.

There’s a balance to be struck but it’s tricky, for individuals and entire industries. Take dentistry. It’s still flabby from a glut of security that meant being passive and reactive was rewarded.

Those halcyon days of the lifestyle practice were great, but now practices are valued on profitability rather than revenue. To create value you have to manage your business efficiently

When we offer our clients a summary at the end of a Diagnostic Day with them we always say something like:

  • This is what you want
  • This is the business you’ve got
  • This is what it’s capable of (which won’t necessarily meet your objectives)
  • So what are your options?

Often the first option we present is “no major change”. We like offering this one up because it’s a polite way of getting under people’s skin. No major change is what they have been doing, yet when you give them the opportunity to consciously choose it it looks very different. They don’t like it.

Anyone who runs a business, but especially a dental practice in 2018, knows that no major change isn’t a viable option. We’ve seen profitability squeezed in NHS and mixed practices in the past three years because of more regulations and rising costs.

The corporates are still acquiring fast and it looks like there will be a change to their associate model thanks to HMRC, which wants associates to become employees.

So what is just about manageable using a sole trader business model today probably isn’t a reasonable bet for the future. It’s almost certain that external changes will continue to buffet your business and rigidly sticking to your sole trader mentality won’t help, rather, it will hinder your chances of survival.

Let me give you an example. When Specsavers commoditised optometry, suddenly it didn’t matter how qualified individual opticians were. A similar thing is happening in dentistry today but dentists haven’t caught on. Why aren’t they using dental therapists to do fillings?

As far as I know it’s worked well when it’s been tried, yet many dentists think therapists don’t have the skills to do it. They won’t risk temporarily surrendering their sense of security to grow their businesses. But if you don’t want to take opportunities why run a business?

If you’re not getting out of dental business in the next 12 months you’re going to have to accept that what you’ve done before won’t do. There are incredible opportunities ahead and I can guarantee that if you take them your life is not going to be boring. If you stay in the sector and do nothing, change will be chosen for you — see for yourself if Shakespeare was right. Get in touch on 01872 300232 or email [email protected].

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