15 Sep Challenging Times For Dentists?
We’ve recently undertaken a number of recruitment assignments with dental practices or small groups specifically undertaking searches for business management & marketing expertise from outside of the dental sector.
Clearly there are significant changes going on within the dental market at present with greater consolidation, on-line marketing and social media and with the recent acquisition of DPAS by Weslyan, changes are also taking place within the Private/Plan space.
I took the time to have a conversation with Kevin Rose of Rose & Co about some of the challenges facing dentists and what they’re doing to meet those challenges.
Q Paul – Kevin, it’s well documented that dentists are facing what to some might seem like a perfect storm of increased regulatory burden, staffing/HR issues and overall business costs at the moment, what’s your view on some of the biggest challenges faced by dental practices today?
A Kevin – I think that we could be heading towards some kind of ‘super regulator’ such as that we have seen in financial services. The implication will be that smaller independent dental practices will have to outsource large areas of their supervision and regulation to third parties. We have seen how well this can work and I don’t think it’s anything to be scared of. In the meantime, remember that a regulator has to deal with the lowest common denominator who in turn will always try and find a way around the regulation. My advice is to lead and run your business in a way that is congruent with your own values and integrity. It may be that you will then have to fill more forms in to prove that you are on the right side of the regulation, but at least it just be confirming your position rather than requiring a fundamental U turn in the way that you operate.
Q Paul – Given that there is so much going on in the Private Plan sector with Denplan looking to move in to practice ownership, Bupa acquiring aggressively and recent acquisition of DPAS by Wesylan, do you have a view on where things might be heading?
A Kevin – We are seeing all of the signs associated with a market that is maturing and by that I mean the small and independent practice. You have a choice to either differentiate away from the corporates or try and compete directly. This reminds me of how we have seen independent retailers wiped out by high street chains. For many it has been too much to handle and yet we are now starting to see independent retailers thriving in the high street again. The formula seems to be to focus on differentiation rather than to compete on price. Competing on price is a downward spiral to failure.
Q Paul – While there is no one size fits all solution, what do you think practice owners can do to take control of their own destiny in the face of a still challenging marketplace?
A Kevin – You are right, there really isn’t a one size fits all solution and often I think that searching for one can send dental practice owners along the wrong path, where misguided quick fixes do at first look tempting but rarely work in the long term.
I think that we have to brave enough to ask bigger questions. For example, at a local level I hear loads of dentists asking how they can get more patients and sell more treatment plans and to a point I understand this, but in doing so they risk not asking the bigger question. The bigger question is to look at overcoming the memes and prejudices that people have about seeing the dentist. How come we hear phrases like “I have never met a poor dentist” and yet many dentists are searching for answers to “fill white space’. Something doesn’t stack up. We have to look at the cause of this problem first and great business owners, great leaders, apply this principle in all areas of their businesses, recruitment, marketing and planning for example.
Q Paul – Finding the right staff continues to be a challenge for practices particularly in urban areas and we appreciate not every practice wants to retain an agency to recruit. Can you lend an opinion on staffing and retention?
A Kevin – Well, unless you have the time and resource to recruit yourself why wouldn’t you outsource this? It is a specialist role within any business and not something that you can do in a hurry. If you get it wrong once or twice then you have a recruitment issue, but if you keep getting it wrong then you have a leadership issue. Think about why somebody would want to work for you and again focus on differentiation not money. Then think about recruiting for talents not skills. By talents I mean those ineffable qualities that set apart the good from the great within your team.
Q Paul – A number of our practice owners would consider selling their practices but are often cautious to market their practice – despite many potential buyers out there?
A Kevin – When I have bought and sold businesses in the past, I think it is always attractive to see that the business had a plan and then is able to demonstrate how they measured performance to that plan. This allows a purchaser to understand in what direction or trajectory the business is heading.
If you would like to discuss any of these matters with Paul or Kevin they would be delighted to hear from you.