Why Recession-Proof Your Practice Now?

by Janice Wheeler, President of The Art Of Management Inc.

Did you know that the price of a box of mac and cheese was about $0.99 before COVID and is now $2.50? The price of gas has gone up and down and up beyond anything we could have anticipated. And there you have it – the inflation of food prices and gas is happening and is often the harbinger of a recession. Not that we want to start a panic as inflation does not necessarily result in a recession or a depression.

However, while keeping a cool and level head, we should be exploring ways to prepare for a worst-case scenario by recession-proofing our businesses now while we can. After all, we did get taken totally by surprise by the first COVID lockdown, and we don’t want to be caught with our pants down again, right?

A recession is defined as at least two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. Although this has now happened in the first two quarters of 2022, the “financial experts” are saying that it is not being classified as a recession … yet.

Been There, Done That

When we started our company in 1989, it was the beginning of the most major recession Canada had experienced since the 1930s. House mortgages were 19% (mine included), just as an example. Most healthcare professionals experienced their annual incomes going down over the next 3–4 years as patients either lost their jobs or were afraid they would and cut back on expenses.

The good news is that during that same recession, our own clients were expanding and increasing their production billings by $10,000–$30,000 per month (with our help). This proved to them and to us that a practice can prepare for and survive anything with flying colours if the correct management systems and planning are in place.

What does all this mean for your practice right now?

By this time, your practice should have fully recovered to pre-COVID production levels as a bare minimum. However, is that really enough?

  1. What about the staff wage-hikes going on right now?
  2. The cost of equipment, supplies, expenses, office rent or mortgage interest rates, etc. also increasing?
  3. Some patients or clients getting tighter with what they are spending their shrinking dollars on, including fees for your services?

Factually, staying the same as pre-COVID is not enough.

Be Responsive to the Times

These inflation-related factors all indicate that you need to jolt yourself out of any complacency you may be experiencing and start looking at how to increase your practice’s productivity by at least 25 percent so you can handle the inflationary increases (as above) and be able to put away a solid reserve account just in case.

You probably know the familiar saying: The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.” If you want to or need to increase your income, you need to change.

What Should You Do Then?

Being pro-active and making changes to the efficiency, productivity, marketing, and management of your practice is necessary to do now while you have the chance.

Sometimes, when looking at how to increase your income without adding hours, roller blades to go faster, or more staff, we need to analyze from the CEO down where the inefficiencies and missing actions in the practice are and fix those first. Then you can move into the world of marketing. Spending money on marketing when some of it is going to be wasted due to inefficiencies in the team’s actions and lack of sales training does not make sense.

Here are a few actions necessary to improve the ultimate growth of a practice:

  • Hire staff with exciting potential who are overachievers and polishing them with training and apprenticeships to help them develop new skills and become a more effective team.
  • Using your KPIs weekly to analyze why stats went down or up and making the identified necessary changes to get them all going up.
  • Improve everyone’s sales/presentation skills from front reception to tech staff in the back and the dentist as well.
  • Schedule ideal days for optimum delivery in terms of speed and quality.
  • Cancel cancellations with an ideal, popular cancellation policy (yes, we have one).
  • Eliminate no shows with better systems and policy. Also, educating the patients so they wouldn’t dream of missing an appointment.
  • Get everyone’s systems and protocols, job descriptions, etc. written and followed.
  • Hold effective staff meetings for alignment of the team.
  • Create a wonderful Mission Statement with the help and buy-in of the team so they are more focussed on achieving the goals of the practice.
  • Ensure that there is adequate coverage at the front desk for them to take the time to build a relationship with a “shopper” on the phone and turn them into a new patient.
  • Isolate the factors and times in the practice where you and the team start to feel too rushed or overwhelmed, and then work out the handling for those.
  • Look at the patient scheduling over the last week and see how many minutes and hours were lost with incorrect scheduling, which leaves 10–15-minute openings throughout the day. Work with your team on proper handling of the patients as to available time slots or openings.
  • Consider whether you are due or overdue for an associate to come and take on a portion of the practice and, thereby, increase the total billings without reducing yours.
  • Look at your recall/reminder/recare system to see where patients are being lost, then put in a reactivation program and improve staff’s sales skills.
  • Check to see if your staff are maintaining a short list of patients or clients who would like a sooner appointment if one became available.
  • If you made the hours longer and got an associate in without taking over your own ops, are there enough patients to not eat into your own existing patient base?
  • Work out an effective bonus system for your staff members to validate and encourage them for their contribution to a successfully growing practice.

These are a few of the more obvious aspects of the practice that we dig into and correct when consulting a practice. You may have additional ideas and know what you need to do. Having an experienced coach is also a smart move!

Bottom Line

Increasing the practice by 25 percent or more is going to take some management training, consulting and rolling up your sleeves to get things done, and to do things in new ways. It doesn’t happen without some time or effort put into it but that is all worthwhile because of how free and happy you will feel at the end of the process, when the place is running smoothly and profitably, and you have a solid reserve account.

Go for it!

About the Author

Janice Wheeler, is the President of The Art Of Management Inc. which has grown more than 700 Canadian dental offices over the last 32 years. She is an international speaker, has written over 500 management articles (www.amican.com), regularly contributes to various Canadian healthcare journals, wrote a book “Practical Advice for Practice Owners”, and has an awesome team who love helping dentists reach their practice goals.