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When leadership is weak and management is strong
Dentists buying a new practice are full of ideas and are excited by the prospect of making their new acquisition an example of dental excellence. In most cases the production of a business plan was a condition for securing finance to buy the practice, so a business plan is usually produced for the sole purpose of showing the bank how you will pay back your loan.
Making a plan for dental excellence
Although the need to service the bank loan and make a profit is an undisputed reality, a dental business is about much more than making a profit – what it must provide is a safe, caring, responsive, effective, well-led service.
Formalising a vision of how you will achieve this, who will play a part in this, and agreed roles and responsibilities, will enable you to write the sort of business plan you can employ a practice manager to implement, thus leaving you free to concentrate on dental excellence
The vision is the heart and soul of the practice
Everyone loves that feeling of achievement that comes when you can enjoy the fruits of your labours. Before you can truly celebrate your success, you must define what needs to be achieved before the celebrations begin. Having a folder full of beautifully created policies and procedures will guide the operational level of the business. However, this operational level of management can only lead to business success when implementation is guided by the practice’s strategic vision.
Often, when I ask dental providers whether they have a business plan, I am greeted with a blank stare. They simply do not see the point of investing their time and energy to record their plans on paper, when they can simply hold them in their head. There is, however, a massive difference between the vague intentions of an unwritten plan in the owner’s head and a written business plan, which can be used by the team to manage the practice.
Writing the rulebook
Before the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 and its appointed enforcement organisations, such as CQC and the introduction of formally agreed and universally followed polices and procedures, the management of dental services was based on a 'play it by ear' approach. This presents difficulties for managers. To manage dental services, unless the manager knows their employer’s expectations, to then discover that their employer isn’t happy with the results, can be soul destroying.
Current regulations define the implementation of the Fundamental Standards and so give practice managers a rulebook to base their work upon. However, unless the focused leadership of a strategic vision tempers that rulebook – and is expressed in a holistic business plan – it is possible for practices to become over managed. This happens when the leadership is weak and the management is strong, and policies become the end, rather than the means.
Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor