Winning first year as a principal

conradnelErnie Wright announces the winner of the Breathe competition, and how Breathe Business has helped since.

Last autumn we asked Dentistry readers facing a tough business challenge to write it down and send it in, and in return we’d give our favourite contender dental consultancy worth £5,000.

The winner came in the form of Sevenoaks dentist, Conrad Nel, whose plea in his first year as principal was difficult to resist.

So much of what we do at Breathe Business is bread and butter stuff, and we thought Conrad’s case was a really good opportunity to highlight our golden rule: ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’

Meeting Conrad

conradnel2Breathe marketing coach, Jonathan Fine, went to McKenzies Dental Surgery to meet Conrad, take a look at his practice and establish his aspirations. 

Jonathan got Conrad to do the Wheel of Life exercise, which measures your satisfaction across the public and private domains of your life, and the Kolbe psychometric test (see, on which he profiled as risk averse and information hungry – a typical dentist.

Conrad had to learn what he needed to measure if he was going to be a successful principal and create growth.

Jonathan Fine said: ‘When I first met Conrad I was struck by how similar he was to so many youngish dentists – enthusiastic and excited by his purchase, passionate about the quality of dentistry and patient care he and the practice delivers, open minded but terribly innocent.’

The practice had been coasting when Conrad took it over.

Digitising the practice

conradnel3His biggest issue was that the business was still using paper records. This meant there was no real-time data to get a dashboard view of the practice’s performance. 

This is what we mean about bread and butter stuff – you need to be able to see where your practice is failing and succeeding in order to drive it forward.

Conrad’s first priority was digitising the practice, and with Breathe’s help he chose software that can generate the data he needs to produce key performance indicators.

He said: ‘There’s three associates here and I need to have a close look at how they are performing. The practice was always quite successful at doing average things, so bringing in this level of scrutiny is new, but it has to be done.

‘The next stage is upgrading our hardware, data conversion from paper records to digital and training, so it’s quite a big thing. Most surgeries crossed this hurdle a long time ago.

‘It’s a challenge because something relatively simple, like buying management software, is useless if you don’t know what to do with the information. Breathe has shown me what information you need, when to measure it, what it means.’

Jonathan added: ‘Conrad is a delight to work with and I have no doubt he will embrace the challenge of becoming the “disrupter” within his catchment, which will ultimately result in becoming the leading practice within a relatively short period of time.’

Time management

After Conrad went to the BDA at Wimpole Street for a workshop by Breathe’s clinical leadership coach Dr Simon Hocken he said: ‘It made me realise other dentists are working really hard and are getting stuck in an exhausting pattern that they can’t change, so it’s been really beneficial to organise how I work just as I am starting out as a business owner.

‘I’ve realised I need to use my time wisely, like Abraham Lincoln when he said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

‘I used to take my work home and it impacted on my time. I’ve made up my mind that I’ll work eight till five and get everything done in that time.’

Dr Simon Hocken said: ‘It’s been great to work with Conrad and help speed up his understanding of how successful principals run their practices. 

‘He now has a fantastic opportunity to grow and develop a practice that has been the same size for many years, and Breathe Business will be at his shoulder to guide and help.’

Conrad settled on a business objective of growing revenue by 10% a year and broke this challenge into digestible pieces by creating smaller SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, results focused and time bound) such as migrating to digital and beginning monthly KPI reports.

He said: ‘Small changes make a big difference – you don’t realise how a small increase on your daily turnover can transform your bottom line.’

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