Practice Plan caught up with Peter Boolkah, one of the UK’s leading business coaches, to see what advice he could offer to dental practice owners on how to make positive changes to move their business forward, even if the change required may initially seem too much of a challenge to tackle.
Practice Plan (PP): What do you think prevents business owners from making necessary changes to their business, even when they are unhappy with the current status quo?
Peter Boolkah: I think there are two main reasons: either lack of knowledge – so they don’t know how to make a change – or fear. Each alone can be crippling, never mind if you are suffering from both!
If you want to run a successful business, learn to become a successful business person. The business follows the leader. Always remember that the problems in your business are a reflection of you. If you don’t like the reflection, you need to change the picture. That’s the reality. Who is in charge of the business? The business owner. Unless you change, how can you expect the business to change?
Businesses don’t just ‘turn themselves around’ one day. It never happens; businesses are not pilots!
PP: You say fear is a barrier to change; in what way can it stand in the way of success?
Peter: Most people do not know how to overcome their fear. They don’t know what to do next, so that fear paralyses them. If you want to learn to drive a car, you take lessons. In business, so many people don’t seek out that person who can help them overcome their fear, and in the UK we’re not good at asking – or paying – for help.
In my experience, most people’s greatest fear is that of being judged. But the reality is that no-one judges anybody and sometimes we need support to help to guide us forward. So, it is important not to let worries like this, which are unfounded, get in the way of pursuing greater success.
PP: What would be the best way to start to initiate change?
Peter: The challenge many business owners face – and it’s not limited to the dental profession – is that most people, without the right support, will start to make changes in a rather unfocused way, without knowing how to achieve their goals. Education is key, as is working as a team to make the changes.
So, the first thing dentists need to do is identify why they are too scared to make a change. Then they need to ask themselves why they feel it’s ‘better the devil you know’. Once the challenges have been identified and a name can be put to them, it becomes less daunting and is often sufficiently freeing to start looking at the options to see what’s on offer. That then allows the dentist and the dental team to see the reality of their situation.
PP: You mentioned ‘working as a team’ as being a key element to deal with making a change. How exactly can you build a fantastic team in business?
Peter: I think the cornerstone of building a fantastic team is to employ the right people. So it’s about learning how to hire people.
Most people who go into business don’t even know what they want. Business owners tend to think along the lines of, ‘I want a receptionist’. However, there is so much more to the process – if they want to be successful. They need to ask themselves what kind of person they want; what qualifications they need; and what job they want them to do. Otherwise they may well end up with somebody who can’t do what is ultimately wanted and needed. At the end of the day, you need to hire someone you can gel with. If you don’t gel with them you’re not going to want to talk to them.
PP: How might a practice owner motivate their team to get behind new initiatives and business decisions, to help challenge current thinking and working procedures?
Peter: In my experience, most dentists have spent many years training to become a fantastic clinician, but when they invest in their own practice they just start to build a team out of nothing. When and where did they learn to build a team? The answers are never and nowhere.
While the vast majority of dentists won’t get complaints about clinical care, they may well do about the quality of service being offered if the team is not up to scratch. So I can’t emphasise enough that when you are building a business you need to learn how to build a team. Effective communication is absolutely necessary; indeed, people talk about effective communication but it’s not that easy to implement – especially without guidance. What does effective communication look like? How does it work? And what do individuals need to change about their communication in order to succeed?
Can you answer those questions without help? I’d be surprised if you can answer them without advice and support tailored to your needs from an expert in the field of communication.
PP: Business advisers often say that a business is only limited by the ambition of the business owner. How does a business owner start to think bigger in terms of achievement and success when fear and concern are holding them back?
Peter: A lot of dentists are quite isolated in their practices and are therefore limited by their frame of reference. They need to spend time with successful business owners to widen their understanding of the potential for growth. Others who have succeeded can provide inspiration for dentists and motivate them to push their boundaries. In addition, I would recommend two books for dentists to read as a starting point:
- ‘The E-myth revisited: why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it’ by Michael E Gerber
- ‘The levels: can your business step up to the growth challenge?’ by Ray Moore.
PP: What common characteristics do you see in successful business leaders and how might dentists replicate this in their practices?
Peter: The people who are ultra-successful are those who will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. They might not know what to do at the beginning, but they are prepared to put in the hard graft – both on themselves and their business.What often happens with dentists is that after their five years of undergraduate study they feel they’ve completed enough education to last a lifetime (apart from CPD) and don’t look beyond that to run a practice.
In actual fact, education and training are fundamental to becoming a successful business owner. Look at it this way – you’d never place an implant without implant training, so why might it seem reasonable to start a business without learning from the best in that arena?
PP: Dentistry gets a significant amount of bad press in the UK. How might a dentist overcome these common misconceptions with their patients to create a more positive impact in their local area?
Peter: You need to create a fantastic team that will provide the patient with an outstanding experience. The last thing a patient wants to do when they come into the practice is to receive shoddy service. If the service is as good as the treatment, word of mouth will take care of the rest; most people will speak as they find, rather than taking what they read in the tabloids as gospel.
PP: What is the single best piece of advice you can offer to a dentist who wants to be more proactive in achieving success?
Peter: If you want to grow your practice and be more successful, there is only one way to do that – and that is by spending time with people who are more successful than you are.
Dentists need to surround themselves with people who will help them to achieve greater success.
An award-winning, fast-growth business coach, Peter Boolkah specialises in strategic planning, leadership and team development. Peter is the first European coach to be recognised in the Actioncoach hall of fame – an organisation developed to train business coaches, using a certain process and methodology, to coach clients. He has worked with hundreds of large companies all over the world, has won 57 Actioncoach awards to date, and guest lectures at Judge College in Cambridge. Peter also has over 20 years’ experience in the world of corporate and business ownership within various industries – bringing together a diverse range of skills to his business coaching and training. Peter joined Fluid Business Coaching in 2006, where he has established a first-class reputation in the world of business coaching as one of the best rapid-growth mentors around.
Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded patient membership plans in the UK. If you are thinking about changing provider, Practice Plan has the experience, expertise and systems to ensure that setting up and implementing your plan is a pain-free and seamless experience. What’s more, whilst working in partnership with your practice, once you’re up and running Practice Plan has a wealth of business and plan support services to help you develop a profitable and sustainable business.
If you would like to know how Practice Plan could help you make a greater success of your practice, visit www.practiceplan.co.uk/change, call 01691 684165 or sign up for its business support at blog.practiceplan.co.uk.