I joined the practice in 2003 as an associate; it was mostly private then with some NHS patients, and offered Denplan patient plans. We were ticking along but the new NHS contract was looming, along with all the increased regulation, and the recession began to kick in. For the then principal, it was just too much of a headache so out of the blue he offered me the chance to buy the practice myself, or he would opt to sell privately or to a corporate company.
It seemed like a fantastic opportunity but it couldn’t have come at a worse time in terms of the economic situation. Many businesses ‘cut their teeth’ in a recession but it was a huge risk. I pondered for a while but in the end I took the plunge and hoped things would turn around.
Switching provider – a rash decision
I made a rash decision to switch to another dental plan provider to cut costs and hopefully attract more patients. I remember long nights personally folding and posting over 500 letters to our patients to explain the change, but felt it had to be done.
I spent the next three years frantically juggling all the demands of the business, carrying out mountains of admin and trying to keep staff and patients happy, so I barely had time to reflect on how we were doing. By 2013 I realised we were stagnating; the rest of the team had noticed too.
Getting back on track with Denplan
When a colleague suggested returning to Denplan I called Frances Lynch, a local Denplan consultant, to ask about switching back. This was make or break time – I needed some serious business support and to reassess where we were going and how to get there.
From the first conversation I had with Frances, I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders. She was able to show me all kinds of ways that Denplan could help get us back on track, from marketing and PR to training and administration. She was supportive and got the ball rolling straight away.
The difference in the support we received was immense. Frances relieved me of all the administration involved this time in converting our patients back to Denplan, staying long after hours to help us throughout the transfer. We didn’t lose a single patient in the process – it seemed they too, approved of the move and have been nothing but positive in their feedback.
Forward planning with first class training and marketing support
Frances and I put together a five-year business plan that included setting ourselves a target of 1,000 patients by 2018 from the 482 we were starting with. It felt good to have a goal to work towards and instantly inspired us to look at how we were going to achieve it.
Frances set up training for the whole team so that everyone felt comfortable and confident in the Denplan products we were now offering. The fact we could offer a choice of plan and maintain the high standards of care we’d always prided ourselves on was something that turned out to be really important to us. We now have Denplan Essentials, Denplan Care and Denplan for Children available to suit each patient’s situation.
We were also offered a free patient profiling service to look closely at the demographic profile of our patients. Interestingly, it showed an area nearby that already brought us significant business but by targeting our marketing efforts there we could benefit much more. I was put in touch with the very proactive and knowledgeable Denplan marketing team and they have been incredibly helpful, creating ads for the right local newspapers for us and posters for internal marketing.
We’ve taken full advantage of Denplan’s Commsbuilder facility that allows you to create your own marketing literature from online templates and we’ll continue to do so – it’s so easy and looks very professional. We’ve also had expert advice on updating our practice website, which is due to launch very soon.
My practice manager Emma and I thought the Denplan Champions programme was a great idea – it means you appoint one person as your in-house Denplan expert and they take responsibility for keeping the rest of the team up to date on Denplan news, products and services as well as recruiting new patients. Our clinical manager/treatment co-ordinator, Bridget, was the obvious choice; already enthusiastic about Denplan for our patients, she felt so strongly that it was the right thing for the practice as well that we had no trouble convincing her to take on the role. In the space of just six months Bridget had won the Denplan Champions incentive three times and we have far exceeded our expectations in terms of new patient numbers.
The future looks promising
There’s so much information and support provided as part of our Denplan membership that it’s been a joy to put it all into practice and see such amazing results. If our growth rate over the last six months continues, we’ll easily achieve that 1,000 patient target we set ourselves.
Of course there’s always more we can do and we’ve already booked some bespoke practice team training through the Denplan Training Academy to brush up on our customer service, marketing and communication skills and we’re really looking forward to that.
We now have a steady income stream so our cash flow isn’t an issue anymore and our profit margins are allowing us to look ahead to the future. Morale is high and expansion at some point no longer looks like an unachievable dream. Working with Denplan again has allowed us to concentrate on our real priority, which is providing the highest quality of care for our patients. I have no regrets whatsoever in making the switch back.