Business development – leading your teams to comeback after trudging through the ‘mud’ of the COVID-19 shutdown

Tony Gedge explains how to motivate your dental teams and come up with a plan for after the COVID-19 shutdown.

‘Without mud there can be no lotus’.

‘Being a rotary president was the worst year of my life,’ a dentist client told me. He hated every moment of it. His suffering kept him awake at night. He felt like he spent the year trudging through thick mud.

After what my client said, you can imagine I was hesitant (to say the least) when asked to consider becoming president of Rotary Marbella Guadalmina.

‘We need to grow up as a club,’ our president-elect, Joanna, said. ‘We are seven years old, for crikes sake.’ And that struck a chord with me. I accepted the challenge.

Creating a mission statement

I want to share this story to help you, as practice owners, lead your teams to comeback after trudging through the ‘mud’ of the COVID-19 shutdown. This story will give you my best advice on how to hit the ground running when you reopen.

But, first, let’s look at the strategy I used to tackle the challenges of our Rotary club. I took the controversial step of creating a mission statement, printed on a card, for my year as president, titled: ‘Future brighter than our past.’

Next, I gave these cards out to members who were in fact helping our club achieve this mission. Some members obviously did not want change and asked me: ‘What’s wrong with our past?’

‘Nothing,’ I replied. ‘But we need a new future to keep this club here for when our children want to join.’

This past week, I have spent time mentoring clients and their leadership teams to plan ahead. All to make sure that when they reopen they can create a fast cashflow surge in 42 days. 

I talk about this in my ‘View from Spain‘ video blogs, which you will find on this website, and in particular I share about creating a motivating mission statement. Plus the ‘COVID 42-day comeback’ strategy and tactics I’ve been using to engage my network of private practice owners.

COVID 42-day comeback

My mentor, Andy Gilbert from Go MAD (Make a Difference), always told me successful people ask highly intelligent questions. *The essence of my COVID 42-day comeback approach is to ask 11 critical questions about your people, patients, operations, priority patient diary management guidance, why marketing now costs 400% less than before the virus, and so forth. 

This week, I am speaking with some of the UK’s most switched-on dental practice owners. We have gone virtual for the first time in 13 years. I am excited to be discussing, debating and drafting 11 critical COVID 42-day comeback questions. The plan involves walking away from that meeting with a solid strategic action plan for each practice owner and their practice managers (also in attendance).

According to Horse Sense by Jim Stovall: ‘Two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one. They can actually pull three times as much. The two draft horses that can each pull 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds working together. The horses are teaching us a very clear lesson in teamwork, but they still have more to teach us.’

Creating your plan

So back to my Rotary experience. What three steps, then, did we take as a Rotary leadership team to move toward a bigger, brighter and bolder future in a bid to grow up? And how can you learn from this too?

First, we needed to come together as members to define what our vision of our future could be and what our purpose was. So we invited all members to join in setting a club vision. What we came up with: ‘Our vision is to work in the spirit of Rotary International with goals that serve both local and global communities, thereby enriching the lives of our members.’

Action point: I suggest you immediately get together a ‘COVID 42-day’ plan-ahead team (forget furlough rules, your livelihood depends on it). Start asking highly intelligent questions, especially if, for example, you can only see patients with 45-minute gaps. This will cut your day in half when you reopen, unless you have spare surgeries to use. Early early, late late and weekends?

Second, each Rotary committee was asked to set goals for the next three years. And a three-year strategic plan was birthed that would be carried through to two future presidents. It would give our club more accountability, direction and sustainable planning. We would then meet quarterly with our leadership team and with all heads of committees. 

Action point: You can take the same goal-setting approach with reception, nurses, clinicians, hygienists/therapists and smile advisers (TCO’s).

Third, we recognised that the true measure of success comes from our Rotary members. So we conducted one of the biggest membership surveys the club had ever seen, in order to serve our members better.

While in Vietnam on a mission to find myself, I saw the lotus flower everywhere, and looked into what it meant. I soon discovered that the lotus flower had lessons for me that illuminated my experience with my club.

The lotus is a delicate flower with many layered petals arrayed around a central core. Similarly, our membership is like our layered petals arrayed around our central core, our leadership team.

Action point: What animal, object or quote represents your practice philosophy?

Motivating victory

While giving my end-of-presidency speech at Romiros restaurant, Marbella, I asked each member of my leadership team to step forward. I gave praise relating to the lotus flower.

I then handed each person a lotus flower card I brought back from Vietnam, with lotus flower praise inside.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said: ‘In each of our Plum Village practice centres around the world, we have a lotus pond. Everyone knows we need to have mud for lotuses to grow. The mud doesn’t smell so good, but the lotus flower smells very good. If you don’t have the mud, the lotus won’t manifest. You can’t grow lotus flowers in marble. Without mud, there can be no lotus.’

As you move into a new and exciting playing field, I urge you to create your own ‘motivating victory over the virus’ message to lead your people through those first 42 days to create that cashflow surge your business desperately needs.

Those 42 days may be the busiest in your staff’s dental career. One message I’ve crafted with clients is ‘X Dental 42-day reboot.’ They’ll create T-shirts and mugs with the motivating message, and each day at a daily huddle, will wear the T-shirts, drink from the mugs, and witness a camaraderie like never before that will see them through the thick mud. Their practice will emerge as a beautiful lotus.

That special Rotary ‘change of collar’ dinner was one of my lifetime highlights. I was shocked to receive a Paul Harris Services to Humanity Award for overseeing six global charity initiatives my club had been involved in. 

Feeling humble, I finished my outgoing Rotary president speech with: ‘I did not feel the mud over my 12 months, because of the excellent support I received. There is more mud to come. But I know Joanna and her new team will continue to create a future lotus that is even bigger, brighter and bolder than our past. Without mud, there can be no lotus.’

Here’s to your 42-day reboot.


*COVID-42 comeback questions available by emailing [email protected].

Tony Gedge is the author of the ‘State of UK Dentistry Workplace Engagement Executive Briefing’, ‘The Invasion Of The Straight Teeth Snatchers’, ‘Dentists Of Influence’, ‘The Authority Dentist Code To A Better Life: Work 2 Days A Week’. Gedge is co-founder and trustee of the Dental Mavericks charity. Extreme customer service and pain-free tactical and strategic adviser and practice turnaround mentor to the dental profession.

Become a Dentistry Online member

Become a member