In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins states that if you have more than three goals to accomplish within a year, you have no goals. You’re probably thinking: Huh?

What he means is that many people or companies take on too many goals, become overwhelmed, and never accomplish any of them…so you might as well have had no goals in the first place. The same is true for creating change in your orthodontic practice. Many doctors or office managers take on numerous changes all at once thinking that they will transform the practice into a powerhouse of production. In reality, they create chaos and then end up reverting back to the original method of running the office.

One Change at a Time

Most popular business literature gives readers the impression that constant and numerous changes are beneficial. However, the opposite is actually true. After 35 years of working with over 30,000 dental practices and over 4,000 orthodontic practices, we’ve found that a practice should make only one major change at a time. In order to properly work through a major change and implement it into the systems and fabric of the practice, it’s that one change that should only be focused on.

Pick Your Change

You’ve heard the expression “Pick your battles.” Well, when it comes to making changes in your practice: pick your change. The doctor and team should set up a 1-hour strategic planning meeting where they evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the practice. Once each category has been identified, the most important factor under each category should be selected. This will give you four key items—one strength, one weakness, one opportunity, and one threat. The next step is to select the highest priority of the four—this is your first change.

We recently helped an orthodontic practice navigate this entire process.

  • They identified their major strength as being their position as a well-known and long-standing member of the community.
  • Their major weakness was that they had engaged in very little external marketing because they had become complacent given their perceived status in the community.
  • The opportunity identified was to launch a community marketing program to increase referrals.
  • The major threat was that if they didn’t act quickly, other orthodontists coming into the community would be in a better position to compete with their practice.

Of course, this practice had other issues including a slightly declining close rate and breakdown in the clinical area. But by focusing on the four priorities, they were able to select one to act upon.

In this case it was obvious that launching a community marketing program would be extremely beneficial as the first change. After launching the program and measuring the results, they found that over the next 12 months referrals increased by 17% overall, with 14% of them coming from community referrals. It took this practice 8 weeks to design and successfully implement the community marketing program, after which they were able to focus on identifying the next change. It wasn’t necessary to wait 6 to 12 months to see the results. They just needed to make sure the program had been properly designed and implemented prior to making the next change.

For busy orthodontic offices, making one significant change at a time creates higher odds of success. If a practice makes 6 to 12 changes every year that have a positive impact on performance, it’s very likely that it will increase or maintain success that it has already achieved.

Roger-LevinRoger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with over 26,000 dentists. Levin, an internationally known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.