A New Year of Planning, Working Toward and Achieving Your Goals

  • by Don Deems, DDS, FAGD, PCC
  • Jan 11, 2021
1-11-21_TeamBuildingThe new year is upon us, and it’s time to pause and reflect on what you want this year for yourself and your practice. There are many books on this subject, so I will touch on a few of my favorite approaches that have served me well over the past 30 years of private practice and which I have found most applicable when coaching. 

Why should we pause? When we fill all the available space in our lives with “getting things done,” we miss the most important step of all: planning. Here are some tips to help you plan successfully. 

Start with a plan. Most business owners cringe at the thought of making a business plan, but making one doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Several “one-page business plan” templates are available with a quick online search. Complete the steps to make a plan, then share it with your team members. This will give them the information they need to best support you and the practice.

First things first. In Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” he points out a well-known quadrant planning diagram, stating that 80% of your efforts should be spent in the second quadrant, which is addressing things that are important but not urgent. The first quadrant contains urgent matters that need to be taken care of immediately, but this second quadrant is all about planning, and it’s where you should spend most of your time. 

Get specific. When developing your plans for the new year, break these plans into categories, not just a general plan like “increased production.” Look at marketing, continuing education, production, collection, overhead reduction, equipment/technology implementation and more. I highly recommend working with a budget. If you need help in this area, work with a bookkeeper or accountant, and be sure to look at your budget at the end of each month to see how you’re doing. Be willing to alter your initial plans as situations warrant.

Setting Goals 
Resolutions rarely work in my experience. Instead, picture what you want. Then, lay out steps you will take in order to achieve your goals, along with a timeline to complete each step. Create an aim or a plan, and commit to it. Intentions allow for changes to be made along the way, and they are strong commitments to yourself. 

Make it achievable. To help you and your team achieve goals, one of my favorite approaches is using SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. By going through this process for each goal, you are more likely to accomplish it. For a worksheet on SMART goals, visit agd.org/team-building

Beware of bonuses. Although bonus systems can be successful, unless every team member is doing his or her part, animosity can arise. Further, bonuses can become expected, meaning that when the bonuses cease to exist, that loss of pay will inevitably cause financial concerns with team members. Be cautious about moving forward with plans like these for the new year. Team members should always be paid fairly with an opportunity for increased pay based on performance. 

How to Reach Your Goals 
Map out the entire year for team meetings and meetings with each team member. If it doesn’t get scheduled, it likely won’t happen. Develop an agenda for each meeting, and share it with your team several days in advance to solicit ideas and feedback. Be patient, and avoid expecting too much from each person. In time, they will come around, and, in the process, be huge assets to your practice. 

Check regularly. Set up monthly reporting from your dental software program. Study reports that include production, accounts receivable for patients, accounts receivable for insurance companies, new patients and recare patients past due. There are many software programs that can give you lots of detailed reports, and various third-party software can mine your practice data and help you look at many variables. 

Don’t forget to celebrate. Lastly, consider in your new-year planning a balance of production, learning and celebration. The emphasis in nearly all businesses is production. Production is indeed important, but when that’s nearly the entire focus, it’s draining to everyone, including you. Learning new things and celebrating successes throughout the year will bring longer-lasting satisfaction and enjoyment to you and your team. 

Engage your team in the planning and goal-setting processes. Employee involvement and commitment are closely intertwined, so the more you can let go of being a dictator or micromanager, the more successful you’ll be. Improve your ability to communicate clearly, and learn to ask great open-ended questions that allow for feedback, brainstorming and questions. Be their champion, and recognize that every team member is not in the same place in their development. 

Your team is your biggest asset, and when you care and nurture that asset the best you can, it will grow beyond what you thought was possible. I hope that 2021 is your best year yet!

Don Deems, DDS, FAGD, PCC, known as The Dentist’s Coach®, is a trained professional, personal and business coach, and a practicing dentist. To comment on this article, email impact@agd.org.

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