Ian Eslick has been in the dentistry business for more than 24 years. While working in a six-surgery practice in Cornwall he developed skills and knowledge that he now uses as a Business Development Consultant at DPAS to support practices, such as project management, financial planning and driving company growth.
He has been with DPAS for over 19 years, working with thousands of dental plan practices experiencing a huge range of scenarios including private practices moving plan provider, NHS practices moving to private, and squat practices being set up.
Here, Ian shares his experience of managing a practice, dealing with anxious patients and the importance of delegation as a stress management tool…
What is the most challenging experience you faced while working in practice?
It was something that’s possibly familiar to many managers in practices – getting the partners/owners to relinquish control over their practice and let me, as their business manager, run the practice as a business. As well as gaining agreement around strategy, five-year plans and direction for the practice in terms of finance, marketing, people mix, etc.
How did you deal with the situation and what was the outcome?
I orchestrated partners’ meetings every Monday lunchtime and implemented a full team meeting every month. I also ensured that all the internal teams (e.g. partners, associates, hygienists, reception, nurses, etc) knew what their specific roles were in the business, how each role affected the other and that everyone contributed, was rewarded and felt a part of the business success! I also thanked everyone often – that went a long way!
What has been your most memorable experience whilst working in a practice?
I was selected to dance in the Flora Day Midday Dance through the town, a great honour for a non-town resident of Helston!
On a more serious note, helping the reception team deal with a difficult patient at reception. I took them to one side, introduced myself as the new practice business manager, allayed their fears and ensured that the patient journey was pleasing. It turned out that this patient was a dental-phobic and extremely nervous. By showing empathy, being considerate and giving my time, I made their dental experience all the less traumatic. It also helped the reception team to understand what was behind the patient’s behaviour.
What are the biggest issues facing practice teams today, and how can they deal with them?
Compliance, compliance, compliance! The best advice is to ensure you get external help and advice with specialist companies who are experts in the field. It’s important to get right, so if you’re not sure you’re doing the right thing, rather than struggle through ask someone with the knowledge and expertise to keep you compliant.
Other issues are recruitment, retention and stress.
Again, it can help to get expert support and advice to assist with recruitment, especially around the legal requirements when advertising for new staff and throughout the process, from interviewing through to hiring and inducting.
To help with staff retention, it can help to make sure team members are paid well, happy, thanked, challenged and feel part of the team.
When it comes to stress – talking to peers, sharing duties and seeking external help can all help. Often, stress can be caused when people try to do too much or take on jobs that don’t suit their skills and experience. So, play to your strengths and if you need to, delegate tasks to people with the right knowledge and/or enthusiasm – and then trust them to do the job, resist the urge to micro-manage.
What advice do you have for practices looking to grow their business?
Choose three initial growth areas and focus on them first. Whatever you choose, make sure you set KPIs and monitor your progress for each area for a specific period, to ensure you are on track and help you stay motivated. If you need some extra support to meet your targets, don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice or support – if you leave it too late, you’ll suffer a down-turn or losses, morale will take a dip and stress levels shall rise!
What do you think that practices should be doing in order to succeed?
Look at the numbers – which might not only be the financial numbers.
Don’t worry about that practice ‘down-the-road’, be yourself and be proud of what you are, do, feel and love!
What three key business lessons have you learned from your time in dentistry?
- Communicate everything you can
- Listen to everyone in your business
- Celebrate your successes
What do you enjoy most about working in dentistry?
The people, and more so the characters that make this profession such a unique, pleasant and rewarding sector to be part of! Also, it’s like a glacier or the weather – it’s constantly changing and moving but you can only deal with the here and now, so enjoy today and see what tomorrow brings in dentistry!