Every business owner knows there are times throughout the year when work slows down. The savvy entrepreneur can recognize these trends and implement strategies to avoid them, or at least redirect a downward shift when it starts. The rest of us get nervous, and our uneasiness can lead to critical mistakes. Below are three pitfalls to avoid when your business slows:
- Scaling back your marketing strategy. One of the first things people stop spending money on when business slows is their external and internal marketing. If patients are not scheduling, and the chairs are empty, you should work to attract new patients. Building your client base will generate more procedures and production and keep the business growing. Most dental offices spend 6 to 12 percent of their annual collection on marketing. That’s a lot of money! But consider this — what’s more costly: empty chairs or marketing expenses?
- Reducing continuing education (CE) courses. I was recently at one of my favorite conferences and noticed how small the number of attendees has become. This is not the only conference where I’ve noticed dwindling attendance. When practices hit a slump, so many of our colleagues completely stop sending their teams to CE or piggyback their conference experience with a family vacation. Reducing the budgeted education allowance is harmful to the business. It may appear to help slow a financial bleed, but it’s just a Band-Aid. It ultimately harms the overall practice performance. The entire team needs to continuously sharpen its clinical and business skills. Going to classes helps us grow and empowers our teams to want to become more. One of my favorite things about going to CE is watching how it re-energizes and inspires the whole group.
- Cutting hours. When we see production drop, and the team seems to be chatting or wasting time, a knee-jerk reaction is to send people home early or temporarily cut their hours. Cutting hours can send a bad message. Instead of sending them home, find ways to utilize the downtime, such as training, stocking, maintenance or marketing.
I understand how downtime in the office can be unsettling; we all have financial responsibilities. Just remember — when it occurs, try not panic, and instead use the time to gain an introspective look on practice performance. You can do things for the business that you normally may not set time for that will help grow the practice. Performing the clinical side of dentistry is my favorite thing I do. I love being chairside and seeing patients, but as soon as I get any downtime, I am constantly using it for business planning. If you can appreciate that drilling teeth is just a small part of our business, only a fraction of how we make money, then you may shift your perspective on downtime as being something negative and start to see it as an opportunity.
Originally published in The Daily Grind