THREE: Strategy 2: Plan the time to plan

Action steps Target date Completed
Buy diary or wall planner for this/next year
Decide on free, focus, buffer days
Colour-code diary/wall planner

We suggest that you schedule the regular meetings as shown in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Meetings, bloody meetings!
Frequency Duration Description
Daily 20 minutes Prioritised ‘to do’ lists
Weekly 1–2 hours Team meeting: shared status reports
Monthly (includes one weekly) ½ to 1 day Team meeting: shared status report and 30-day action plan
Quarterly (includes one monthly) 2 days Workshop then shared status reports and 30-day + 90-day goals
Annually (includes one monthly/quarterly) 2–3 days Workshop/retreat then shared status reports and 30-day + 90-day goals + annual goals
Total 13–26 days = 5%–10% of working hours

Monthly strategic planning meetings

What exactly do we mean by strategic planning? What images, for example, does the word strategy conjure up in your mind? Wellington outfoxing Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo? Richard Branson taking on his arch-rival British Airways in the early days of Virgin Atlantic? Or perhaps, the Red Bull Formula One team masterminding yet another Grand Prix victory? What it probably doesn’t bring to mind is your own everyday life in dental practice. For one thing, it probably seems too grand a concept, something that doesn’t quite fit easily into your own scheme of things. While there is no question where the word comes from (stratagem, which can be roughly translated as the ‘art of the general’), management experts can’t always agree on what exactly it means. Indeed, the authors of the first textbook on marketing strategy decided not to define the term at all because it was too difficult. While you are clearly not alone then in being puzzled by all of this, let’s not get too bogged down in theory and semantics. For your purposes your strategy describes how you, as practice leader, would like your practice to go in the future, how you plan to get there and, crucially, how you intend to implement that plan. We have hopefully convinced you in Strategy 1 that, with few exceptions, you would not make a journey without having some notion of where you were heading, and it similarly makes even less sense to allow your business to wander aimlessly into the future without any thought being given to where you want it to go.

You might argue that the business of dentistry is relatively straightforward and only basic common sense is required. Anything other than the most rudimentary planning is superfluous. Our customers know all too well what we offer, and if luck would have it and more of them turn up to take advantage of our services, then we can simply expand. The only advanced planning really needed is ordering supplies and fixing the date of the Christmas party! The flaws in this argument are painfully obvious. For one thing, do existing patients and, more significantly, potential ones really know what you are able to offer them in terms of dentistry enhancing their lives? Maybe they do know we can get them out of pain and fill in holes and gaps between their teeth, but do they really know about and understand all the fantastic options that are open to them nowadays? This is all about adding value to what you do. Adding value means making all your clients aware of all the products and services you offer – all the ways that you can help them. This is because consumers label us with expertise in the first thing they buy from us – and often miss the point that we can do lots of other things. For dentists this means escape from the ‘drill, fill, bill’ mentality towards a view of the complete range of treatment options on offer. If they do, and let’s face it the amount of information available to the public is increasing all the time, are you and your staff ready, willing and able to meet the demand for these newer types of treatment?

Make the time for daily strategic planning

Try to find 15–30 minutes every day to switch everything off, find a sanctuary, close the door and allow yourself the time to think and plan. Do not allow yourself to be interrupted. Reflect on what you are hoping to achieve that day – or the following day/week/month, and so on. Do this at a time when you are fresh – that is, not tired, whether you are a morning, midday, evening or late-night person. This is primarily the time when you organise your ‘to do’ list for the day ahead. Whether you use a personal organiser, a computer, a tablet or your mobile phone, the rules are the same:

  • make a list
  • ABC the list
  • prioritise the As, Bs and Cs
  • do the As first!

Weekly reflections

Take some time, each week, to reflect upon the various ‘roles’ that you decided you filled in Strategy 1. Consider and write down what would have to happen in the following week for you to have the most positive impact in each of these roles.


Role 1:

Role 2:

and so on …

We suggest that you hold strategy planning meetings one half-day (three hours) every month. Ideally, your practice manager or equivalent should chair the meeting. A suggested agenda for monthly strategic planning meetings is provided here. To make sure the meetings are productive and valuable, and to keep you focused, follow these three simple steps as you discuss each item:

Consider – Decide – Act.


  • Review of management accounts for last month
  • Review of management accounts for the year to date
  • Course corrections required
  • Current cash flow situation
  • Action needed to accelerate cash flow
  • Review of current pricing strategy


  • Review of sales versus target for the previous month
  • Review of sales versus target for the year to date
  • Analysis of sales by product/service
  • Analysis of sales by customer grade/group
  • Review of current selling skills within team
  • Review of common objections from customers – and the answers
  • Role-play sessions scheduled
  • Review of new products/services and how they will be sold


  • Review of customer grading
  • Review of added-value methods
  • Review of newsletter
  • Review of referral system
  • Review of networking activity
  • Review of strategic alliances
  • Review of documentation and corporate image
  • Review of marginal marketing techniques
  • Review of publishing and public relations activity


  • Review of existing environment and facilities
  • Review of additional facilities required
  • Revisions to budgets and targets as a result of purchasing decisions


  • Review of team performance (the ‘helium culture’ – see Strategy 4)
  • Review of individual performance
  • Review of discretionary bonus system year to date
  • Team development
  • Team training
  • Review of personal progress interview system (see Strategy 4)

Strategic planning meetings: progress chart

You should keep track of your progress on this chart. pencil

Month of meeting Key insights or points raised
… and so on

Strategic planning meetings: follow-up and goals

After each meeting complete the following chart, distribute copies of it to key personnel and use it to track progress within the practice. Bear in mind the words of Harry Beckwith: ‘There is no performance without accountability, there is no accountability without measurement’.4


Date of meeting
Goals set Person responsible Target dates Done

Some useful definitions

We have found it useful to make a distinction between the following:

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May 10, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on THREE: Strategy 2: Plan the time to plan
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