Round Out 2016 with an Annual Practice Review

An annual review of your practice can really help you look back to see what worked, what didn’t work and what you’d like to focus on in the coming year.

With 2016 drawing to a close, now is the perfect time to take a close look at your practice to make sure you’re accomplishing your business goals. An annual review of your practice can really help you look back to see what worked, what didn’t work and what you’d like to focus on in the coming year.

In your day-to-day work as a dentist, it can be easy to forget to take a step back to analyze just how functional your business is. Think of a year-end practice review as an audit: You get to inspect the processes that affect the vital areas of your business and make changes or improvements that better align with your goals.

So where do you start if you want to perform an annual practice review? Your list of areas to analyze can be as simple or complex as you’d like it to be — after all, it’s your practice! If you really think about it, reviewing your business really comes down to a few key questions.

1. What were your goals for the year? These could be anything from hitting specific financial targets to decreasing the number of hours you worked. If you didn’t set any goals for 2016, now’s the time to start thinking about your business goals for 2017!

2. Were you able to accomplish your goals? Perhaps you fell a little short of your target, or maybe you exceeded your own expectations. Whatever your progress, it’s important to look at whether you were able to achieve your own objectives.

3. What’s your plan for next year? Maybe you’ve set new goals for yourself, or maybe you need to figure out how to go about reaching the goals you missed in 2016.

Your business review doesn’t have to stop at these three questions, but they are certainly a place to start. Your answers can help drive the rest of your business review — they let you think about and focus on specific aspects of your practice that need some extra attention.

There are several key areas to focus on that expand beyond the scope of these initial questions. One of the most obvious areas to take a look at is your profit and loss reports. As a small business owner, you’re probably already very familiar with your revenue statements. However, if you’re still struggling with cash flow, it’s a good idea to pay closer attention to your profit statements and look for ways to cut costs.

When looking at the financial aspects of your practice, ask yourself: Are there new ways you can increase your profits? Are you leaving money on the table in some area of your business? Do you need to raise your prices? Going even further, are you paying reasonable fees for your insurance, office space lease and any vendors you use? Do you need to change your business entity type to help save money when you file taxes? A year-end review of your profit statements gives you the opportunity to pour over your reports to see just how profitable your practice was in 2016. Then, you can renew your commitment to running a profitable practice and look for ways to accomplish that goal.

It’s also a good idea to take a close look at your marketing strategy. Are you getting the return on investment that you anticipated? Your business grows through marketing, and it’s a good idea to have more than one way to advertise your practice over the year. Take a look at each of your marketing efforts to see which is paying off, and eliminate or change those that aren’t driving more patients to you. Also, take a look at the predicted marketing trends for the upcoming year — getting a jump on the hottest new trends can help you stand out from your competition.

Next, you should check out your team to be sure you’ve hired the right people for the job. As a business owner, you need to make sure your employees understand and are willing to work with you toward your business goals. Maybe you’ve had a particular employee on the payroll for years, but if they aren’t willing to grow with your practice, it could be time to let them go. Your practice is only as good as the people you choose to help keep it running, and employees that resist change could keep it from thriving. It’s important to discuss your 2017 plans for your practice with your employees so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the direction you’d like to move in.

Finally, and maybe most important, you need to ask yourself this question: Are you happy? After all, you went into business for yourself, taking on huge amounts of risk—and probably debt--to open your own practice and work how you wanted to. Look at the past year and ask yourself if you’re satisfied with making money, or if you’re satisfied with how you’ve made that money. There really is a difference--you could be making cash hand over fist but still be miserable at the end of every day. If you’re not content with the way your practice affects the rest of your life, it’s time to make some big changes to achieve the quality of life you want. Your happiness matters, so make sure you’re running your business in a way that makes you excited and glad to come to work each day!