By Roger P. Levin, DDS
The COVID-19 crisis has changed orthodontics and dentistry permanently. One of the biggest effects of the crisis is that dentistry has probably advanced five years in about ten weeks. This means that certain inevitabilities, trends, and market positions have already changed even if supporting data is unavailable and the trends are not yet obvious. As a result, it will never be business as usual again.
Understanding the Competition
Competition is simple. It’s when someone does something just as good or better than someone else. In orthodontics, competition began to grow well before COVID-19. There are other orthodontic practices, referring doctors increasing their use of aligners, and direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies that now operate through dental practices. These rivals are all part of the competitive landscape taking place in the orthodontic specialty, and the reason that strategic planning is so important to the future.
What is strategy? It’s about defining the actions and directions that an orthodontic practice should take to put itself in the best position for the future. It’s about setting goals and objectives for those actions and directions. Lastly, it’s about identifying who will be responsible for each goal and measuring results. If this all sounds complicated, it actually is not. Following this process will allow any orthodontic practice to place itself in the right position to achieve and maintain success in a post-COVID-19 world.
The most important factor in orthodontic strategic planning is to answer this big question: What do you want the orthodontic practice to look like in five years?
This is the opportunity for the practice to look out five years and decide what it wants to look like, and what it wants to achieve. The practice can then outline specific actions and steps (a strategic plan) that will allow the practice to reach the five-year vision. Keep in mind that no plan is perfect and every strategic plan must be modified to meet new and unexpected challenges. It is fair to say that until March 2020 no strategic plans for dental practices included a pandemic. However, it is arguable that practices with an excellent five-year strategic plan will be able to pivot and transition faster as new events occur.
So how does strategic planning really work? Is it a bunch of people sitting around throwing out ideas? Does it involve copying other successful business models and applying them to orthodontic practice situations? The answer, of course, is none of the above. Strategic planning is a process that employs data analysis and a number of key exercises which allow the practice to develop an effective five-year plan. Consider the following key actions in your strategic planning:
Strategic planning helps practices to create an opportunity to compete effectively even if they don’t fully understand the competitive forces that affect their practice.
COVID-19 has increased the already growing level of competition that orthodontic practices face. We encourage every orthodontic practice to complete a five-year strategic with monthly reviews and annual updates to the plan. This is how good orthodontic practices become great and stay there.
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit www.levingroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.