Why Goals Are a Must

The end of the year is a great time to sit back on reflect on what was achieved in your practice, as well as to look toward the future and set new goals for the upcoming year. Ask yourself how did you fare against your goals in 2018? What are your practice goals for 2019? What are your goals for Production and Net Collectable Production? At the end of 2019, what net collection number will you be happy with for the year?

“If you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there!”
The above is true in both life and in business. Few people have clearly stated goals; even fewer have them in writing. When I ask a dentist about yearly goals, they typically respond, “I would like to do more than I did last year,” or alternatively, “I hope to get back to where I was”, and even worse “I would like to take a paycheck.” To help them clarify, I also ask them what they collected last year. Most answer vaguely, “I think it was X or we did a little better than last year.”

In this case, ignorance is not bliss. We wouldn’t consider hopping in our cars as driving to another city or even to a restaurant in our own town that we haven’t been to without typing the address into our GPS. On January the 2nd each year, the majority of dentists open their doors and hope it will be a better year.

Think back to when you knew you wanted to become a dentist; when did you decide on this career path? While in school, did you not focus on getting the grades and completing the coursework that would prepare you to attend the college of your choice? Were you not focused on the undergraduate courses required to prepare you for your acceptance into Dental School? You knew where you were going and you had a plan! Once most dentists become practice owners they spend very little time setting their business goals.

Can you imagine any major corporation or professional sports team simply hoping next year will be a better one than the one before? Clearly written goals keep us focused and on track. Without them we are like a rudderless sailboat, at the mercy of whatever winds blow our way, good or bad. Writing down your goals helps your subconscious form a visual bond with your goals, subconsciously motivating you to complete the picture. Your written goals need to be reviewed on a regular basis; this will help you and your team stay the course. We become what we plan for in life and business, not what we simply hope for.

Without a plan a goal is just a wish. I often hear, “We used to have goals, but we simply quit doing them,” and “It got depressing because we never hit them.” Your plan needs to include specific action steps that you and your team will take to reach each objective. These should consist of daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly strategies.

If your goal were to lose weight would it look like this: I will weigh X amount by a specific date. I will adjust my eating habits to X type of foods and specific quantities. I will exercise X number of days each week. Your practice goals can be easily approached in the same manner.

Your goals must also be shared; sharing your goals will attract the people and circumstances into your life to help you achieve them. Moreover, your team needs to know what the practice goals are. If you do not share and gain input from your team how will they know what is expected of them? You cannot achieve your practice goals without your group’s help; they will be able to contribute more effectively if they are all on the same page with a shared vision. Sharing your goals and vision also holds you accountable for achieving them!

In years past a dentist could get away with just showing up and “doing dentistry.” However, the dental business climate has changed rapidly and permanently over the past few years; PPOs reduced reimbursements 20%-40% from the average full fee schedule, dealing with insurance payers have become more complicated than ever as they find ways to reduce employer costs, patient visits are down as are patients with dental benefits. The need for clear written goals has never been more critical than it is today – the good news is once you complete the process the odds of you achieving them are incredibly high!


Jim Philhower is the Director of North America Dental Sales Leadership & Development for Henry Schein. Jim is a 28-year veteran of the dental industry. His career includes six years as a Regional Manager and 12 years as a Field Sales Consultant.

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