Where I used to see an average of 20-25 patients per day I fell the first tragic month in single figures with most unable to pay the basic dental treatments! (Our banking system had collapsed, a large amount of depositors had received a haircut in their funds and above all we could not withdraw money from the bank only a certain amount per day, with the worst to come: we had no idea when this situation would end...)
It was clear, it was not any economic crisis, we were in the eye of a black hole!
I had to act immediately - aside emotions and acting outside the scope of my comfort zone!
Step 1: I fired (who had been for the past 10 years) my dental assistant!
All management books advise us not to take this action as the people of our companies are considered as an asset for our business.
Yes, but for her after a such long cooperation she was in a permanent comfort zone, felt permanent and for her to go with the flow and progress of the clinic I would have to accept unnecessary behaviors and actions.
First Evaluation/Assessment of Step 1: compulsory but welcome!
Meanwhile, the receptionist offered me to increase her duties in order for her to assist me at dental care procedure.
Despite the crisis, not only I did not reduce her salary but after two months I gave her an increase thanking her willingness and promptness in action!
Second Evaluation of Step 1: people who do not follow the flow leave and with us remain ONLY the talents!
Step 2: Change Suppliers!
Our management books suggest negotiating with our suppliers in order to obtain materials at better prices or to ask them to increase the credit period.
In our case, not only was it impossible (the number of
suppliers shrank immediately & the small sized
disappeared from the market), prices have been skyrocketing and to get the products I had to paid in cash on delivery, if for some reason did not (due to my absence this time or either by the fact of being with a patient) they would take their products back with them.
It took a 2 day trip to one of the most popular dental exhibitions and some empty suitcases that were filled with the same consumables purchased at that time and prices don’t even get me started...
I will stay further on this issue once later we made a big order by the manufacturing companies of our dental products (I am not speaking for all dental products of course, but at least 75 % of them).
Evaluation of Step 2: Our decision of making this choice have us the opportunity to minimize our cost and release some tension and unneeded at the moment pressure.
Step 3: Negotiating installments of loans!
One of my personal principles was always pay my loan installments on time.
This had to change immediately! After a tough negotiation with my banker we agreed to freeze the loan installments for the first six months and for the following six months to pay 1⁄2 of the previously agreed amount.
Evaluation of Step 3: Taking the above measures was necessary - had to win time, and 12 months were more than significant!
Step 4: Strategist’s Porter beliefs Reversed!
After my studies in management (MBA), I followed the strategic plan of Porter concerning the management of my dental centre (The world famous strategist Porter was clearly positioned on businesses by saying that we must be in the position of a dental practice which is known for its diversity or we should offer the cheapest dental services in the market –NEVER both strategies and 'Never stick in the middle'.
The strategy I followed since the time of operation of the dental practice was the strategy of differentiation and diversity.
I cannot hide the fact that I was tempted to reduce, like many of my colleagues did, the prices of the treatments. I know it would deteriorate things more. Imagine the impact the price reduction would have in conjunction with reducing number of patients!
What we did was to go against the teachings of Porter- We continued to offer high quality treatments, without lowering our pricelist and simply choose a treatment that due to circumstances had no demand (bleaching, in particular) and offered at the lowest price in the market.
Evaluation of Step 4: High demand of this particular service from our patients and not only, we managed to increase the number of new patients by 200 % comparing to before crisis years.
Moreover people by having the opportunity to meet us through this low cost treatment gave us the opportunity to introduce them other treatments that may interest them.
Step 5: Changing our philosophy!
For years my dentistry operated under the philosophy of taking care of dental patients by providing high quality services.
I had to change! By matching my own philosophy with the trend of modern people, we inform our patients the interrelationship of oral and general health.
Evaluation of Step 5: Create conscious patients with a recognition and respect for the dentist as doctor that truly cares for their health across its wide spectrum.
Step 6: Getting away/ Saying goodbye to my comfort zone!
For five years I was thinking how much I would love to create in cooperation with a world-class educational and research centre an educational program ONLY for dentists and dental field professionals that concerning the entire spectrum of management of a dental clinic - a mini MBA.
For years debating without any tangible result - I had gotten to that stage and I said, “It’s either now or never”. After three consecutive trips to Aachen we launching my dream course in May!
And now a year later - The economic situation of my country is not as tragic as the first six months, we certainly have a long way, but at least I feel that I got my professional life, disobeying strategists and theories again in my hands!