16 things your coach may not tell you


You don’t want a yes man for a business coach, but sometimes the truth hurts. Here’s what Simon Hocken thinks they might not be telling you…

When I was training as a coach 20 years ago, a mentor said to me, ‘You do your best coaching just before your client fires you!” What he was alluding to was that coaches provide a service paid for by clients (just like dentists) and that inevitably, a certain amount of client-pleasing goes on in coaching, in order to keep the client and keep them happy. However, the paradox is that a coach is supposed to be the client’s honest sounding board and the more truthful a coach is with their client, the more likely they are to get fired.

My clients often refer to the fact that I tell them straight, tell them how it is, shoot from the hip etc etc. This doesn’t always make for comfortable client relationships or win me a lot of new friends. However, it is (more often than not) what the client needs to hear, in order for them to succeed at the level they are aiming for.

However, despite my ‘no-holds-barred approach’, I still find it difficult to tell some clients some truths and I know my fellow coaches find this difficult too. So, I have rounded up a ‘top 16 things your dental business coach doesn’t want to tell you’ list, just in case you recognise that one of the points on this list may be exactly what you need to hear!

1. You are the problem

You (the principal dentist) are the biggest problem. Not the staff, not the associates and not the patients. Your choices and behaviours have brought your practice to this point and, unless you are willing to make some different choices and embrace some new behaviours, there is really very little point in setting out with a plan to fix things. Typical destructive business-owner behaviours include: penny-pinching/sucking out all the profit/under-investment; random decision making and not sticking to a strategy; sporadic follow through; fear of risk; fear of what colleagues might think; poor communication skills; inconsistency; poor leadership and management skills; and, refusing to let themselves be managed!

2. You need to act

Your slow follow through is driving your business coach (and, more importantly, your practice manager) nuts. You don’t: answer emails, turn up for meetings on time or at all, respond to action lists, deliver on time, do what you said you were going to do, etc etc…

3. Get into shape

Unless you get yourself into shape, you will never get your practice into shape! It’s not uncommon for practice owners to be in a bit of a mess, both physically and mentally. They might eat or drink too much, exercise too little, be addicted to food, booze or buying stuff, and fail to deal with the stresses of being a practice owner. This impacts (in lots of ways) on their ability to get things done.

4. Fix your own teeth

You can’t sell private dentistry with your own teeth looking like that! This relates to the previous item, patients are impressed by authenticity and they expect their professional advisors to walk their talk. If you wouldn’t inject botox into your face or have your own teeth whitened, why would you recommend this to a client?

5. Your prices are too high

The fees you charge are higher than you would (as a client) be willing to pay! This is quite a common situation. The practice owner wouldn’t visit a practice that charged this much for what they do. Perversely, I am one of the few dentists I know who has regular check ups and hygienist appointments in an excellent, high-fee private practice and I pay for them!

6. You’re being too greedy.

You already earn far more than the Prime Minister. I have met dentists who, despite running their practice into the ground with little or no reinvestment, tell me they want to make more profit. I have met dentists who earn £1million a year and who still want to earn more. One of my favourite coaching questions is, ‘How much is enough?’ The dentists I describe refuse to answer this question and this makes them impossible to work with.

7. Don’t work with family

Your wife/husband/partner working in the practice is a real problem and slowing down the business development.

This could be because, either they are not very good at the role you have given them, or your staff resent them and know that anything they say in their presence will go straight back to you.

8. You don’t have the look of success!

Successful people have a look. I’m not talking designer labels or arrogance, it’s more about their body language and their confidence. Some folk never get that this is a prerequisite for success (in a service-delivery profession). Successful people have a way about them that unsuccessful people either learn or accept their lack of success. People say of Bill Clinton that when he walks into a room he makes everyone present feel special. Successful dentists can do this too.

9. You over promise

The dentistry carried out in your practice is not as good as your website and your marketing suggests that it is. There is a gap between what you claim in your marketing and what actually happens in the practice, day to day. Although nobody is saying this out loud, your team know this. There is a lot of self delusion amongst some dental practice owners that manifests itself as denial and unfounded confidence!

10. There is an enemy within

You have talented saboteurs on your team who will have to leave before we can
achieve anything very much. But the saboteurs may be some of your favourite staff members and you will be very unwilling to smoke them out…

11. You don’t have a USP

Your practice doesn’t have enough stand-out and so the marketing is going to be slow and difficult and expensive. In other words, your practice looks and feels and offers just like your competitors. It has very little to distinguish it and you will end up with just another middle of the road dental practice.

12. You don’t know what you’re in for

You don’t realise (yet) how much of your time and money this project is really going to take. When the client’s ambition is powerful, the strategy is a good one and the tactics are lined up and ready to go, it’s very hard to tell the client that the next three years of their life are likely to be devoted to getting their practice where they want it to be and that it will take every penny of their own money and their borrowing.

13. You need more resources

If you and your team are really busy now, how are you (and they) going to get the necessary work done to improve this practice? Many practice owners think they can re-boot their practice with exactly the same resource as what they have now. This leads to incredibly slow progress and eventually (as the team has already predicted) the motivation for change dwindles and dies. Before you can change your practice, you need to resource yourself with: money, time, people and knowledge.

14. Your team are having a laugh

Low production is endemic and ongoing in UK business. On many occasions, we help a client bring a business manager into their practice from outside of dentistry and they are (without fail) surprised at how little most dental teams get done in a day. Inevitably, this is down to a lack of management. While the cat is away (or beavering away in their surgery) the mice will play…

15. Your vision for your practice is too small

Your plan to re-arrange the deck chairs and get a new website is not going to deliver
the results that you need to turn your practice around.

16. The market really doesn’t need another squat dental practice

So many young dentists think the answer to their frustration as an associate is to go and open their own practice. Twenty years ago, this was a universally successful tactic. Now, very few make it happen because in most parts of the UK (and particularly in the South East) there are already more dental practices than willing dental patients. Another squat practice without a stand-out proposition is simply not going to make it.


Simon Hocken

Simon Hocken

Author at Private Dentistry

Simon Hocken BDS established three practices as a dentist before founding the dental consultancy Now Breathe in 2007. He specialises in supporting principals and their management team in making change happen. He speaks regularly at major dental forums, as well as writing for leading publications, and lectures and writes for academic courses. EMAIL: simon@nowbreathe.co.uk WEBSITE: www.nowbreathe.co.uk

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