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Dentists Who Invest

Podcast Episode

Dr James: 

Fans of the Dennis who Invest podcast. If you feel like there was one particular episode in the back catalog in the anthology of Dennis who Invest podcast episodes that really, really really was massively valuable to you, feel free to share that with a fellow dental colleague who’s in a similar position, so their understanding of finance can be elevated and they can hit the next level of financial success in their life. Also, as well as that, if you could take two seconds to rate and review this podcast, it would mean the world. To me, what that would mean is that it drives this podcast further in terms of reach so that more dentists across the world can be able to benefit from the knowledge contained therein. Welcome, Welcome to the Dennis who Invest podcast. Good evening everyone. Welcome back. Another episode of Dennis who Invest podcast. We’ve got a very special guest with us tonight. The caliber of guests that we’ve had on the show so far. I actually feel really fortunate, and I mean I don’t know about anybody else, but, as I’ve already said on the previous podcast, I just really enjoy meeting these people just to hear what they have to say, because every single time I do it I learn something. So hopefully everybody watching feels the same to me. You may have seen her on the group already. She’s popped up a few times. I’ve already done the promo for this. She’s a lovely lady. I just became acquainted with her. Within the last week she runs two businesses. These two businesses help and assist us. Dentists run our dental practice to the highest possible standard. The first one is called practices made perfect.

Nicki: 

The second one is called exceptional leadership academy.

Dr James: 

Just to keep everybody in the look off screen Nikki, off camera. Nikki has had to tell me twice what this is called already and it’s not because it’s complicated. It just won’t stay in my head. I don’t know, we might have to stick to the ELA going forward. It’s not that there’s a complex name. It just keeps going out of my head. I don’t know why. Anyway, the guest that we’ve got on today is Nikki Rowland. Pleasure to meet you once again, Nikki. How are you this evening?

Nicki: 

Thank you for having me on, james. Yeah, lovely to meet you and I’m very well. Thank you, smashing, you had a good day, yeah.

Dr James: 

That’s how I like it. Oh, I see, Good to be busy. They say, don’t they?

Nicki: 

It is brilliant, brilliant.

Dr James: 

Yeah, I’ve actually between jobs at the minute, so I suppose you could say it’s unemployed or fun employed, depending on how you look at it. But I am beginning to go back. Well, I am going to go back to work in middle of January. I’ve got a new job lined up which is going to be fun. But you know what? What are you going to be doing, james? Oh, still dentistry, still dentistry. Yeah, just a different practice. I had to take some time off to recover for some knee surgery. You see, I don’t have a goal, but I needed like an extended period of time and, yeah, I’ve since moved to another practice in that time. So I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be weird picking up a drill again. Tell you what I’ve barely got it Because I had I haven’t really properly done it since about March time I had like a brief cameo back in practice. So, yeah, this year has just been crazy, but I know that. You know it hasn’t been easy for anybody, but it’s certainly been a weird one for me, like my life has totally changed, but it’s given me the time.

Nicki: 

Yeah, a strange year for everybody, I think, and it’s been the year that has passed by the quickest in my lifetime. It has just zoomed by and it’s just a complete blur.

Dr James: 

Yeah, it’s been a weird one. It’s been a weird one, I mean, just when I you know, you just think that everything’s plodding along nicely and you’ve just got to that level where you’re comfortable, and then something like this comes along, completely un-present-ended, a bit of a crazy one, but hopefully good news on the radio today that I heard we’ve got a vaccine that’s going to be released in two weeks. No, is it next week? Even as soon as next week? Next week, I think, yeah, next week. I think that’s a quick turnaround. Tell you what? Tell you what. Crazy, although I don’t know if anybody’s many people are too keen to sign up to the vaccine. That’s another story, isn’t it?

Nicki: 

Yeah, that’s the other side, isn’t it? I think a lot of people are tentatively waiting to see what happens if there’s any side effects. What happens to the people who do have a you know, happy vaccine? So, yeah, I think people are being a bit cautious.

Dr James: 

Imagine if you survive COVID and then the vaccine got you. That would be truly a dreadful story.

Nicki: 

Oh my gosh, it would.

Dr James: 

Imagine that I don’t even want to think about that, wow. That would be that would be incredibly. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know what word can we describe that as it’s not. It’s not ironic, is it? Maybe it is ironic? I don’t think it’s ironic. You’re trying to save yourself, but you’ve done the opposite. Anyway, we’ll save the vaccine conspiracies for another day. Let’s keep it strictly on topic. And enough waffling from me. Oh, okay, I know you’re going to do some talking now. You’ll all be pleased to know. Nikki, I’d love you to tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your journey into dentistry, for those who don’t know, because you aren’t the dentist yourself, if I’m correct in saying that that’s absolutely right Now.

Nicki: 

I qualified back in 1992 as a childhood state registered physiotherapist oh wow. But my area of special interest was head and neck oncology. So I used to work with Max Max teams, so that was sort of my introduction to dentist, if you like, yeah, definitely. But yeah it was. It was a world. It’s a harrowing world to work in is head and neck oncology, but I loved it and along the way met a dentist through my best friend who’s also a dentist and ended up getting married to a dentist and we’d just had baby number two just before the agenda for change came in in 2006. And my husband at the time didn’t condone where he was working and he basically just wanted to set up his own business. So he said, yeah, I’m going to set up my own business, I want you to manage it. And I’m like Gary, I’m a physiotherapist, I’ve got a baby in a toddler at home. The timing couldn’t be worse for me. I’m not getting a wink and sleep and I don’t know anything about dentistry. So anyway, we did it and it was a steep learning curve. As you can imagine, it was an insane time. We we acquired the property in the November and we opened up as a squat practice in the February. So Christmas didn’t happen. Nothing really happened, it was just a little. They don’t remember but yeah, it was an insane time and I’d never run a business either, but I did it all on the hoof and it was all common sense. But actually we double turnover in a three year period and that model I now take into businesses and other dental practices to help them grow their business and use the same formula.

Dr James: 

Nice, Wow. Well, that’s quite the metric double in turnover in three years. Yeah. I’m sure any practice would be happy with that. Well done, hats off.

Nicki: 

Absolutely. And you know, again, being inexperienced in business, it was like you know you start to really analyse and look back at what you’ve done well, what mistakes you’ve made, and actually I think when you’ve done things at the grassroots, you can actually talk from the heart and you can actually talk from experience to people and be authentic about it. Because I think there’s a lot of consultants who’ve never actually lived and breathed dentistry but work in the world, and I’m not saying that they’re not brilliant at what they do. But I think having a thorough understanding at the grassroots is so important as well.

Dr James: 

Well, it’s always going to give you more insight, isn’t it? Definitely on that one, and since then you’ve now, you no longer manage a practice per se day in, day out, but you do run some consultancy agencies on that concept, or you know on that topic, isn’t it? Would you like to tell us some more about that?

Nicki: 

Yeah, so there’s a bit of a crossover when we still owned the practice, but essentially because of what we’d achieved. We won a lot of awards, not just within dentistry, but we won the national training award for small employer, so that was a massive thing which drew a lot of attention, media attention to us and I started getting invited to do speaker slots at conferences, at exhibitions, invited to be a consultant for partners in the dental world like practice plan. I do a lot of work with a lot of organizations within the dental world as well, so my business sort of grew organically from there and it was all word of mouth and then across COVID. Like everybody else, I’ve had to think about reinventing myself because obviously I can’t go to practice every day as I was before. So I partnered with a guy called Andy McLaughlin. He’s a brilliant guy, trusting with my life and yeah, shout out Andy and he worked in the world of sales, hr in the corporate sectors, so he brings a massive amount of value to the table, whereas obviously my background’s dentistry, business and compliance.

Dr James: 

Cool. And what has kept you in the game for so long, nicky? Because you’re not like us. I love it. You’re not like us dentists. You’re not shackled to our career in the sense that we’ve well, we’ve spent all this time studying it. We kind of really don’t know how to do anything else. You’re a lady of many trades. You could go off and do anything. What keeps you in dentistry?

Nicki: 

Because I love it and I love being able to help people and I think one of the biggest motivational things that I’ve done is something similar to you, james. At the beginning of COVID I had lots of clients ringing me up asking me questions about COVID and what was going to happen and what we should be doing, and at that point it was all up in the air. We really had no direction from the CDO. It was so vague. We were all just going around in circles. So I’m very fortunate to have an enormous, fantastic network of professionals and experts in the dental world that I know. So I was tapping into those experts and feeding back the answers to individual clients, which was so time consuming. I thought this is crazy. There must be thousands of dental practices out there who need the same answers. So I would say, probably about a year ago I’d set up this group, leadership and Dentistry that you can see in the background, and I had about five friends because I’d done nothing with it. But what I thought was what if I do podcasts like this and I upload them onto the Facebook group and I start really driving the group forward and within a few months I’ve got 5,000 members.

Dr James: 

That’s really impressive, whoa.

Nicki: 

Mind-blowing really to think, and there’s people still asking to join. It’s a private group, but I think because I’ve been talking to the people at the grassroots, like John Milne, jason Wong, eddie Crouch, some really amazing people who, yeah, they don’t have all the answers still but they’re closer to the answers than anybody else you know. So I think trying to keep people informed At that level, but it’s also helping people in a practical way as they’re having issues in practice, whether that is with the SOP or team members or Whatever it might be. So on a Wednesday we do a little jug the hump, and today I did. I did it this week and I talked about the transitional monitoring approach that CQC is just introduced to down for practices, so talked about that. And then on a friend Friday, andy and I just sort of tend to pick up with a topic. I think we did recruitment last week and recruiting the right people into your business. So we just cover off practice management, compliance, hr stuff. So it’s it’s not particularly a clinical group, but I’m hoping it fills the gap that is there From that point of view to help dentists and then the teams.

Dr James: 

Spared of an entrepreneur. You’ve had to reinvent yourself through a few times. I really like that. Zero to five thousand in two months three months Real quick guys. I put together a special report for dentists, entitled the seven costly and potentially disastrous mistakes the dentist may come whenever it comes to their finances. Most of the time, dentists are going through these issues and they don’t even necessarily realize that they’re happening Until they have their eyes opened, and that is the purpose of this report. You can go ahead and receive your free report by heading on over to wwwdentistoneinvestcom forward slash podcast report or, alternatively, you can download it using the link in the description. This report details the seven most common issues. However, most importantly, it also shows you how to fix them. Really, looking forwards to hearing your thoughts, I Really sort of picked up a few things.

Nicki: 

I think I’m going to go ahead and get back to you. I really sort of picked up speed with the group in April and I would say by October.

Dr James: 

So we, you know, six months, five thousand members mine went from zero to two thousand one hundred as of today, and I was pretty pleased with that. So that’s blowing that out of the world. Tell you what? Tell you what? I think that when people see value on a grip, they, they, they, they flock towards it. You know, you kind of mine sort of went viral really, because a few people shared it on A few of the big dental groups, so I got lucky. It’s almost like you don’t even really have to promote it if people see that there’s something worthwhile gaining on it. So your angle on that one will be your practice is made perfect and your ethos and your will and your drive and your determination to improve these practices as much as you can so wonderful, really, really, really interesting. That’s why I wanted to get Nikki on the show actually, because a happy dental practice is a profitable dental practice and it. Doesn’t it? So it’s all tied in nicely. So I thought who more qualified to speak on the matter than Nikki, who’s seen a hundred million? She does it for a living and, yeah, anyway, on that note, I want to know a little bit more about that. I’ve done a lot of waffling tonight. Let’s do a little bit less of that. Let’s hear what Nikki. So my very first question is Nikki, a lot of people who are listening will know this already, but what are? What is a comprehensive list of all the governing bodies in terms of Regulation that we have to be conscious of as dentists? I’m sure everybody listening, most people who run a dental practice will know this by now, but I personally think it would be helpful for a lot of associates to know this so that, going forward, should they plan to make their own practice, they’ll have this information ready to go and, within that, within those bodies as well that do determine what we can and can’t do. Can you just give a brief description of what each one specifically cares for or governs as well? That would be right.

Nicki: 

Okay, I mean, I think for me, james, the ones that I know most about really a CQC and the ICO, obviously. We’ve got other organizations like the GDC, fgdp, we’ve got nice guidelines, we’ve got MHRA, we’ve got so many bodies and bodies that Regulators you could. You could just go completely crazy thinking about it all, but I think for me, in my world it is, it is the majority of time is about CQC and how the ICO and GDPR sort of fit into compliance now. So I Would say those are always top of my list because that’s what I understand, that’s what I do day to day. But obviously we’ve got to be mindful of all that other. You know that, all the arrows in the quiver of legislation, compliance as well. It’s essentially the governance in your business and, as I’ve sort of progressed through my, my career in dentistry, all I can say is that everything that we call practice management Years ago is really Rolled into compliance. So practice management and compliance are indistinguishable really. So even when we’re talking about finance, cqc want to see that was sustainable in the future, particularly if you’ve got an NHS contract. So they will have a look at the finances. They will have a look at your contingency plans if you’re in an adverse situation, as we are now, or, you know, if you have a flat, a fire or a flood or whatever it might be. They want to see evidence that you’re going to be sustainable in the future. And but essentially, cqc is there to ask five main questions, which is the key lines of inquiry Chloe’s care, louise you hear them called all sorts of things but essentially, when they walk through the door they want to know are you safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led and pre-covid? The research that CQC Published showed that the majority of failings in dental practices is around the well-led key line inquiry. So roughly about a fifth of practices have issues with well-led, which is leadership, management and governance systems. And then they’re saying that there’s a demonstrable link between the leadership and the well-led element of a business and safety issues. So, moving forward even more than ever within our COVID wild Say, safety issues a paramount, but that is totally undepend by the well-led element. So when I’m talking about the transitional moderate monitoring approach that I mentioned earlier, that’s what they’re really drilling down into at the moment.

Dr James: 

Broadly speaking, would you say that that’s where most dental practices run a file of regulations that may or may not necessitate them to Temporarily close. Is that that one that you just mentioned already? What are the? What are the top five? I don’t know.

Nicki: 

Something like that I would say that the two main ones that I see and I hear when I go into consulting businesses is issues within CQC inspections, whether it’s any of those key lines of inquiry, and the the CQC wanting more evidence and and potentially saying they’re going to come back and do a focused inspection. So it’s really drilling down into the nitty gritty in the fine detail of how you run your business and it is about the fine detail. But the other thing I see is in and around complaints handling. You know quite a lot complaints getting escalated to the GDC and dentists having to deal with those kind of issues. Or, more recently, a Lovely practice and they go to the empty. They had an ex employee who actually Took the previous owner to the GDC and it was a completely unfair, unsubstantiated claim but he still had to jump through all the hoops to prove that he was innocent and just the stress, the, it was just horrible for him. So I see those kind of issues. For me that’s, you know, as a professional person. We shouldn’t be Undermining each other. You know, for me it’s a working collaboratively. We should be. What you know is power Working together and, I think, very much moving forward. We need to work with a collaborative approach rather than a competitive backbiting. You know, in that kind of nature that’s fighting dirty, isn’t it? You see those kind of things happening and you know you don’t want to retaliate because that’s you’re going to be as bad as the other person. But Letting people get away with that kind of thing again, I just think that’s unjustified.

Dr James: 

And they have to do due process. Of course, when that gets Sounds like he or she may have knew what they were doing there, but anyway, never mind, never mind.

Nicki: 

Yes.

Dr James: 

When you you obviously see a lot of dental practices you know you do this day in, day out why is it, in your opinion, that you think that maintaining a team, a great team ethos, a great team spirit, with clearly defined leadership roles is so important?

Nicki: 

Oh gosh, I can talk to you all day. Oh, where to start? I think I’m gonna give you an analogy. Really, I look at any dental practice as a vehicle on a journey and that journey is a road to success and you can define that in whatever way you want finances, your reputation, your purpose, whatever it might be and In the engine, in in the vehicle, you’ve got your engine and the cogs in the engine are your team members and they all need to know which way to turn, how quickly to turn, to mesh together to drive that vehicle forward. If you get one of those cogs Grinding to a halt or slowing down, it impacts on all the other cogs around it and it’s exactly the same in your team. And for me, what I learned on the hoop, as I said, is if you invest in your team, that my belief is you don’t build a business, you build your team and they will build your business for you, and that is my absolute belief and that is the model that I take into dental practices. That goes all the way back to the recruitment phase and I think you, historically, what I’ve seen and I’m guilty of this as well when I first started recruiting team members, I used to have a job description and recruit on knowledge and skills. Now, what I’ve learned since then? There’s been a lot of research from Harvard University and they looked at the top 100 businesses across the world and why they were so successful and why they were in that top 100 list, and when they looked at the reason for the success, it was down to the people. And when they drilled down even further, it was about the attitudes and behaviours of each individual in that business. So I start thinking very differently about how I was supporting practices to recruit team members. So for me it is about the knowledge and the skills, but 55% of the overall success of a business is down to the attitudes of the individuals in that business. So I always advise now that you recruit on knowledge, skills and attitudes and behaviours because that is the larger part and that you really get to know somebody before you actually sign them up and recruit them and that you have a rigorous three-month probationary period and induction period before you really make a decision about whether you’re going to keep that person in your business.

Dr James: 

That is a new paradigm to the narrative that we well, we would, you know traditionally associate with hiring people. And it makes total sense as well. It makes total sense. Attitude is so much it’s. You can be the brightest person, you can be the best, but if your attitude is not in the right place, you’re never going to contribute or fulfill your potential. So I’m completely on board with that. That leads really nicely on to the next thing I wanted to ask about. Actually, when you are in a practice and you’re advising someone on how to build the best team isn’t as simple as we just get a whole lot of people who have a really can do positive attitude, we throw them all together and special things happen. Or do you have some sort of system or structure that you might say okay, I want. Have you heard of the disc? All the different personalities? So you’ve got the I can’t remember off the top of my head You’ve got direct. You’ve got the passive people, you’ve got the. There’s the other ones, there’s the technical person and then the outgoing person. Is there like a sweet spot that we have to have so many of these characters in our practice, something along those lines or is it just as simple as, like I said, we just get as many positive people with a great attitude in there all at the same time, or is it more nuanced than that? That’s my question to you.

Nicki: 

Yeah, it’s difficult, isn’t it? Because we’re going to have an array of personalities and when you’re recruiting on those three things, you can’t necessarily see what kind of character that they’re going to have moving forward, and that develops over time. You get as you get to know people, as you do with anybody, and I you’re talking about discs, but I the way that I talk about it is a little bit politically incorrect. I call I talk about tiggers who come bounding in, full of energy. They’re the ideas, personally throw all the ideas around and then bound out again and leave everybody else to implement them. So great having tiggers, because they are full of enthusiasm and the motivational, inspirational, but their start is not necessarily finishes.

Dr James: 

Oh I got you, I got you. Did they come from the outgoing people on the disc thing? Maybe?

Nicki: 

Yeah, so they’re the passive active, I would say.

Dr James: 

Right, right, fair enough.

Nicki: 

Sorry the active, sorry the active positive. I would say a tigger’s active positive. Now you can get your active passive. So I call those your umpulumpas and they are the mainstay of your business. I would say 60% of people are the umpulumpas who come in really committed to the business, get stuck in head down and do the do day after day after day. Think the downside with an umpulumpa. They’re very hardworking and they’re committed to the business, but they don’t like change. So I think that’s the difficulty at the moment, because there’s so much change going on at the moment that our umpulumpas feel a little bit uncomfortable, and you know. So to take on the new stuff, yeah, yeah, and then talk about BMWs. So apologies to anybody who owns a BMW, but they bitch, they know and they winch. This is your person walking down the corridor and, if you’re not in a good place, you dive into the nearest doorway because you really don’t want to have a conversation with them, because that’s what you’re gonna get You’re gonna get a barrage of stuff coming at you. So, yeah, they can be hard work, but I think they’re the ones that sometimes have the golden nuggets and you know what. You need to make time to listen to those people, because they often do have a lot of the answers that need to be implemented into the practice. So they can be hard work, but they can have a lot of solutions, because they’re still doing the doing. The people that you want to avoid are what I call the e-aurs. They come into work with a little black cloud on the string every day and they have a problem for every solution. Oh my gosh, I had one of those, and she was the grenade in the mix and she set the tone for the day every morning in the practice. So you just had to look at her face and you knew what the hell the day was gonna play out. I think I can relate to all these characters.

Dr James: 

I can relate to all of these. I’m sure lots of people listening can. So avoid the e-aurs at all costs and, if I’m right, the umpelumpers, the tiggers and the BMWs. You want a good, nice little mix of those A nice little mix, but you want a core of umpelumpers.

Nicki: 

You want a few tiggers who are building up the energy, creating that positive vortex in the business. You certainly don’t want any e-aurs. That is why it’s so important to recruit and look at attitudes, because they’re the ones that have got the attitudes that are awful and you can’t shift them.

Dr James: 

You know what? I’m really glad I asked that question. That was really interesting and it’s something I never would have thought about. I just thought I would have been in the camp where I thought, right, we get all these really great, enthusiastic people and that’s a winning formula. But there’s a little bit more nuance to that and I can totally see how that might work. The tiggers would get in each other’s hair because they all want the kind of the limelight effectively. Yeah, fair enough, I like that, I really like that.

Nicki: 

And I think, as a manager, a principal dentist, a practice manager, whoever you are in the management team, you need to have the skills and the flexibility to flex and bend and pivot at any moment to get the best out of each individual personality that you have in the practice. So you need to be the character that can actually fit and meet the need, listen and have that attentive listening and occasionally an empathetic ear so you are really getting the best out of each team member.

Dr James: 

That’s really interesting.

Nicki: 

Yeah.

Dr James: 

Wow, thanks for that.

Nicki: 

You know, sometimes you’ve got to go through all those four boxes and be all those four things in one day to match what the other person’s doing.

Dr James: 

And how they’re behaving. I can imagine that’s why it’s so tough right.

Nicki: 

I think absolutely.

Dr James: 

I’m sure.

Nicki: 

I actually do have a formula, but I take into businesses let’s hear that Okay, and this is the formula that I’ve sort of just drawn up a picture in my mind really that I used and it wasn’t a tangible thing, I think it was just using my common sense than this is what drove our business forward. And it starts with your purpose at the top, so you can think of it like a little flowchart. So it’s your purpose. And when I talk about purpose it goes back to I think we’re moving into a brand new era of authenticity where we really have to demonstrate our integrity to our patients, to our staff, and absolutely deliver what we say on the tin. I really do, and that’s your purpose. And it’s what people say about your business, what they say about your practice, how you show up in the world. And for me, my purpose is almost my strap line and it’s emotion led dentistry, injecting life into practice or back into practice by bringing in new methods and different ways of thinking to really mix it up and really get everybody moving in the same direction and having a common focus. So your purpose is key and it’s actually getting people to buy into the purpose when you’re recruiting them as well. Do they have the same mindset? How are they going to fit with the culture? What do they think of the company culture? Is it something that they really resonates with them in the first instance? So there’s all of that that I cover off in the recruitment process. It’s them looking at a loose business plan. But more than that, for me it’s setting objectives for the business. What are you going to achieve? And you can have objectives. I use smart objectives. Some consultants use KPIs, key performance indicators, but essentially you can set them around finance, staff compliance, any area of work, and for me it’s sharing those business objectives with the team so they absolutely know the direction that the business is being driven in. And then part of the formula is to then absolutely drill down into the skills, the knowledge and the attitudes of each team member to drive those business objectives. So they are absolutely a cog in the engine moving in the right direction at the right speed, and they absolutely know your expectations within the business and you can then match your support to ensure that they are delivering their role within those objectives. So it’s really one of the things I use is called an ask, so it’s a skills gap analysis, but it looks at attitudes, skills and knowledge. And if there’s any gaps in those three things, what you do to help fill those gaps with training, coaching, mentoring, whatever it might be, to give that individual the absolute, ultimate input so they can optimize their performance. So I use that and then you can formulate your training plan for the year for each individual. And that is what drives the business objectives to increase your profitability and the bottom line drive the bottom line.

Dr James: 

Brilliant. It’s nice that you’ve got a little system, because otherwise I think we’d be fumbling around in the dark with a lot of those stuff. So it’s interesting to hear you say that. Something else that you well you help practices do better in is marketing, if I’m correct.

Nicki: 

Absolutely.

Dr James: 

What do you as dental practice owners? Where do we? Where are we not up to the mark on marketing, or where do we? Am I right in saying that, generally, the standard could be better?

Nicki: 

Yeah, I think there’s a big shift. As I said, I think we need to shift our mindsets as well as we’re moving forward. I think a lot of us and I was saying I put my hands up and I had to think outside the box. When I was marketing in the early days, I just thought saw marketing as something you paid for to drive your brand forwards, something that was going to promote you, that would draw traffic to you. So it was all for me it was all about the push and Pushing marketing out there to bring people in. I think in our new era of authenticity, it’s all about generating the pole, not the push, for lots of reasons. I think the first reason is the coffers of a lot of dental practices of pretty empty at the moment. So there isn’t that ready capital to be spending on marketing in the traditional way that we know Marketing and probably understand it. So for me, how do we Raise our profile and our reputations in the community? So people are talking about us to drive new football and I think the way forward is very much a corporate social responsibility model and driving traffic. So is that way? It’s all about the pole and I’ll give you an example, one of the things that we used to do because our practice is very near-help, which is the port. We’ve got a bit of a hotspot for mouth cancer. So we did a lot in and around Free or cancer screening, not just within November when it’s my cancer action month, but other times in the year as well, and we used to put editorials in papers. We got on the radio, we got we managed to get calendar TV to come in one year when we were doing our free or cancer screening campaign and Because we were doing something that was a life-saving measure, we were supporting the oral health foundation at the time. The charity, so it was non-commercial. We drew. It drew a lot of attention to what we were doing because there wasn’t many people doing it back in the 2006, you know it was something that was a lot of people weren’t even thinking about and for me I think that absolutely changed our Reputation within the community and I think the public persona very much of dentistry is. We’re a money-making machine. You know that people see dentists driving around in lovely cars living in big houses. That was years ago. I think things have changed massively in the dental world and it is all about the halves and quarters now. So how do we change that public persona and actually really demonstrate our purpose To our communities to drive new traffic to us? And I think things like offering free or cancer screening, doing things to support national small month, like going into schools and doing education, make a massive difference on one year I think it was the first year that we did be free or cancer screening of all the people that came in. We had to open up a certain day because we had so much interest. We got a 60% conversion rate, six zero, because what we did was go Absolutely to town on promoting it. So we were driving it, so as many people as possible, and we actually managed to get on local radio on the news slot at lunchtime. They just did something on the news about what we were doing and on that particular on those two particular days, and we’re just in data with people. So next year we started booking appointments because it just got so busy doing that. But I don’t know any other marketing campaign that I ever ran that had such an amazing Conversion rates and the reason I think it was so successful is we were given an opportunity to show that we were doing something different, that we were offering a life-saving measure that didn’t cost them anything and that then allowed us to get people over the threshold, to build a trusting relationship with that person, to show them that our Integrity and that we were absolutely authentic about what we were doing, and people like that. So we were doing things like showing them how to screen Themselves and there’s a brilliant screening video out there that Dr Dawn Harper did and recorded for the Malkan’s Foundation. That’s in the public domain. We used to give them the link and send them home with it so they knew how to screen themselves every month for mouth cancer and to share it with their family, friends, youngsters. So we were, we were educating the Community and then you know National Smile Month that’s another brilliant campaign. We were going to schools and doing little workshops with the kids and leaving little party bags with a practice brochure in it and, okay, we probably lost a morning’s worth of revenue. But actually One of the schools we went to was the primary school that my daughters were at the time and I’m not joking, within a year or two, nearly every family in that, in that primary school, were coming to see us like to go in and disguise because, yeah, I just can go anywhere. They wanted to ask questions and it really, really worked. It really Changed our reputation and it made us different To what other practices were doing and we were very visible within the community.

Dr James: 

Say it must have set you apart, because it’s not something I’ve ever come across before. Is that it’s a great idea Actually, I don’t know if that’s on anybody else’s radar the power of networking and you know what.

Nicki: 

Oh my god.

Dr James: 

Even before you get into the whole business aspect of it. What a nice thing to do to help these people as well. So lots of reasons, win-win.

Nicki: 

I think absolutely was a win-win. And the other thing, talking about marketing once I built a relationship with a few local radio stations. One was Viking FM. We’ve got capital radio up here in Yorkshire, so it was those radio stations that I was forming relationships with. Whenever there was some current affairs in and around dentistry, they used to ring us up and say you got a dentist that would hop onto an interview. Or, as a manager, do you like to come into an interview? We were their first port of call. That in itself was free marketing. Yeah, you know how much would that cost you normally to get on the radio and promote your services? We were just getting invited eventually, yeah. So I you know I would urge anybody just to think a little bit outside the box about how you can and Change your reputation and your public persona within the community, because if you can build that trust and Patient loyalty as well, then it will build your business. There’s no two ways about it. And you you will get organic football. And one thing I would say, james, is if you are getting patients who are sending word of mouth referrals to you, reward those patients in in some shape or form, because I Think as human beings. We all want to feel needed, wanted and appreciated. So if somebody’s driving traffic to you and boosting you for for it. So we used to track our new patient activity I think it was a word of mouth referral we used to send a letter to the referring party Saying this letter is a thank you. But it also doubles up as a voucher. If you take this voucher to the local Delhi straight one shop, which was actually really top end and the kind of place that you’d only go into at Christmas or for a special occasion, and we had an arrangement with the business owner and we chose an array of gifts that were beautifully gift wrapped, that cost us no more than 10 pounds Because we were getting them at you know what’s some prices, because we were driving football into their business and, yeah, it would have cost possibly cost a patient if they were buying it at retail price. Yeah, ahead of a lot more than that, maybe twice.

Dr James: 

I mean ten points for a patient who’d be there for a lifetime, that’s a yeah well.

Nicki: 

What ended up happening, james, I have one lady who kept referring people to us and I spent her 16 letters one year. I’m a hundred sixty pounds. That’s all it cost us in in gifts Thank you gifts. She drove over 8,000 pounds worth of revenue to us in that year.

Dr James: 

Again, and and win-win again and, as I was saying earlier, the power of networking once more amazing. That is a really good tip. I think everybody listening will really stand again from that. That is something that I would never have thought off, and something so simple as well Wow, and.

Nicki: 

Can I just give you one more? One other thing that I Found, because I I do a lot of training and my business partner does a lot of training on Exemptory customer service, which is handling glove with marketing, I have to say, and I’m really into psychology, and had I not done a physiotherapy degree, I think I would have done a psychology degree, but I just know the psychology of marketing and sales and the process that patients go through when they’re making a decision to buy or purchase a service or a product and they want. One of the Psychological concepts that I found fascinating and I I experimented within our business is Concept called authority. Now, one of the things that I still see it now when I go into businesses is team members trained, let’s say, to have a very knowledgeable conversation with the patient about Promoting a care plan to them or something. And I have a really lengthy conversation, or a TCO having a long conversation about the care plan, the benefits, the value that it’s going to bring to the patient, and we go oh, thank you for your time, I’ll think about it. They then go in and see the dentist. It might not be on the same occasion, but they’ll see the dentist. They will give a very short summary of a similar conversation about the same product or service. And the patient goes oh yeah, I’ll have that. That sounds amazing. And they bought from the dentist, not from the TCO or the front of house team member. Why is that? It’s because they put the dentist in a position of authority, so they deem them as more trustworthy, more professional, more knowledgeable, all those things. So how can we convert more sales on the front of house? And that is putting your TCO or your front of house team members in a position of authority. So I always suggest, when I’m consulting in businesses, that you have your front of house team member suited and booted because, again, psychology shows that if somebody’s in a suit, they are deemed to be more professional, trustworthy, all those things as well and give your front of house team member a business card to hand to the patient when they leave. When somebody gives you a business card, james, how does it make you feel? What do you think about that person?

Dr James: 

Well, it makes me feel a bit oh you know, they’re looking after me A bit privileged hard by that.

Nicki: 

Yeah, and when I’m giving somebody’s business card, I think, well, they must know what they’re talking about. You know business card that to me they’re a professional person who knows what they’re talking about and I’m going to trust that they know what they’re talking about and listen to them because they’ve got that credibility. So what I did in my practice and I now do in other practice that I go into, I had my front of house team members suited and booted and they all had a business card. So when that patient left it was leaving that lasting impression as well. It’s there. There’s my business card. If you’ve got any questions at all after your treatment today, or, you know, if you’ve got any questions, you’ve had your exam. We’ve talked about your treatment options. If you’ve got any questions about those options, give me a ring. Here’s my business card. I’m at the end of the phone at any moment in time, leaving those communication channels open. You’re leaving that person feeling important. They’ve walked away with a business card and you’re leaving them thinking that that person is in a position of authority and your conversion rates on reception go like that.

Dr James: 

Amazing Again. Really, really, really good. Yeah, you’re full of these ideas, I sense I think you could go on a little bit longer than we’ve got time for tonight, nikki, but if anyone would like to, go, stop me now.

Nicki: 

stop me now, because I’ll just.

Dr James: 

As much as I’m loving it. I think we could easily make this podcast two hours, but what you said has been great so far. How has COVID, with relevance to all these things, how has COVID changed the game or changed the dynamics in so far as what you would advise these dental practices that you would see from the point of view of sales and teams?

Nicki: 

Okay, I think once we started going back into practice on the 4th of June, post COVID, I think everybody sort of battened down the hatches a little bit. And because they were particularly this was my experience practice managers and practice owners didn’t always necessarily have open communication with the teams because they weren’t confident in what they were saying, because they didn’t have all the answers. But for me, I think it’s about having open and honest conversations with your team and your patients. Again, we didn’t have all the answers for our patients, but actually saying, look, this is what we know, this is what we don’t know, but we will keep you informed. As soon as we know, we will tell you. And keeping those open lines of communication going, because I know, talking to a lot of friends, their dental practices shut the doors and the communication stopped and they weren’t informed, they weren’t kept up to date. And I think communication, whether we have the answers or not, is the key to maintaining that patient’s loyalty, to keeping your team on board and committed and just keeping that positive vortex going in your business.

Dr James: 

Definitely, definitely. So. The main one that you can pick out is communication Absolutely From the whole COVID package the COVID conundrum, I suppose you could call it. When we spoke earlier, you mentioned a few things that you noticed that practices don’t do so well. If you were to condense that into a list of Nikki’s no-nose just maybe a top 10 things that you see that you don’t like, they really burned your gears you might have difficulty doing that. It doesn’t even have to be 10. Don’t give up the spot now. It doesn’t even have to be 10. It just has to be maybe just some common ones or something like that.

Nicki: 

Okay, so let’s talk about front of house to start with. Again, part of training the front of house team is teaching them what not to say as well as what to say, and this you know, when I observe or I do mystery shopping or whatever it might be, there’s certain key phrases that are an absolute no-no for me, and I hear certain phrases said very regularly, and one of them is you’ll have to, you’ll have to do this, you’ll have to do that, and that could be a front of house team member saying to a patient oh, you’ll have to do this, you’ll have to do that, you’ll have to brush more regularly because that’s what the dentist has said, that you need to do. Or you have to do this. And for me, who used to say that to me? You’ll have to, you’ll have to. My mother, my mum. And what do you do when you’re young, particularly when you’re a teenager? If somebody says you have to do something, you run away, you go the opposite direction, the hackles up, and you’re far less likely to do it. So I think for me is asking questions. Can I suggest you follow the dentist recommendation and buy these enter dental brushes? Or you do this, or you consider buying this electric toothbrush or this water pick, whatever it might be. And I think younger people who are in front of house don’t tend to articulate quite as well and if that’s with an older person, an older patient, it doesn’t always sit well and you can see that bristles go straight up. So I think it’s training team members very carefully as to what to say and what not to say, not in a prescriptive way, but being mindful and aware of what they’re saying and how that might impact on a patient. So that’s definitely a no, no.

Dr James: 

Can I just? I’m sure you’ve got more, but can I just jump in on top of that? There’s one that I always hear. Now, I know this is your forte, but this is just a personal one that grinds my gears when I hear other people say this, they say cancelled instead of when they have a patient who’s cancelled and the slots just opened up, they use the C word cancelled. And to me that has a really negative connotation because that could imply to the patient that this unknown patient whoever they are, that’s, you know permitted this gap to open up because they’ve cancelled their appointment, has left the practice in acrimonious circumstances. It certainly leaves it open, doesn’t it? It’s a negative word. It’s like a negative word with a negative connotation and it almost makes me hairs on the back of my neck stand up, or it makes me shudder when I hear that, because it just really doesn’t ring well as a front of person, particularly with it when it’s in a huge room in front of all the patients. So there’s a better word. There is the rescheduled world word. The reschedule is a much better word If, even if the patient has cancelled, they, they really angry and they’ve left for some reason. You always say they’ve rescheduled much better word, just a lot more professional, and that is one that really bothers me personally.

Nicki: 

Yeah, yeah yeah, absolutely no, I’m totally with you on that as well. Another, another thing that’s just popped into my mind actually another, no, no is. And this is this was my downfall when I was a brand new practice owner and, having never managed a team before, was actually helping my team too much and making them helpless. So let me give you an example. I would perhaps ask a team member to do a particular job, like do the stop take. And if it was complicated, this particular nurse would come to me and say, oh, this is so complicated, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I haven’t got enough time. Oh, you know, in the right flap, and I’ll be like, oh, we’ll leave it there, I’ll deal with it then. I’ll deal with it then. And then my entry went up and up and up and the things that were important, that I should have been doing went to the bottom of the pile that day and I started thinking why on earth am I employing these people? Because I’m ending up doing all that work. So it made me look at myself internally and that I was being too helpful and I needed to take a firm, fair, consistent approach to my leadership management style and either break things down and bring fence time for that nurse to do that activity or actually look at whether they were capable of doing it. Did they have the right attitude to doing that activity, whether they’re right person for the job? Did I need to re-delegate that to somebody else? So, and then I found I had more time back as well. The other thing, another no-no, is having a permanent open door policy. I think having an open door policy is brilliant, but not 100% of the time, because I then found I had team members knocking on my door every minute of the day needing a piece of me when there was important things that I needed to be getting on with, maybe calls to patients if we’d had a complaint, something like that. We all get complaints. Thankfully it was a rare event in our business, but you need to be able to concentrate and think clearly when you’re dealing with a stressful conversation like that. You don’t need team members knocking at the door every two minutes of the day. So again, if you are a complaints handler in the business, put a note on the door, please do not disturb, and actually say to the team when that note’s on the door, I really do need to ring fence that time to do some really important work. So please don’t disturb me. If you know it’s a particular day at a particular time, please ask me or we’ll ring fence some time for conversation at another time. Oh God, I could go on all day, james, about no more. I’ve learned from my mistakes. So, yeah, lots and lots of things. And I think the other thing I would say is to really listen to your team. We’ve got two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion and when your team member comes to you with a problem, actively listen to them and, if you can, listen with empathy and I talk about the field-felt-found approach so it’s actually answering them, listening attentively and then responding with. I understand how you feel, or I’ve got a good understanding of how you feel, because I felt a similar way in a similar situation. So I feel it. I felt it, but what I found was, if I did this, this and this and this, I actually could cope with that issue, and I managed to overcome that hurdle. So can I suggest that you do put these measures in place and see if it works for you as well? It’s always about like putting yourself in your team members shoes and then that bombs between you and your team member. Wow, watch that bond grow honestly, it’s amazing. And the trust and you need that trust that’s the foundations of your practice. It absolutely is.

Dr James: 

We’ve heard Nikki’s no-nose and I thought they were great. Now we’re gonna hear Nikki’s top tips. Oh, okay, the flip side of the no-nose, because you want to end on a high, nikki. What are your top tips? Okay, people can implement, maybe even as soon as tomorrow, to improve the practice.

Nicki: 

Okay. I always say Don’t get in a car and drive without saying is that an ad Business? It’s the same in business. I see so many practices that just they just Are operational. They are that vehicle that goes round in a circle like that because they haven’t got a destination in mind, they haven’t planned where to go. So my top tip is to plan your destination, whatever that is. And when we set up our business in 2005, we had an exit strategy for 2015. We wanted to run that practice for 10 years and and then move on. And that’s exactly what we did, because we planned where we wanted to go. And we work back from that point and put all our ducks in a row and we measured our activity, we audited what we did, we made sure that would Got, you know, got to our pit stops at the right point and it sounds very prescriptive, but we planned it all out. But also, if you, then, if you go on a little bit of a detour, when something goes wrong, as in you get COVID thrown at you when you come out at the other side, you pick up with your objectives, with with your, your planning as to where you want it to be, and it brings you back, heading in the right direction, on the right road to recovery again as well.

Dr James: 

Always good to be the man or the women with a plan, as they say. Absolutely, nikki, you must be a fantastically busy lady because you run two businesses. How do you help dental practices implement what you’ve just said? You physically come into the practice, I’m presuming, or maybe in this day and age you do zoom calls, I don’t know, over to you. I’d love to hear more about.

Nicki: 

So the practice is made perfect side of the business is more the consultancy side. So pre COVID I was going in to practice to help with business strategies. I would do full compliance setups for businesses, compliance, health checks they like mock inspections, in-house training, team building, all sorts of things, whatever the practice needs in house and myself and Andy come in and we’ll do a fact find. So we will absolutely drill down into the needs of the business and help to fill those gaps. And I have to say Andy and I are not the Oracle. We do not know everything about running a business, we’re not the experts in everything. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m very fortunate to be very well connected and I will always know somebody who I can recommend to come in and help support with something that we can’t help with. So that’s practice made perfect. The other side of the business, which is the exceptional leadership Academy, or ELA, is the digital platform Training platform. So we’ve set this up across COVID and our first big program that we’ve developed on ELA is our business recovery certificate. We call it the five hours of recovery and it’s seven hours of very viable CPD and it literally hand holds you through the steps that you need to take to get your, your car, back on the road Heading towards success again. So we teach you to regroup your team, to resolve issues in the business, to rebuild your business, to retrain your team to meet the new objectives and build resilience and sustainability in your business moving forward. So anybody wants any more information about that particular recovery package, give me a shout. And the other thing with the ELA is it’s going to be a bit of a box of chocolates high quality box of chocolates Because we are liaising with other experts, consultants in the dental world who will be putting their content on the platform as well. So it’s the nonprofit making element of our business. But we just want it to be a place of excellence that the dental world can come to and trust that when they want training in leadership, management, compliance, whatever it might be. That is going to be the top notch, the best training that you can possibly access, because we’re getting the best of the best. But their content on the site.

Dr James: 

So feel free to get in touch with Nikki. If anything that we spoke of tonight signs of interest to you, that is tagged on the post for the podcast Nikki Rowland on Facebook, if you’re interested as well. I’d just like to say thanks a bunch to Nikki for taking the time to talk to us tonight and for delivering so much value. Nikki, it’s been a pleasure.

Nicki: 

Oh, thank you so much, James. It’s been great. It’s been lovely to join you and feel very honored to be invited.

Dr James: 

Thank you. I think we’re scratching the surface of Nikki’s anecdotes of practice tales and information just there, because we could have went on a lot longer. I think an hour is long enough for a podcast. It was definitely an entertaining hour. So, as I say, thanks once again, nikki. We’re going to wrap up now. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on the show and I hope to see you once again very soon.

Nicki: 

Thank you so much, james.

Dr James: 

You’re welcome, Nikki great choice.

Nicki: 

Bye, bye, thank you.

Dr James: 

Thank you for watching their finances, well-being and investing knowledge. Looking forward to seeing you on there.