Small changes = big successes

small changesHow can small changes in the littlest of things you do make a big difference? Suki Singh explains.

As part of my job, I visit many different types of successful dental practices, which means I get a good insight into the types of business practise and methods dental teams adopt to make their businesses the successes they are.

It’s really interesting to see how those practices with a vision and an implemented strategy become successful businesses, but I’m also reminded it’s not always big, bold moves that generate success but, actually, it’s the lots of smaller changes, or marginal gains as our marketing director Les Jones described it to me, that can have the biggest overall impact.

Marginal gains

The concept originally came from British Cycling’s director, Dave Brailsford, and Les explained what it was all about: ‘During the 2012 London Olympics the GB cycling team blew the competition out of the water and took away seven out of the 10 gold medals available. Mr Brailsford explained that there was no secret formula to this success, but the answer was the team’s commitment to “the accumulation of marginal gains”.’

The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1%, you would get a significant increase in performance when you put them all together.

Some of the ways the team did this involved seemingly trivial things like each cyclist travelling with his or her own pillow to help them get a better night’s sleep, or avoiding using the Olympic courtesy coach to avoid infections.

Think about how this approach could impact on the performance of your practice. For example, how much more efficient and profitable could you make your practice if you:

  • Increased new patient intake by 1%
  • Reduced overheads by 1%
  • Reduced your bank charges by 1%
  • Reduced do not attends by 1%
  • Increased the number of followers on social media by 1%
  • Increased your charges by 1%
  • Increased productivity by 1%
  • Reduced staff absenteeism by 1%
  • Etc.

All of the above are actually quite achievable with just a little thought and some action planning. And the great thing is, you can involve every single member of your team in highlighting and taking responsibility for improving performance outcomes within their own team or individual roles.


Making a 1% gain in any area is also something that is not overstretching or daunting; it’s well within everyone’s reach, so there should be little resistance to getting involved. You could even have some fun with it and perhaps run a competition and create challenges for everyone in the practice that can be reported back in team meetings.

Of course, once you’ve instilled this approach into the culture of your practice, it makes it much easier to then try for the next 1% gain…and the next. Or to shift your attention to other areas of your business that could be improved. Before you know it, you will have created a gold-medal-winning practice, able to compete with and beat the best there is.

Like I say, it’s actually easier to start with the marginal gains over any potential big strategic changes in direction, so why not think about where you can start to make your marginal gains today?

For more information, further advice and support on evaluating your options, then contact Practice Plan on [email protected] or visit

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