How to stay ahead of the curve

Anne-Marie Lloyd-Jones, customer relations manager at DPAS Dental Plans, advises on the timing of strategic change

Very little in life is immune to change. Whether it’s the income you generate from your dental practice, your relationships or your career, you are likely to encounter peaks and troughs, ups and downs, progressions and setbacks. However, you describe the challenges that come your way, knowing when and how to take steps to avert or mitigate them is critical.

All business owners want to stay ahead of the curve. The origins of this phrase could be in surfing, staying on the face of the wave, or it could refer to a racing driver, who knows the bend is coming and starts to prepare. But much more likely, I think, is that it relates to the curve of a graph. A very particular curve, the Sigmoid Curve, (below) is the inspiration for this article.

The Sigmoid Curve traces the typical arc of a business. First there is development, followed by rrowth and maturity. You will see the column on the right marked decline. If you go into that column, the curve should already be heading upwards again. My advice is that when your business is at optimum strength, don’t rest on your laurels. It’s time to think ahead and make a new strategy, just as demonstrated in the graph.


Let me explain the process by exploring a theoretical business innovation. Let’s say you start to offer orthodontic treatment in your practice. First, perhaps you go on a course, then there is a period of marketing, then growth, as patients become aware of the service and recommend you, culminating in a successful new income stream. But around the corner there is a period of decline. Why? Because the number of adult patients on your database looking for teeth straightening solutions won’t keep expanding. And perhaps your competitors have taken a leaf out of your book and are also offering orthodontics for adults. It’s time to develop a new income stream.

Does this ring true? If so, do the following:
1)    Pinpoint where you think you are on the Sigmoid Curve
2)    Identify your key service and where it is on the curve – in a phase of growth, development or maturity?

If it’s about to peak, start thinking creatively. Let’s say you have already got teeth whitening covered. What else could you do to bring in more income to your theoretical practice? You could develop your hygiene service, set up a domiciliary service, create a children’s club or focus on strategies to build the number of patients you have on your membership plan.

Or perhaps start to offer more flexible opening hours or market your services differently to appeal to different age groups. In many cases, it could be a combination of strategies designed to avert a slide downwards.


The point is, it’s far better and easier to be doing this creative planning when your trajectory is still moving upwards (point A on the curve).  The security you feel when everything is humming along well with loyal patients and a settled team makes it possible to be more strategic than when you are in crisis mode (point B on the curve). Just imagine for a moment being on the downward trend and having to think creatively, perhaps knowing the bank is getting edgy and your staff feeling stressed. In such a situation it would be far harder to implement bold innovations.

So, if all is going well in your dental practice, now is not the time to congratulate yourself (well, maybe just a little!). You will only feel truly confident if you are at the ready to act strategically to implement change just before the peak of your success. Businesses which can keep subtly reinventing themselves are businesses which thrive.

DPAS Dental Plans
Telephone: 01747 870910

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