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Business Planning in Your GP or Dental Practice

It is often said that a ship without a destination is adrift at sea. Likewise, setting a clear strategic direction is vital for any GP (or Dental) practice operating in today’s primary care sector. However, business planning need not be an arduous process or one that should be left up to a single individual.

Business planning is a hallmark of a successful practice as it brings together and motivates the entire team to focus and achieve the objectives of the practice as well as helps steer the organisation through a stormy business climate.

There are a few simple steps in the business planning process that, if managed correctly, can bring lasting benefits to the practice, as well as enhancing the service to patients.

The first step is to tear up the current business plan and start from scratch. Operating in the primary care sector is like navigating shifting sandbanks. Starting afresh with an up-to-date perspective of the sector will only enrich the planning process and aid in the development of clear and current business objectives.

The second step is to decide who will be involved in the process. One option would be for the practice manager and partners to get round the table to develop the strategy, then invite comments/feedback from the wider team on the draft document. Or perhaps encompass the wider team engagement from the start, for example asking a practice nurse, receptionist or administrator to join in the business planning process.

The third step is to assess and evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the practice; essentially what is known as a SWOT analysis.

Identifying internal strengths and weaknesses is extremely important as it recognises and celebrates its strong points. Therefore, the question you want to focus on is “How can the practice capitalise on these strengths?” But don’t forget to highlight areas of improvement. Often weaknesses can be turned into strengths after a little care and attention, all to the benefit of the practice.

Recognising external opportunities will help identify how the practice can grow as a business and increase opportunities to improve patient services, as well as identifying threats so that these can be minimised.

The fourth step in the process is to ensure that the coffee pot is switched on and a fresh round of pastries and fruit is brought in to ensure that the brain is refreshed and ready to continue the process. Get people out of the room and moving around and also open a window or two to let some fresh air in. Fresh minds produce fresh ideas.

The fifth step is to start and analyse the SWOT analysis. Try to get people thinking about practical ways in which they can enhance the strengths, minimise any weaknesses, maximise all opportunities and dilute the threats. This step takes time, as getting people to agree on practical measures can be difficult.

Encourage everyone to come up with ideas and solutions no matter how they first sound or are presented. Sometimes when “moon-shots” are discussed thoroughly by the entire team, eventually they don’t seem too ridiculous an idea. It is essential that everybody agrees on the objectives so that the entire practice, can work towards the common destination.

The sixth step is to gather feedback from practice staff or perhaps the wider team to see if the objectives of the business plan are fit for purpose or if there has been something which has been overlooked in the business planning process.

When presenting the plan to staff/wider team, it should be in a way whereby it encourages feedback and engagement so it brings the team together and everyone feels like they have contributed to the process, rather than a decision set in stone with a token reach around.

Once all the feedback has been gathered and the draft document updated, it is worthwhile presenting this again to the entire team to ensure everyone is aware of and understands the objectives and forward direction of the practice.

Of course, the amount of work involved in drawing up a detailed business plan can seem daunting, like a voyage into the unknown. BW Medical Accountants can help your practice plan for the future. Our experts have unparalleled skills and experience working in your sector and can offer practical support and guidance to ensure that your practice is firmly anchored and future proof.

Jonathan McCutcheon

Jonathan McCutcheon

Practice Management Consultant

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  • Very smooth changeover to BW, with good communication at all times. Very efficient in the production of the accounts (as promised) and the Partners are delighted with the advice received to date.

    Practice Manager
    Northumberland
  • BW Medical Accountants have a good working knowledge of General Practice and are keenly aware of the challenges Practices face within the changing environment of the NHS.  Benfield Park have been very impressed by the way BW Medical continue to deliver the range of services they provide from Accounts to Tax and NHS Pension advice. 

    We have found Practice consultation and engagement from BW Medical specifically helpful to shape the future of the Practice.

    Senior Partner
    Benfield Park Medical Group, Newcastle
  • We had no hesitation in moving to BW Medical Accountants.  For any business your accountant is integral, and for us one of the most important factors to this relationship is to have a personal and trusting approach, which BW have undoubtedly achieved. 

    The service we receive and the interest they show in our practice assures us that they have a genuine interest in us and commitment to us.  More importantly they are always helpful and polite to answer even the dumbest of questions!  They give us confidence and reassurance knowing that they are always very up-to-date with all the numerous changes within general practice and we would have no hesitation in recommending them to other practices seeking a professional and personal accountancy service.

    Jackie Rotherham, Practice Manager
    The James Street Family Practice, Lincolnshire
  • We moved to BW Medical Accountants in 2013 and we are delighted that we have.  Having been in the same business for over 20 years it is important to have a relationship with the accountancy team but most importantly you need to have trust.  We made the decision to move our business to BW Medical Accountants and having worked with the Team especially Tina we are very satisfied.  Tina going through the accounts brought to our attention many things that I was not aware of in the past.  The first years' experience can only be described as excellent.

    Customer service is first and foremost with BW and this shines through as each and every one of them are approachable, helpful and most importantly understand and know the business.  General practice is complex and is going to get more complex in the coming years.  We need Accountants who truly understand our business. We as a practice and as individuals would certainly recommend BW Medical Accountants.

    Gloria Middleton, Managing Partner
    Westbourne Medical Group, Sunderland
  • We changed to BW Medical Accountants and I would say we have just had the most transparent and understandable end of year meeting and the best planning advice I have ever had in 16 years of practice.

    GP Partner
    Cumbria

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