How to stop a practice meeting being a total waste of time

Being unprepared and having haphazard, unproductive gatherings of your team can cost you dear. What’s on your agenda?

Have you ever worked out the cost of stopping production in your practice for one hour and having all staff attend a meeting? Let’s consider
a three-chair practice (so three dentists who gross £150/hour and three nurses, two receptionists on £10/hour and a PM on £15/hour).

That’s, £450 in ‘lost’ treatment time and £65 in staff costs. This should concentrate our minds that we had better make very good use of this ‘face time’ with all the staff.

How many practice meetings have an agenda, produce minutes at the end with actionable steps and everyone leaves feeling motivated and understanding what changes/improvements will directly flow from the meeting? Very few, I would suggest. Many organisations have now realised how wasteful a meeting can be and do things such as make it a ‘standing only’ meeting. This is supposed to make it sufficiently uncomfortable that no-one wants it to last too long and so only make meaningful contributions!

However, the best practices (in my experience) have learnt how to hold regular, productive meetings. This article aims to explain how you too could realise this outcome.

“Practices, to varying degrees, struggle to implement. Having to explain to a meeting why an action hasn’t been completed
can concentrate minds and force action”

Many businesses hold board meetings. Normally, they are held to allow non-executives (representing shareholders), to engage with executives in the business. They review performance, they help shape strategy, they hold people to account and most importantly they want implementation. There is no reason why a practice cannot follow this ‘model’ and if done well, will have a positive impact on practice performance.

A key element of a board meeting is the attendance by individuals who do not work in the business on a day-to-day basis. Practices easily suffer from ‘group think’. It becomes accepted that; this or that won’t work, he or she won’t accept/do this, this is the way we’ve always done this/why change. Having an ‘external’ board member can be difficult for a practice to engineer, but that’s perhaps where a dental business consultant could be useful (I would say that wouldn’t I?)

What are the steps needed to ensure positive outcomes?

Have the right people there. The principal, PM and business consultant works for many. Short slots are given for
the lead nurse, head receptionist and compliance manager to join the meeting and present a short report on progress, issues that they have and future actions they are implementing.

Get the timing right. Second Tuesday of the month, 11-1pm, with lunch provided (and some slippage time into the lunch period), works for some. This also gives time for the monthly report to be completed, for the previous month.

Get the meeting pack out in advance of the meeting (say three working days before). This allows everyone to read what’s happened and have questions/thoughts/suggestions ready. Small suggestion – have the financials
on yellow paper. You will definitely want the monthly and quarterly P&L available, so make sure everyone can find it.

Have the agenda at the front – here is a suggestion:

  • Minutes of last meeting with action points
  • Financials – P&L, balance sheet
  • Operational Report – average daily yields (ADYs) for each clinician, new patients (source and by clinician), FTAs, treatment conversion rates
  • Compliance
  • HR – staffing, recruitment, training, disciplinary
  • Marketing – what worked, what didn’t, how much each cost, what’s planned, input required
  • Equipment/IT/premises
  • Reception – Head receptionist report
  • Clinical – Lead nurse report
  • Any other business.

Conduct of the meeting

A ‘chairman’ is a good idea. A degree of formality helps. Practices, to varying degrees, struggle to implement. Having to explain to a meeting why an action hasn’t been completed can concentrate minds and force action.

The agreed actions must be written down and who will action, clearly identified. Actions must have ‘complete by’ dates. This allows you to see how effectively actions are implemented.

Waffle and twaddle

Be specific about an action. “We should certainly look at our prices”, is pointless waffle.

“A competitor pricing review of three practices will be completed by 20 July with our own analysis of gross margin on treatment codes. Then a proposed new price list will be provided for the next meeting, by Jayne, the PM, having discussed it with the Principal, one week before the meeting” is more specific.


As short as possible, with actions by who, highlighted and within two days of the meeting. Minutes are crucial and without them the content and actions from the meeting will be largely forgotten.

In conclusion, the most successful practices know that meetings can be a total waste of time. Therefore, they prepare, have structure, have the right people there (even if only for a short time) and want to see actions and results flow from them. If you want an external representative on your ‘board’, just give me a call. 

Richard Pearce spent some of his early years living in Ballymahon and now lives in Northern Ireland.Following a business career in various sectors and an MBA, he joined his dentist wife in dentistry. Richard combines his wide commercial experience with being attuned to what it is like for an associate dentist, a practice owner and a practice manager. His unique perspective ensures he can assist a practice owner with every area of the practice to create a more profitable practice and to achieve their smart objectives.

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Published: 13 July, 2018 at 13:03
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