Strategize for Success: Build your Dental Practice with a SWOT Analysis

February 10, 2010    By Lisa Klinghoffer Buber

A proven technique to chart the course of a successful practice

It seems like every business book on the market has a different take on the essential elements needed to build a successful dental practice. Some offer quick-fixes, while others contain more “whoo-whoo” than how-to. And university texts are often written for MBA’s who understand business jargon, not busy dental specialists. As a result, you may struggle to understand the next steps needed to grow your practice. What tools can you use to effectively and efficiently bolster the success of your dental practice while meeting clinical demands?

What is a SWOT?

One important tool to consider is a SWOT analysis, a technique that is often used as a foundation for business strategy in many industries and markets. It is a proven approach that will help you plan the success of your practice. A SWOT analysis evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved with your dental practice and your aim is to understand the real-word factors that are either favorable or unfavorable to achieving your goals.

What makes a SWOT analysis particularly powerful for dental specialists is that, with a little thought, you can uncover opportunities that you are well positioned to exploit. This will help you carve a sustainable niche in your market. And by understanding both the internal and external weaknesses of your dental practice you can manage and eliminate threats that you may have overlooked otherwise.

Start with the end in mind

For a sailor to chart a meaningful course he must first know his destination. Start your SWOT analysis by defining a desired end state or objective. This “destination” will be different for every practice, so you must come to grips with how you define success; both as a practice and as a professional. You must be clear about your vision of your practice; but not the kind of vision that we are used to – like writing a mission statement. Your SWOT analysis must be grounded in a vision that emphasizes your clinical and business strengths, and matches how you see yourself and your practice.

SWOT Elements

Use a SWOT analysis to match the resources and capabilities of your practice to the competitive environment in which it operates. What you discover will point your way as you navigate the success of your practice. Consider the following in your efforts.

Strengths

Think about your strengths from an internal perspective as well as from the point of view of your patients. Keep in mind that factors internal to your dental practice are just as important as conditions presented by the external environment. Look to develop your strengths into your “brand” – the core of what makes you special in the market.

Weaknesses

When you consider your weakness, keep in mind that it is best to be realistic now and face your challenges head on. Do other people perceive weaknesses that you do not see? How do you stack up to your competitors? What services or market niches expose your weaknesses instead of working to your strengths?

Opportunities

A useful approach when analyzing your opportunities is to consider your strengths and ask yourself whether these present any opportunities you may have overlooked. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could create opportunities by eliminating them. Useful opportunities can also come from changes technology, treatments, and policy related to your field.

Threats

It is important to realistic about the threats you face when conducting a SWOT analysis. After all, the sooner you face your threats the sooner you can begin to overcome them. Keep in mind; a sailor plots his course through both good weather and bad. Your aim is to map where your practice is today, where it should be in the future, and how to overcome the obstacles along the way.

Simple SWOT rules

Remember to keep the notions and findings in perspective. A SWOT analysis is very subjective and two people will rarely agree on the same final version. Avoid over-complexity and “analysis paralysis” by keeping your SWOT answers short and simple. Your SWOT analysis should always be specific; avoid gray areas.

Gain competitive advantage

Every dental practice must successfully compete in the market. By looking at your practice and your competitors' using the SWOT framework you can start to form a business strategy that helps you distinguish yourself from your competitors. Gain competitive advantage by matching the strengths of your dental practice to the opportunities you observe. Work to convert weaknesses or threats into strengths or opportunities.

Reach your destination

A SWOT analysis is a straightforward and powerful framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats you face. It helps you to focus your efforts to take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to your dental practice. With an analysis that is both thoughtful and straightforward, dental specialists can find great advantage using SWOT to chart their journey to a successful practice.

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