For those who don’t know Sheila, she’s an industry guru and has been helping UK dental practices prosper for over 25 years. As a marketer and psychologist, Sheila believes that the customer is king and that practices must organise themselves to meet patient needs first and foremost.
DQ: How are you, Sheila?
SS: Great, thank you. Well, I put on 7lb over Christmas, but apart from that I’m fine! It was worth it actually, but I’m back on the diet now.
DQ: How would people who know you describe you?
SS: Straight talking with lots of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. I’m keen to get the team ready to action agreed changes. I think they’d also have to mention my firm belief that plans are no use to anybody, unless we’re ready to Do Something Different.
DQ: When you’re not travelling the UK supporting dental practices, where will we find you?
SS: I live in the North of Scotland and I love it here, so I try to get outdoors as much as possible. I’m a keen cyclist and I try to get out more than the one regular 35 mile bike ride that I do almost every Sunday. After 35 years of avoiding pavement pounding, I’ve recently taken up a little slow running and even managed to complete a 5k charity run last month!
DQ: Are you looking forward to hosting our Practice Management Conference next month?
SS: Of course I am! For those that don’t know, this is the third conference of the series and the other two were just fantastic – so I am hoping for great things from the ‘home leg’ of this mini-tour. There’s a good bunch of people going so I am looking forward to catching up with old friends, and hopefully I will make some new ones on the day too!
DQ: What will you be speaking about at the conference?
SS: There’s a fabulous line-up of speakers at the conference, including Kevin Lewis, Krishan Joshi and Ruth Findlay. I hope you put me on to speak first as theirs will be big steps to follow in! My session will focus on how you as a manager can influence people in a positive way. I will outline a powerful framework that anyone can learn to help communicate a need for change.
DQ: You work with practice management teams daily, what sort of things do you work with them on?
SS: Practice managers ask me to help them with a number of issues, ranging from team motivation to improving profitability and patient response. Quite often though, the issue they are concerned about is only a symptom of something more fundamental that needs addressing. For example, it’s not uncommon for a practice manager or owner to call me and ask for their reception team to be trained on converting more enquiries into registered patients. Whilst there is general advice I can provide, most practices really need to create a description of how they look after their patients, proving how they really care for them. This is what receptionists need to talk to patients about – how their practice is special, different and definitely caring!
DQ: What’s been the most recurrent theme that you’ve been helping practice managers with this year?
SS: With the publication of my new book last year, ‘Putting health at the heart of your practice’ (yes I had to shoehorn my book in somewhere, but it is appropriate!) I’ve been helping more and more practices define a more obvious preventive approach; improving their processes and communications around their patients’ experience in the practice. This reaps huge rewards in terms of patient response, loyalty and referrals (and it gives receptionists powerful stories to talk to new patients about). I also believe it’s important for private practices to prove their attention and commitment to dental health and prevention well before the next NHS contract is announced and the political spin on a more preventive contract begins. Tony Blair changed the nation’s expectations of dental care in the run up to the 2006 contract, and I expect the same to happen regardless of who is in power this time round.
Sheila will be hosting the Practice Management Conference taking place at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Edinburgh City Centre on Friday 6th February 2015. With tickets still available, you can secure yours by clicking here.