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Focus on First Downs, Not Touchdowns

Focus First downs

Focus on what’s next, not on who’s winning

What’s your favorite sport? Are you a college basketball junkie? NBA all the way? Hockey? College football or pro (or both)? Baseball? Olympics? Regardless of which sport you prefer, there is a powerful principle that athletes understand that most dentists and dental practice owners don’t. To illustrate, picture your favorite football team, driving toward the end zone for a winning touchdown. What is the team focused on? Scoring, right? In order to win, they have to score. Seems obvious. But in fact, in most instances, the team isn’t focused – at that moment – on scoring. Instead, they are trying to move incrementally down the field, one first down at a time, until they reach the larger goal of a touchdown and subsequent victory. Is there a difference here? Absolutely!


In the mind of a typical dental practice owner, goals are about the “big picture.” $100,000 in monthly production. 50 new patients each month. $100,000 in collections. These are great goals, and any practice focused on these or other similar objectives are on the right track. But are these “first down” goals? Not really. Just as a football team must focus on incremental advancement, a thriving dental practice is better served by focusing on the immediate objective, the first down, the one activity that they can control at the moment. Victory will be a result of focusing on what you are doing at the moment. Translated, this means you’re better off focusing on success RIGHT NOW, not on the ultimate outcome. Scoring isn’t as important as what you need to do next to advance the ball.

Is there such a thing as a “first-down focus” for a dental practice? Yes. It’s about increasing profitability. Here are the four things that determine how profitable your practice is, based on the Dental Intelligence Profitability Formula™:

  • We need more visits
  • We need more production per visit (PPV)
  • We need a higher collection %
  • We need to ensure our overhead (OH) is where it should be.

Profitability Formula Focus

So, let’s focus on the “first down” of visits. How do we get more people in the door? By either adding new patients or by bringing existing patients back into the practice. How many patients have we seen that don’t have a next scheduled appointment? Most dentists are shocked when they see how many of their active patients don’t have a next scheduled appointment. As you consider how to reach out to these patients, keep in mind there are two different conversations you’ll have, depending on the following difference: Patients seen in the last 18 months, and patients at 18+ months.

For patients seen in the last 18 months, the message is simple: “We missed getting you back on the schedule and we’re calling to fix that. We need to get you in for a checkup, treatment, etc.” For those at 18+ months? “Is everything okay? You haven’t been in for a while. Do you have a new dentist? We’re calling to make sure you’re being taken care of. Have you received treatment for that (broken tooth, bleeding gums, etc?) The objective is to get them back in with a benefit, such as a healthier mouth, relieving pain, or other similar treatment. Do you know how many patients left yesterday without an appointment, or how many broke appointments and didn’t reschedule? This is your “first down.”

We recently spoke to a practice owner who began 2018 with 1,000 active patients. At the end of the year, they had 1,050 active patients. Awesome! They added 50 new patients in the last year. Definitely, something to celebrate, right? However, imagine this doctor’s concern when we showed him that in 2018 he actually had over 600 new patients in his practice, but they only retained 50 of them. Not quite as exciting! The good news for this owner and for your practice as well, this “first down” problem can be fixed. By focusing on rescheduling active patients and also by making sure that more patients leave your practice with a scheduled returning appointment, the likelihood of keeping many more of these new patients, as well as existing ones, is much, much higher.

Focus_Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans

Just like every sports team, each dental practice is different, with unique strengths and weaknesses. There isn’t a set of plays that will work the same for every team. But you know your team, and what you are good at and not yet good at. Identify what your “first downs” are, the objectives you need to focus on right now and work together to move the ball down the field. Don’t just focus on the scoreboard and the ultimate outcome. Take incremental, strategic steps toward your goal. Then victory will be a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Would you like to discover how your practice is performing? Would you like to see if you are just inches from a touchdown, or if the end zone is still several first downs away? Dental Intelligence would love to help. To get you started, click here to schedule your free practice analysis and learn what you can do to win!






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