Setting your practice's goals for 2019

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It's that time of year where business coaches remind you to set goals for your practice for the next year.

As your eyes glaze over, you probably wonder why so-called experts are so keen on bogging you down with goal setting. You know you're going to work as hard as you can to produce and make as much as you can. You don't need a goal for that.

Jen Butler, MEd.Jen Butler, MEd.

Or do you?

Goal setting is more than a fundamental business technique for achieving strategic business growth. Goal setting is the catalyst for your internal driving force: your gumption and grit.

By giving careful thought to where you want to be a year from now and applying a commitment to the rigorous process of creating those goals, you suddenly bring clarity to the exact steps you need to take in order to create your future.

Where to begin?

Knowing where to begin and what to avoid is vital to goal setting. This process means your practice grows and evolves. When I talk with my clients about goals, I give them a version of a goal setting worksheet, which I've summarized here. I ask them to read the information below and then take some time to answer the following questions. This process can help your practice.

Mistakes to avoid

Every practice owner will make mistakes. Having thoughtful goals in place can help you avoid some more common errors.

Many dental practice owners set too many goals. Remember that quality over quantity wins every time. Also, doctors underestimate how busy they will be over the coming year. I remind my clients not to stretch themselves so thin that they have no time for themselves.

The goals should be written positively. Use something like "I want to increase new patients by 5% each month" or "I want to reduce our overhead."

It's important to have a clear way to measure your progress. I remind my clients to think about how they can track their goals throughout the year. Do it often, but not too often.

I also remind my clients that just because a goal sounds like a good idea in early January doesn't mean it will be worthwhile in mid-March after you've tried to implement it for a few months. Sometimes you need to write it off as "experience gained" rather than sticking with a goal that is not benefiting your practice.


I tell my clients to set goals that excite them. When you're motivated to achieve a goal, that motivation overflows into other areas of your life. To make sure your goal is motivating, know the "why." Why are you doing it? Why does it matter? Why are the results important? Why is this life-changing? Answering the "why" of things brings you to a deeper meaning of the action.

“ You have to be prepared for mishaps, missteps, and mistakes.”

The second rule is that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). However, the goals also should include two levels of success: acceptable minimum and ideal.

Why? If you set only a specific level of success for your goal, then only that goal defines success. This thought process ignores all of the forward movement, improvements, and changes made to work toward achieving the goal.

I also remind my clients to put goals in writing and to share them with someone they trust. This makes the goals feel more tangible. A crucial part of this process is to create an action plan, which is a step-by-step process for achieving these goals.

You have to be prepared for mishaps, missteps, and mistakes. Things happen, and sometimes you have to waver from your plan. But this doesn't mean you abandon it or start completely over. It only means you haven't achieved your goal -- yet.

4 questions

Finally, I ask my clients these four questions:

  1. What have you enjoyed celebrating over this last year? Why?
  2. Where did you think you would be this time last year and you're not? Why aren't you?
  3. If you had a magic wand and could instantly create results around anything, what would you change? Why?
  4. What are the three biggest, boldest, audacious things you would like to achieve over this next year? Why?

The goal-planning process takes some time and effort, but you'll find that it's valuable.

Jen Butler, MEd, has worked in the area of stress management and resilience training for more than 25 years. Register to hear her podcast. You can also contact her via email.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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