Dental Management
Posted: 12 January 2012

Systems for success: Setting goals

Author: Roger P Levin

Setting goals for your business and your staff is a critical CEO function which dentists can benefit from, argues Dr Roger P Levin

Goal setting is the secret of the most highly successful people in the world. CEOs use goal setting as a system to drive performance and attain success. While vision describes where the dentist wants the practice to be in approximately three years, goal setting is the road map to achieving the vision. Without goal setting, the vision is just an idea.

Goal setting motivates individuals to turn aspirations into accomplishments. That’s why it’s one of the most powerful skills that a CEO can develop.

To make goal setting work in your practice, follow these five simple steps:

1. Write down goals

I believe that dentists should have at least 10 goals for their practices. By setting 10 goals for the business, dentists will cover the most important areas that will propel the practice toward their vision.

When goals are written down, they are no longer just a vague thought - they become something tangible to be achieved. It is very difficult for dentists - or anyone for that matter - to maintain goals in their head. By writing them down, goals can be reviewed weekly to determine if progress is being made.

2. Measure them

When goals are established, they cannot simply be a generalised wish list. Measurement means that you can evaluate a goal at any point in the future and determine what type of progress has been made. Nothing feels better than checking off an accomplished goal.

Examples of practice goals include:
• Increase practice production by 18%
• Reduce overheads by 3 - 5%

These are some of the typical goals that clients express to Levin Group consultants. Each one of them is measurable. By comparing practice data from the previous year against the current year, it will be easy to tell if the goals have been accomplished or not.

3. Set deadlines

Deadlines create commitment. This motivates CEOs to work on solutions for achieving the goal. If you have forever to achieve a goal, there is not much urgency to accomplish it.

Conversely, if a goal has a deadline, the dentist feels motivated to come up with solutions. That might entail attending a seminar or reading a book. If time goes by and the deadline comes closer and the individual still has no idea how to achieve the goal, the dentist may be compelled to find a mentor or hire an expert who can guide the doctor on how to accomplish the goal. Deadlines motivate doctors to achieve the goal by spurring them to discover solutions on how to reach their objective.

4. Read them weekly

Based on my own experience as a CEO and meeting with other business leaders, I have found that successful executives typically review their goals daily. If goals are not read at least once a week, it becomes challenging to remember what they are or work on possible solutions. CEOs know that their time should be spent working on activities aligned with their goals. For dentists, the situation is different.

I believe that dentists have a much more challenging job leading their practices compared to high-level CEOs. Due to the nature of their profession, dentists - unlike CEOs - spend the bulk of their day ‘on the front line’ providing services to consumers - their patients. Doctors actually have to achieve their goals and move toward their vision in about 2% of their overall time.

The only silver lining is that most dentists work less than 40 hours a week. By putting a small amount of additional time into the strategy, vision and goal achievement, dentists can generate a huge return on investment in terms of financial rewards and professional satisfaction.

5. Call on experts

Dentists need to surround themselves with experts. All highly successful people recognise early that there is a point where they cannot do it all alone, should not try to do it all, and if they do it all, they will reach an absolute plateau and never move past it. Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft by doing everything himself.

Many doctors often wait far too long to bring experts into their lives. Perhaps it is because as clinicians we are trained as do-it-yourself professionals. Perhaps it is ego, as it is for many CEOs that believe they can do it better than everyone else. Whatever the reason, it is an extremely limiting factor.

Here are the questions that every dentist needs to ask: Where do I want to be? Who can help me get there? Who has done it before? Different levels of expertise can help you achieve the more challenging goals in your practice and in your life.


Goal setting is a critical activity for any dentist. Achieving difficult goals is how you lead your practice to greater success. Are you on the path to get there now? Good CEOs use all available assets to reach challenging objectives and build highly successful businesses.


To read other articles in the 'Systems for success' series, please click below:
Is your practice system holding you back?
Get your practice on schedule
Increasing case acceptance
Turning calls into patients
Roger Levin DDS
Roger Levin DDS

Dr Roger P Levin is chairman and chief executive officer of dental practice management firm, Levin Group, Inc. Levin Group provides comprehensive consulting solutions for increased production and lifetime success to dentists around the world. A third-generation dentist, Dr Levin is a sought-after speaker within the dental profession, taking his Total Practice Success Seminars to dentists and dental professionals across the world. Twitter: @Levin_Group

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