The Most Dangerous Number in Business is The Number One

Ashley Latter, the author of Don’t Wait for the Tooth Fairy and You Are Worth It (Feel Comfortable Communicating your Fees & Achieve the Income your Services Deserve) shares why relying on one of anything in your practice is the most dangerous place to be.

If I were to ask you what, in your opinion, is the most dangerous number in business, what would your answer be? I have asked this question on numerous occasions to various audiences, courses and groups over the years and the answers have been varied with many getting it wrong and only a few getting it right.

The answer is of course ONE (1). How, you may ask can the number one be the most dangerous number in business? Let me share with you a few reasons why.

I know of some practices who rely on one extremely talented employee, for example a Treatment Co-Ordinator or a brilliant receptionist, what would happen to the practice if this person falls ill, walks out without much notice, or very sadly dies? Where would you be?
What if you are a Specialist Dental Practice and you rely on just one or a small handful of dental practices for your referrals, where would you be if they stopped referring patients to you? Look at other industries, an example of this is the airline industry. Recently Flybe collapsed, I watched on TV as some airports in the UK had 90% of their business just with this one airline and overnight, they lost their main client. This had a knock-on effect to the other suppliers to the airport, such as taxi drivers and catering outlets. 

Another example in the dental world is relying on the NHS for your income, even though you may have thousands of patients, you only have one. I know some practices where 90% of their income is derived from the NHS, this is a dangerous place to be. What if there were household changes to the NHS tomorrow, with serious cutbacks, what would happen to your practice? A great deal of my time in 2019 was coaching orthodontic practices who lost their NHS contracts, literally overnight. They had contracts in many cases for over 25 years and yet overnight they lost it to a new practice that opened down the road. What was even more frustrating, is that I was told by these clients, that it took many weeks and even months to complete the paperwork for the tendering process and that it seemed past performance meant very little. 

It is therefore imperative that you look to grow your private income with these patients, if you do not then you are at the mercy of one customer, the NHS. I am finding most of the delegates taking my courses either online, or in the classroom with me, are making this a number one priority, growing their private.

However, let me share one big obstacle that you need to break first. This is assuming that your patients cannot afford it. In 28 years of training thousands of dentists throughout the world, I find that dentists making assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes they make. They automatically think that their patients will not want the private option. This assumption is made based on the postcode on where the patient lives, their occupation, or just an assumption they would not want it. This is a big mistake that must be overcome. If you have any doubts at all about your patients, then I can promise you will never communicate it at 100%, or worse still, you will reduce the fee of the treatment in your head, on the assumption that if you make it cheaper, then the patient will buy the private option. Again, another big mistake that is costing the dentist thousands of pounds in lost income. Over a lifetime, this could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Another assumption is the area that they work. They assume, that because the area is a deprived area, or a typical working class, their patients will not want the private option. I accept that this is a factor, however, I know clients who I have been working with many years who are breaking records with cosmetic treatment options and getting acceptance of these plans, they have made it a mission to offer it to all their patients and allowing them to say no.

So, to conclude this article, the simple message then is trying to never, ever be overly reliant on one employee, one customer or one referrer – and if you are in this position act now to spread your risk. Remember the most dangerous number in business is the number ONE
Ashley Latter has delivered over 32,000 hours of business and ethical sales and communication training to the dental world in his working life. Simply he is the best at getting dentists, orthodontists, and their teams to communicate with their patients, which results in a world class patient journey, more patients saying YES to treatment plans and increased profits for the practices. To sign up to his weekly Lunch and Learn videos, please visit

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