Daniel Kerwood, Darren Shaw and Jason Woodgate, Project Managers at Hague Dental, discuss how project management is a key part of the process when setting up a new practice
Designing and building your own practice is a dream for many dentists. Whether it’s a squat, a new build or a refurb, creating a new practice can be extremely rewarding, but the process can also be full of challenges.
When undertaking such a big project and navigating so many different aspects, it is key to have one coordinator who can work collaboratively with all subcontractors.
While many dentists want to be heavily involved in bringing their dream to fruition, the reality is they are earning good money in the surgery, so they shouldn’t be pulled away from patients to run projects, especially because many underestimate how time-consuming and complex dealing with a build can be.
Even small things like moving a front door can involve a huge amount of time and energy and require the appropriate experience and expertise. One way to make the process less stressful is to outsource the project management to a dental company that understands every aspect of dental practice design, that can look after everything for you, from the planning, design, and logistics to the build itself.
Reducing the stress
A project manager can reduce the stress by acting like a central hub between the dentist and all the subcontractors, whether it’s building control, carpenters, or electricians. They can also take control of things like Construction Design and Management regulations as well.
Organisation and communication skills are hugely important here. It’s about understanding what each party needs and then acting as a mediator, striking a balance between being realistic and honest with clients, managing their expectations about when certain parts of the project will be completed and knowing when to push back when contractors are dragging their heels.
How involved do I need to be?
Working with a project manager doesn’t mean handing over full control and not being involved in your build. The key to the success of a new build is to work hand in hand with a project manager who can take on responsibility for much of the logistics, such as finding solutions when there are inevitably problems with the build, but with key input from you. After all, it’s your practice.
You should be able to make the decisions that create the aesthetic and the look of your new practice, but you shouldn’t have to worry yourself with problems like, “Where’s the plumber today?” or, “Why is that pipe in the wrong place?”
A project manager can help guide you through the maze and help you make decisions, but they can’t make all the decisions for you.
Having a project manager oversee all aspects of the project can limit the potential for things to go wrong. And many things can go wrong with a build. That’s par for the course. However, oversight and central management mean that lack of communication between involved parties can be minimised.
When you are building a new practice, or even undergoing a refurb, there are so many people and organisations you have to deal with. These include, but are not limited to, risk assessors (fire and water), Building Control Officers, councils, architects, engineers, landlords, builders, electricians, plumbers, air conditioning subcontractors, interior designers, furniture makers, joiners, flooring specialists, signage makers – the list goes on.
If the design, build, and/or equipment acquisition are left to function as separate entities, things can fall through the gaps, and it makes for a far less smooth process.
People go in different directions and have different start and end dates. A project manager’s job is to make sure that they all work together and finish on a set date.
You can’t get the furniture, the chairs, or the cabinets in before the flooring is done, for example, or install certain items without electricity or plumbing first being completed.
It works in a linear process. If stage two isn’t done, stage three won’t be done.
Managing budgets is another key factor. Marrying up your ideas and dreams with what’s realistic for your space and budget is important. A project manager can help you interpret design concepts but keep the job within budget.
Unexpected costs can arise during a build, and things can easily run over budget.
Sometimes people underestimate how much time and money goes into something that might seem really small.
There must be flexibility within the plan to allow for what happens on-site compared to what was planned on paper. Contingency plans need to be put in place and budgets need to allow for that.
Building contracts, for example, are notorious for going over time and budget, and it’s not just on squats. While squats may seem like a bigger job, a squat is a blank canvas, but a refurb may throw up even more unexpected costs, particularly if it’s an old building. You never know what you might find when you lift up the old floors. You could discover asbestos, for example, and get sprung with a £10,000 asbestos removal quote you weren’t expecting. A project manager can help navigate those financial concerns and find solutions.
A project manager will also develop a close relationship with the builders on-site and talk to them regularly to ensure you know what’s going on. Project management tools like tracking charts can also be put in place to help keep on top of building costs.
It’s key to work with dental specialist build teams here too. You may pay a premium for those build companies, but they go a long way in making sure that your project comes in on time and on a budget because they’re used to managing these types of build.
In the same way, working with experienced project managers can help foresee snags and navigate problems before the completion day.
If you are undertaking a new practice build or refurb, don’t overlook the benefit of project management. Trying to manage it all yourself will take a considerable amount of time, which may interfere with your clinical schedule.
Be realistic with your time. Work out your hourly rate and how much time this is going to take you away from earning versus how much it would cost to outsource it. You will likely find that the cost is minimal compared with the amount of downtime you are going to have and the loss of revenue.
If you think about it financially, working with a project manager could actually save you money in the end as well as shield you from some of the project stress.