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Change is inevitable and constant

All Things Leadership: Today we hear from Dr Chipo Muyovwe, the proprietor and Chief Dental Officer of Dazzling Dental Clinic.

A glimpse of an SME in today’s new normal

They say that a person’s true character is often revealed in the midst of a crisis. Likewise, we, as dental practitioners can learn a lot about our dental practices from going through a pandemic. The key question we would pause to ourselves is whether your practice is in a position to withstand future economic and health crisis? It’s of course every founders and business executive’s worst nightmare to face a crisis that knows no end and with new drop points as it unfolds.

In hindsight, no one could have predicted what this year would have in store as the world celebrated the beginning of a new decade 12 months ago. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted personal and professional lives of millions of people, including dental practice owners, who are still adapting and learning to navigate their way through the various challenges that have threatened the safety and well-being of their patients, staff and dental practices.

Turning on its third wave, the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated and interrupted businesses in Zambia, particularly SMEs. In an effort to reduce the spread of the pandemic, a lot of SMEs at the worst have had to close doors permanently as they could not survive the financial blow of the first and second wave.

The outbreak of the pandemic has had a significant impact on the oral healthcare profession. In this regard, dental personnel are reported to have a higher risk of transmission due to aerosols and droplets that are considered as primary reasons for the transmission of this infectious disease. Quality dental treatment may not be possible without the interference of aerosols in daily dental practice.

In the dental industry in particular, the exponential increase in prices for PPEs, medication and sterilization materials have not only handicapped the clinics in service delivery, but most importantly, they have created lapses in the quality of patient care. So, one may ask, how has Dazzling Dental clinic managed to survive this global pandemic that has threatened the sustainability of every business in the world.

1. Accurate information: Right from the beginning, we managed to keep our staff updated with key information on the pandemic. We turned our weekly staff meetings into Covid-19 briefings to ensure that the team had accurate information about how it spreads, symptoms, prevention and what to do if one got infected. This has helped us keep the team motivated by reducing anxieties and fears that come about with such a crisis.

2. Bulk-buying: To counter the exponential price increase we reverted to buying our dental materials and consumables in bulk and directly from the manufactures. This helped us maintain a continuous supply of essential materials for the clinic to operate and ensure patient safety and quality is maintained at all times.

3. Strict Covid-19 Management Protocol: To support the call to reduce on the spread of the highly infectious disease with had to enhance our infectious control management protocol with additional steps such as screening of patients for COVID 19 before they enter the reception, reducing our operating 8hrs to 4hrs per day and resorted to seeing patients by appointments only. All this was in an effort to reduce the traffic flow and period of exposure to protect both patients and staff.

4. Using online platforms for booking appointments in order to limit the amount of walk-in customers. We have had to also rely heavily on social media for disseminating vital information on oral health as part of our oral health outreach.

5. Enhancing Trust in the Team: Having a strong team dynamic begins with trustworthy leadership qualities which translates in keeping the staff safe, cohesive and productive. This has highlighted the need for Dazzling Dental to be honest, empathetic and able to take a non-binary approach to problem-solving.

Adapting to the new normal of doing business has come at cost to our business. With low revenues we have had to slow the pace of 10year expansion plan to become a first private dental hospital in Zambia. We have also had to suspend our yearly oral health outreach programme activities, where we provide free dental services to the poor and vulnerable in our community.

The pandemic has taught all of us the importance of being innovative, agile and adaptive as a SME in order to survive in business. Coupled with firm leadership and a solid team, navigating an eruptive and prolonged crisis is not only possible but is made easier, leaving the future of any SME ever brighter.

About The Author

Dr. Chipo Muyovwe is a proprietor and Chief Dental officer of Dazzling Dental clinic and Medicare in Lusaka, Zambia. She graduated from Tokyo Dental and Medical University with a graduate degree in Research Restorative and Cariology. She obtained a master’s degree in clinical dentistry from Kings College in London and she has a Masters with Harvard Medical University in safety and quality informatics and Leadership. She also has Doctorate (PHD) with Capella in public health – specialising in health advocacy and leadership. She is passionate about better oral health/public health and promoting upcoming young entrepreneurs into leadership positions, especially women. Aside from her day to day clinical work, she is a mother of four, volunteers to promote public and oral health in elementary schools, community and corporate levels. She loves and is always ready to share her professional knowledge whilst promoting the importance of confidence amongst young women. Her message is simple: in order for women to empower themselves individually in business and life, they must work to empower other women through sharing and support. Women have limitless potential for success but that success takes teamwork.

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