The 80:20 Principle

Roger P. Levin, DDS


Have you heard of the 80:20 Principle? It states that 80% of your results are generated from 20% of your efforts. It’s a rule of thumb that can be very useful in both life and business. All practice owners want to know what actions and decisions can have the greatest positive impact on their practice.

The 80:20 Dental Practice

Focusing only on activities that produce the most results allows you to put your energy where the big rewards are. Consider applying the 80:20 Principle to the following areas of your practice:

  • Day-to-Day Operations: Unfortunately, far too many doctors feel that they must be involved in every non-clinical activity occurring in the practice. Whether it’s overseeing staff members as they go about their duties or actually performing tasks such as answering the phones, these actions are a waste of a dentist’s time and talents. Practice owners should concentrate on activities that have the biggest impact on increasing production. Micromanaging isn’t one of them. In applying the 80:20 Principle to your day-to-day operations, ask yourself two questions. First, what are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing? And second, what aren’t you doing that you should be doing?
  • Your Staff: Staff issues are a common source of frustration for dentists. Sometimes, dentists are quick to blame their entire team for attitude or performance issues, when most of the problems come from only one or two staff members. Before succumbing to a “me against them” attitude, apply the 80:20 Principle. When you do, you’ll see that 80% of the staff problems come from 20% of the team. Once you have identified the main reason for staff issues, the question is then what to do about them. The answer, of course, depends. Can the staff member’s behavior be corrected? Will a discussion, followed by training and coaching, resolve the problem? As the practice leader, what can you do to help the employee improve performance? 
  • Dental Insurance: Dental insurance is one of the most important aspects of practice production and often one of the least understood. Most practices will find that a majority of insurance revenue comes from a small number of insurance plans. The 80:20 Principle can help offices determine which plans to accept. Some factors that should be analyzed are the percentage dental insurance is of total practice revenue, what percentage each plan is of total insurance revenue and total practice revenue, and the discounts that occur with each plan and what effect they have on the practice’s profit margin.
  • Your Patients: Every business has problematic customers, but dentistry overall is pretty fortunate in this regard. In general it can be said that 95% of patients are pleasant and appreciative, while 5% create stress and headaches for the practice. While this may be a 95:5 ratio, it still fits the concept of the 80:20 Principle because a minority of patients is causing a majority of the issues. By identifying who the problem patients are, practices can institute appropriate measures to minimize any troublesome behavior. For example, once the staff recognizes that “Mrs. Jones” is a consistently difficult patient, it will be much easier to manage her using a variety of targeted customer service techniques. Occasionally, there may be one or two patients who should be released from the practice because they are so difficult, such as habitual no-shows, that the office inevitably ends up losing money on their appointments.


Today’s practice owner has no time to waste on activities that produce little to no results. By learning to leverage the 80:20 Principle in your practice, you can concentrate all of your efforts on the strategies and decisions that will have the most impact on your success.

Dr. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with more than 30,000 dentists. Dr. Levin, an internationally known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and more than 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—dentistry’s only all-business study clubs, the next generation of dental business education.

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