The Business of Dentistry

“There is cash in the bank, so I must be okay”

~ Said the Business Owner Who Wonders Where Their Money Went

There is no doubt that dental students are smart! They don’t just hand out dental licenses to anyone, right?! Dentists are skilled in science, artistic abilities and are taught that perfection is in the details. Most dentists have the goal of practice ownership, but with the lack of business education, they are not prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Every dentist I have ever worked with said the same thing, they “just want to do dentistry.” They believe that if they find that amazing office manager to run the business side of things, then they will just get to be the dentist in back. Which I don’t blame them for wanting. After all, they have devoted most of the last decade to learning dentistry and they want to build on their skills and well, practice what they went to school for.

This is where the disconnect happens. They don’t see their practice as a business, or themselves as business owners. They don’t understand that at the end of the day they are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the business and that they are responsible for running the business.

Own your business!

Ok, be honest. How many CE classes do you take? Do you see the a class on veneers and just jump at the opportunity? There is nothing wrong with this, and to grow your skills is very important. But, not being able to do the perfect Class II composite isn’t going to kill your business. What will cause a lot of harm and potential financial loss is not having done the business “stuff” before, and not getting the guidance needed to be successful at it. Lack of team moral, poor scheduling, payroll concerns, marketing headaches, unfocused culture of the practice will lead to a loss of patients, revenue and create some sleepless nights.

I remember this one office I was asked to visit. Now, it was beautiful, updated, and comfortable. Great views of the mountains. The dentist, highly skilled, personable, and motivated. He had multiple hygienists, patients coming in, and really it seemed like it was working. Yet, his schedule was constantly falling apart. The recall report had never been worked. The 30/60/90 day report was scary. There were no analytics to even begin to see the health of the practice. The poor dentist was eager, but was struggling with how to motivate his team, and get people to work with him to be successful. It was a near recipe for disaster on his investment.

This is a classic case of not knowing business. For those of us who have ventured out on our own for the first time, we don’t know much. However, this is your business, and you need to learn it. Find CE courses to take on business, read books, find pod casts to listen to. Get a mentor. 

Begin thinking like a business owner, because those days of just doing dentistry are over!

Suggestion: Hire a consultant!

Any great team, has a coach. Even that super successful dentist down the street, most likely has worked or is working with a consultant or a coach. Hiring one can teach you about the importance of systems, what analytics to review to understand the health of your practice. They can give you verbal skills to help improve communication between the team and yourself, give guidance on treatment presentation and more. Basically, a great consultant can guide you to practice success. Let’s not reinvent anything here, lets just get right to the stuff that works! 

A consultant is an investment for sure, so make sure to take time to find one that is right for you. The most important things to know are how they will work with your team, how often they will meet with you, when they will be in your office. Do you just meet via a Skype call? Do they offer trainings? How are results monitored?

You will also want to know what kind of consulting they do. For example, I prefer assisting dentists in purchasing or building their office, and getting it set up correctly. I help with developing systems, hiring staff, leadership development and work in the office for a period of months. Other consultants might come in once a month, and help with leadership and marketing. Others might just give you a binder full of ideas and send you on your way. Take time and find one that you feel you can build a relationship with.

There is so much that goes into a successful dental practice. Changes in regulations, leadership, marketing and more, can be overwhelming. You don’t have do it all on your own, but you do need to know what is happening  and how to make decisions that can positively impact your business. 

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