Change will come whether we want it or not. While we cannot always control outcomes, we are better prepared to influence it when we are ready. For instance, when you are ready to sell a dental practice, you can’t control who will be interested and what they are willing to pay, but you can position your practice as one that is stable and successful in a way that will attract buyers willing to pay for value. So we are better off proactively anticipating and preparing for change rather than passively waiting for it to happen to us. And, honestly, sometimes it’s the simplest changes that yield the biggest reward. A change of perspective can help us see our professions, our lives, ourselves in new and illuminating ways.
In this second part of two articles this month that focus on good and bad business practices, we’ll take a look at some simple things you can do that can have a big impact on your business.
Change Your Point of View
If your practice isn’t quite what you want it to be, but you aren’t sure what you can do differently, the first step is to take a wider perspective. Remember, it’s not just a way to provide quality dental care. And, it’s not just mechanism for generating revenue. While it’s both of these things, it’s more. It’s a place of employment for your staff. It’s an essential service for your community. And it’s a source of relief and healing (or fear and pain, depending on the person) for your patients. Think about how your practice looks from all of these perspectives, and the tangible and non-tangible benefits you receive.
Next, it helps to take a look at the business from purely a business perspective. While it may seem crass to think of patients as “customers,” that is what they are at a certain level: people exchanging money for services with an expectation of quality. You have to look at your practice as a business and you have to run it like a business.
While there are things particular to dentistry that make it unique, there is a lot that is typical of any small business. If you don’t have any business training or experience outside of running your office, take some time to educate yourself.
You can start with some books on basic business practices. Maybe take a course in business management. There are some specifically designed for the dental profession.
None of this will diminish the quality of care you provide. It can, however, improve your patient’s experience and your staff’s experience. Happy customers and happy employees yield a more successful business.
Set Specific Goals (and Revise Them)
If your original goal was to have your own practice, congratulations! You did it! But now what? Without a destination in mind, you are more likely to wander listlessly.
You can start with a long term goal such as those for your retirement. Where do you want to be when you finally think, “It’s time to sell my dental practice”? Where do you want to retire? How do you want to retire? What do you need in the bank to get to that destination?
Once you’ve done that, you plot the route. If that’s 20-years off, set goals of where to be in 5, 10, 15 years. Then break it down even further. How do you get to that 5-year goal?
When you get to that 5-year mark, re-evaluate. Is your end goal the same? Are your intermediary goals realistic? Has your practice or your market changed?
This way you ensure you are always on course. Without this kind of map, it’s harder to predict the outcome.
Write it All Out
When you have your goals set, make a detailed plan, step-by-step, of how to reach that first goal. And then the next, and then the next. As you do this, look closely at what you are proposing. Are these steps doable? Do you have the tools, resources, and skills to make the steps? If not, your plan is probably not feasible and will need to be revised (this may also point to unrealistic goals).
On the other hand, it may also be determined that you’ve set your sights too low. By getting out all laid out on paper, you will have a better view of what is attainable and what’s not. You will also have a better sense of the work involved. This is important because time is your most precious resource, and you must be certain that you are investing in where it will bring the greatest return.
Don’t Fall for the Entrepreneur’s Fallacy
As a small (or not so small) business owner, you are an entrepreneur. Your vision, determination, and work ethic is admirable. But, just because you’re good at being a dentist doesn’t mean that you are necessarily good at running a business, or anything else for that matter. Many entrepreneurs, inspired by their own intrepid spirit, often come to believe that no one can tell them anything. Don’t fall into this trap.
Bring in an outside consultant to look at your business, assess its value, and recommend improvements. You are a dentist. You are not an accountant. You are not a lawyer. And you don’t need to be. Frankly, it’s not worth your time.
If you try and do everything on your own, it will take you much longer than an outside professional and, frankly, you’ll likely do a poor job. The money you think you’ll be saving by not hiring a trusted expert will be lost in the extra time you spend and the mistakes you’ll make. Others have already made those mistakes. Don’t reinvent a faulty wheel.
Empower Your Team
No one needs tell you that there is too much to do and not enough time in the day. You need a reliable team that you can trust to do their jobs well. By “team,” we mean your staff, your professional service providers (accountants, lawyers, etc.), and the colleagues, friends, and family you look to for counsel and advice.
Look at the non-dental tasks that take up your time. Ask yourself, “Is there someone else who can do this?” If the answer is yes, delegate that task. If the answer is yes, but you don’t trust the team member who should be doing that, it’s time replace that team member. You need everyone in the right seats for the practice to perform its best.
If you are a micromanager, you are probably inhibiting the performance of your team. You fear that if you aren’t closely monitoring something, it’ll go wrong. If your team is competent, you are most likely inhibiting their best performance. Being micromanaged creates feelings of distrust and insecurity, and people perform poorly under those circumstances.
We all perform best when we feel like we have autonomy, the support to do our jobs properly, and recognition for a job well done. These practices result in higher job satisfaction, which creates loyalty and efficiency.
If your team isn’t competent, it’s time to make hard decisions and bring in a consultant with the right reorganization and hiring skills. Proper hiring first saves hours of management later.
Invest in Your Own Business
You owe it to yourself to take a dedicated weekend each year to consider the things discussed above. Set goals, plan how to reach those goals, bring in advisors, plot how to develop a reliable, efficient team.
A lot of this is going to require some investment: hiring experts, hiring new staff, training existing staff, making improvements to your office, learning new techniques. But these investments will pay off time and again, the more so the earlier you institute them in your career.
Remember, ultimately your end goal is likely retirement—getting what you deserve when it’s time to sell a dental practice. Don’t be afraid to put money into something that will move you further down that road.
Where to invest will vary from practice to practice, but doing the first three things (setting goals, creating a plan, bringing in expert consultants) will highlight where you can improve the most—that is, where the payoff will be greatest.
DDSmatch Southwest Will Help You Meet Your Goals for Selling Your Dental Practice
At DDSmatch Southwest, we don’t simply broker a sale. We come in early and advise on how best position your practice to help you meet your goal. If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, we offer a free Practice Transition Assessment, with no-obligation, where we advise on potential practice investments to increase value and suggest physical and branding improvement, among other things.
Request a consultation today and find out how we can help you get what you want from your practice transition.