As you know, not all dental practices are equal. What makes one successful and another not? In this post, we address some general principles to help you understand what you can do to ensure the success of your practice. It’s best if you can understand these principles before buying a dental practice, but they can be of use to you no matter where you are at in your career.
If all it took to make a dental practice successful was an adequate set of clinical skills and competency, then everyone would be on an even playing field. This is, however, not the case. There are factors outside of the quality of care your training and experience can provide. Perhaps the three of the most important factors are:
- Technology: Staying current with dental technology matters. First, it provides your patients with a better experience. Patients respond positively to things like digital imaging and quieter handpieces. Second, it makes you more efficient. The new equipment can cut down your time in procedures, allowing you and your hygienists to increase your production per hour.
- Business acumen: While you got into dentistry to provide quality care, you can’t accomplish that goal if you can’t stay competitive. Organizing your office in a way to maximize your efficiencies, give quality customer service, and reducing overhead will make sure your practice provides that high quality of care to as many patients as possible.
- Identity: There is no other dentist like you. Sure, there are dentists that will offer the same services with the same equipment in similar environments. But there is one variable: the doctor. What is it that sets you apart from the other doctors in your area? What, in essence, is your brand? This is what you have that will make you stand out. If you can, it’s best to have identified this before buying a dental practice so you can build your practice around it from day one.
A Good Doctor Has Good Communication Skills
Everything we do communicates something, whether we mean it to or not. This is why it matters where your office is located, how it appears to new patients, what your signs look like, and where and how you advertise. These are the “first impressions” you give to new patients. And it continues when they walk through the door. Is your waiting room comfortable, clean, and inviting? What is the demeanor of your front desk staff? You want all of this to communicate that your patients are in a caring environment where their interests are being heard and addressed.
Consider how you interact with your patients. Do you actively listen? Active listening means that you closely observe your patients, hearing their words and watching their body language. By paying close attention, you’ll learn more about what they are thinking and feeling, making you better able to understand and respond. Patients who feel seen and heard will appreciate the attentiveness.
Compare active listening to an experience where you were speaking to someone and they were engaged in other tasks, waiting for you to finish talking so they could move on, or, worse, showing disdain for what you were saying. This isn’t someone you want to speak to again. And it wouldn’t be a dentist your patients will want to return to.
If you don’t have these skills, work on them. If you already have a practice, be sure to incorporate these skills and encourage your staff to do the same.
Implement a Management System
Fortunately for you, you’re not the first to run a dental office. It’s been done before and done well. If you’ve had experience working in other offices, consider what worked well and why (and what didn’t and why). If you are buying a dental practice, look closely at how its managed and whether that seems to be working. You don’t need to have all the answers on day one, but you do need to be thinking about things like division of labor among employees, patient flow from making an appointment through checking out after treatment, how to address and resolve employee issues, keeping inventory, and so on.
Some dentists like to be involved in every aspect of practice management. Some prefer to delegate to an office manager. Whichever works for you is fine, but, remember, at the end of the day, it’s your practice so it’s your responsibility. If you have a manager, keep in close communication with them to be aware of what’s happening.
Create and Use an Online Presence
More and more, our communication is becoming electronic. When people want to know about a dental office, they’ll look at the website, read Google reviews, check out their Facebook page. These are all opportunities for you to communicate what you are and, perhaps more than you think, interact with your patients.
You can create a patient portal on your website where patients can schedule appointments, see their records or results, and message with you and your staff. Make sure that someone in your office is checking for messages submitted through your website or any of your social media channels and promptly responding.
Use your website, Facebook page, and social media channels to highlight what sets your practice apart. Highlight your services and products and your staff members. Have a page with your picture and bio, include a little personal information. Let your patients know you are a real person, not just a doctor behind a mask.
For more on how to use social media to promote your practice, check out our article on this topic.
Have a Marketing Plan
It’s not enough to put up a sign, pay for advertising on the local baseball diamond’s back fence, and sponsor a float in your town’s Fourth of July parade (although you should do all of those things). Marketing requires a strategic effort in which you consider what patients you want to attract and how to best communicate with them. What works will vary from market to market, however, in the 21st century, this is increasingly electronic. This means the online efforts described above along with email and coordinated social media efforts. For more on this, check out our recent post on marketing.
Pay Attention to the Details
There are a million details to keep track of and instead of listing them all, we’ll discuss an example: inventory. Who is in charge of inventory? Who is tracking use of supplies, what is remaining, what needs to be ordered, and how soon? Do you know how quickly you go through your supplies, meaning, do you know when you need to reorder so you don’t run out? You don’t want to find out the answer to that question when you are in the middle of a procedure and it’s too late. Carefully consider the details required to have a smooth running day in the office, make a list, and then think through how those details are managed in your office. Look for where you can be more efficient.
Consider a Flexible Financial Options
This one might not work for every practice, but, if you are considering buying a dental practice, you should think carefully about the pros and cons of flexible financial options.
One thing is that not every office offers these options. That is something that can set you apart. Another thing is that the flexibility gives patients a reason to accept treatment. The more reasons they have to accept, the more frequently they will accept. It encourages patients to accept more expensive treatment plans that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. This means you get to capture those patient’s business and they get the care they need.
Remember what we said in the beginning: a major factor in your success will be dependent on what sets you apart. Your unique qualities—as both a person and a doctor—should be baked into your practice’s brand. You are giving your patients a reason to choose you. Most likely there are other doctors in your area that offer the same services and products with a comparable level of skill and experience. It’s your unique personality and perspective that will set you apart. It will resonate with patients. Leverage it.
Considering Buying a Dental Practice?
If you are considering buying a dental practice in Texas or New Mexico, ddsmatch Southwest has practices available. Review our listings here. At ddsmatch, we believe a good match is one where both doctors walk away happy with the deal. We work closely with our seller clients and potential buyers to find the right doctor to build on the success of our clients. If you are interested in any listings you see on our site or would like more information, contact us today—it starts with a conversation.