10 MORE ways to help your dental practice compete now and in the future

March 14, 2016
Dr. Christopher Phelps

Dentistry is a competitive field. If you want your practice to thrive so that you can enjoy your career and retire comfortably, it’s not enough to go with the flow. You need to take concrete steps to ensure the success of your dental practice.

Dentistry is a competitive field. If you want your practice to thrive so that you can enjoy your career and retire comfortably, it’s not enough to go with the flow. You need to take concrete steps to ensure the success of your dental practice.

By learning to think as both a dentist and a CEO, I took my practice from $600,000 a year to $6,000,000 a year in 12 twelve years. I did this while cutting my marketing costs by 75 percent and attracting, on average, 300 new patients a month.

Related reading: 10 things you can do to help your dental practice compete now and in the future

I often advise young dentists on how to create strong, profitable practices, but these tips aren’t just for people who are starting out. If you want to revive and improve your dental practice, you need to be doing the following things.

Continue to the next page to see 10 more things you should be doing to help your practice thrive.

 

 

 

 

1. Have the capacity to grow

As your practice grows, your office needs to grow. When you’re planning an office, plan for the future. Can you build a larger building and rent out space to other businesses until you need it? Does your community offer opportunities for a second office down the line? Can you use a modular design to give you flexibility as your patient base increases? Take the time to plan at the beginning so that you’re ready for growth down the road.

 

 

 

 

2. Make your hours convenient to working families

Most dental practices are still only open from nine to four Monday through Friday. That’s great if all your patients are retired or independently wealthy, but not if you want a wider patient base. It’s increasingly difficult for people to take off work for routine appointments, and many schools won’t let parents sign their kids out for check-ups. If you want to be a successful practice, offer evening and weekend hours. Your patients will love you, and your hours alone will attract new business.

Extended hours are especially easy for group practices. If you have four dentists and eight hygienists, you have two shifts to cover the practice. Longer hours are also a way to increase the number of patients you can see without having to construct a new office space.

 

 

 

 

3. Learn how to put the right people in the right positions

To have a thriving practice, you need to hire well. That doesn’t just mean hiring the people with the right credentials. You need to hire people whose strengths match the tasks you’ll be giving them. You need to look at a person’s intellect, emotional intelligence and character to decide if he’s the right person for the job you’re giving him.

In my own practice, I use the Kolbe Method to evaluate employees and to help them match their skills and talents to the job at hand. Evaluating jobs with the same method helps me see what sort of people we need in certain key roles.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Create a hiring system that works for your practice

If you don’t hire the right sorts of people, your practice won’t succeed. Your new hires need to have the intelligence to do their jobs, the skills they need to complete their tasks, and the personality to mesh well with your existing employees.

 To ensure that new hires are a great fit for my practice and my patients, I use an interview process that screens for intelligence, includes group interviews and finishes off with an assessment based on the Kolbe Method. I’ve found that this combination of techniques allows me to hire people who will be a good match for our practice. As a result, I have very low turnover and attract high-value employees.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Learn how to deal with negativity

Negative attitudes from your employees can turn a thriving practice into a “barely-getting-by” practice. You want to grow, but you can’t do that unless everyone is willing to work towards the same goal. In my practice, I confront negativity with data. When we start a new initiative, I give employees objective goals and tract their productivity. I hold them accountable for meeting their goals, but I also give them the tools and training they need to move from their current level to the next level.

If you give your employees clear, attainable goals, give them the tools they need to reach their goals and reward them when they meet the goals, you’ll find that you have fewer problems with negativity. Negativity is a way of communicating confusion and uncertainty. You can prevent it by giving clarity and clear guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Combine technology and people for maximum effectiveness

We’re living in a great time to be starting a practice. There are so many technological aids to help you and your staff maximize productivity. The key is to remember that technology can’t work by itself. You need to combine good people with good technology to help your office function smoothly. One tool that I like to recommend to new dentists is InfusionSoft. This is “Customer Relations Management” software. It helps keep track of appointments, treatments and contacts with your customers.

It puts all the information in one place, so you can see that not only does this person have a history of bite problems, but that you sent her a postcard about Invisalign braces three weeks ago, and she has an appointment in three days. The key is that you need an office manager who understands the software, and who can come up with new and creative ways to use it.

I also have my staff use the chat function on our website to converse with patients and free up phone lines. Again, it’s a great technology, but you also need great people to use it. If someone on your staff can’t sound intelligent over the chat tool, you’ll lose patients. You need both the technology and the right people.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Track and understand missed opportunities

If you want to run a thriving practice you need to attract new patients, and to attract new patients you need to understand who calls, when they call and whether they decided to book an appointment. The average dental office loses 40-50 new patient calls a month due to dropped calls, calls that go to voicemail and people who get put on hold. Since the average new patient generates $1,000 in the first year, that means that they’re losing between $40,000 and $50,000 a month in new revenue. You can’t grow if you ignore growth opportunities.

The statistics look even worse when you include calls that get answered but don’t result in an appointment. You need tools to help you measure your conversion rate on new patients and that will help you reduce missed opportunities. I’ve created one tool that’s particularly helpful to dental offices because I based it on what I needed in my own practice. Call Tracker ROI includes missed call alerts, analysis of new patient calls, and online messaging features to help you get the most out of your phone system and advertising campaigns.

 

 

 

 

 

8. Learn to understand and track marketing

What kinds of marketing bring in new patients? What kinds are a waste of money? Most dentists don’t spend much time analyzing their marketing strategies. They do what everyone else is doing and what they’ve always done, but never get hard numbers on whether the radio spot does any good, or if the postcards get read.

Before you can track your marketing, you need to understand how to market. Too many of my colleagues choose a form of advertising, then craft their message to suit the medium. This is backwards. If you want your marketing campaign to work, first identify your target market, then craft a message to address the needs of that market. At this point, you can choose the medium most likely to reach your target audience, and work on the content of your marketing campaign. Research to decide what offer will appeal to your target group, and finally, track your return on investment.

By thinking things through and gathering data, you can spend less of your earnings on marketing yet attract more new patients to your office.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Be a trailblazer, not a herd-follower

If you do what everyone else does, you’ll get the same results that everyone else does. That won’t let you set your practice apart. Instead, seek new markets. Be willing to stay open late, to offer in-house savings plans geared to underserved groups, or to learn new treatments. When you’re the first person to try a new tactic, you attract attention and new patients. You build your reputation as someone who looks to the future and embraces innovation.

Experiment. Try new ideas. Some may fail, but you learn from those failures too.

 

 

 

10. Think outside the box

Don’t let pre-conceived ideas about dentistry keep you from reaching patients. For instance, most people think of dentistry as something based in a physical office. In my area, there are elderly patients who can’t drive anymore. They couldn’t get to the dentist unless they could find someone to drive them. In response to their needs, I took dentistry out of the office and created a mobile dental office. It’s like a bloodmobile or book mobile, but fully equipped for dental care. My “crazy” idea of a mobile office has gotten us more new patients, helped expand the practice and made it possible for me to provide care to people who had been going without.

 

 

 

 

The rewards of a great practice

When you have a thriving, growing practice, you can enjoy a better work-life balance. You can relax, knowing that you’ve prepared for your retirement and your family’s future. You can let the practice run itself on a day-to-day basis, because you’ve created a functional environment.

Best of all, a thriving practice gives you a chance to serve people and give back to the community. When you don’t need to worry about the future of your practice, you have time to volunteer, to provide dental care as part of charitable outreach and to make a difference to people in need. If you want to enjoy your career as a dentist and wake up every morning thrilled to tackle new challenges, create a thriving practice.

 

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