When entering private practice, new dentists should immediately begin laying a solid business foundation for their careers. They may believe they can (or should) wait until the practice has grown, but that growth will come more slowly -- if at all -- without certain business basics in place.
The era of automatic practice growth has ended. The market is now more demanding, competition has intensified, and business must be earned case by case. Fortunately, non-dental businesses have learned how to deal with similar challenges, and new dentists are perfectly positioned to learn and profit from that corporate experience. In the business of dentistry, the absolute essentials are:
By mastering these business disciplines -- rather than forming bad habits they will have to break later -- young dentists will see quick, positive results and set the stage for many years of growth.
Vision and goals: Defining success
Business leaders have learned from experience that determining what they want is a prerequisite to achieving it. Young dentists should devote time to think seriously about their career aspirations, resulting in a concise, written vision statement of where the practice should be in three to five years.
At the same time, they should draft a list of goals -- objectives which, when reached, will signify that the vision has been fulfilled. Reviewed daily, shared with the practice team, and used when making all major decisions, the vision and goals will drive progress. When the vision has become a reality, a new vision and goals must be created. This will be a career-long habit for the most successful dentists.
Management systems: Target-based performance
Many young dentists mistakenly think that management systems are merely standard operating procedures that map out routine activities. That is only part of the story. The right systems define how all non-clinical tasks are handled, step-by-step, not only to achieve efficient, stress-free performance but also to reach specific targets.
For example, at checkout, the front desk coordinator relies on a system supported by scripting that enable her to reach her target of keeping 98% of patients scheduled at all times. Even if new dentists are not yet busy, they should implement excellent management systems rather than makeshift protocols. Doing so will establish a good habit and facilitate faster practice growth. All systems should be replaced periodically based on the changes that come with practice growth.
Marketing programs: The growth factor
In the beginning, young dentists should promote their practices with some judicious spending and targeted grassroots marketing strategies, such as:
Once these external activities have yielded a sufficient number of patients, internal marketing strategies can then be implemented to elicit referrals from them. Levin Group recommends a minimum of 15 simultaneous strategies -- some educational, some public service, and some just for fun. The target is for 40-60% of all current patients to refer at least one new patient a year. This will result in exponential growth.
What young dentists can do right now is establish excellent habits that have been proven effective by real-world businesses. Working with the practice vision and goals, target-driven management systems and effective marketing programs, the new generation will be well-prepared for success in the new dental economy.
To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center at www.levingroup.com/gp -a free online resource with tips, videos and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.