If you’re an owner-dentist thinking about expanding the reach of your dental practice by adding offices, you’re not alone. According to dental consultant Linda Miles, more dentists with two or three locations are making the move to double digits.
Today’s two-location operation might just be tomorrow’s regional DSO.
Linda is the founder of Linda Miles and Associates, an INC 500 dental management consulting company. For more than 30 years, she has inspired dentists and their teams, teaching them the skills and mindset they need to grow their dental practices and deliver life-changing patient-centric care.
“There are three keys to transform yourself from a dentist to a dental entrepreneur,” Linda explains. “First, you need to build a solid foundation. Then you need to hire good people to manage your growing business. And third, you need to create an environment of learning that is fun and rewarding.”
Here are some tips on how to succeed at each of these.
Build a Solid Foundation
Before a dentist can build a successful dental group, he or she needs to have a successful single practice. “You need to have the right prototype so you can duplicate it and replicate it with every new office you open or acquire,” explained Linda.
It’s not enough to know that the first dental practice is profitable. Dentists need to understand why. Everything and everyone in your dental practice contributes to the patient experience. Here are some of the metrics you should measure to understand what’s working in your practice so you can replicate that success as you grow:
- Dental marketing expenses and effectiveness: what’s driving new patient phone calls?
- Percentage of new patient calls converted to booked appointments
- Percentage of no shows/cancellations
- Average first appointment revenue collected
- Percentage of patients who leave with a future appointment booked
- Number of prophys and SRPs performed each month (recare)
- EBITDA influencers: payroll, labs, supplies, facilities, etc.
While a dentist can have a single profitable practice based on skill, a strong economy, and a bit of good luck, a dental entrepreneur needs to have a playbook for success.
It’s not luck that builds a successful company; it’s understanding the building blocks of that success and replicating them at every location.
One of those building blocks for success is the team culture you create.
Hire Good People to Manage Your Dental Practices
Dentists are typically great at science and art. Every day, they use their hands and skill to rebuild and replace teeth, crafting smiles that will enhance their patients’ quality of life. But dental entrepreneurs must also be great at business – and that includes knowing how to hire the right people to help you succeed.
“Most entrepreneurs are very creative people who come up with a million ideas,” said Linda. “Then they need to hire people to implement them.”
The dentist needs to be able to explain his or her philosophy and set the example for everybody else.
“It can be challenging for dentists to learn how to become inspirational leaders,” said Linda.
“The boss needs to be enthusiastic about the changes under way and excited about how they will benefit both the team members and the patients.
The team will adopt the doctor’s mindset, and the patients will adopt the team’s attitude.”
It starts at the top, with the example set by the dentist. How the dentist reacts to problems also sets the tone of the office. If the doctor stays calm and focused on solving the problem, then the team will learn to react the same way. It eliminates the blame game and creates a positive culture.
Whether you’re promoting from within or hiring new team members to help you expand, it’s important to interview as much for attitude as for knowledge and skill set. There will always be things that go wrong in dentistry – even in the best-run office. There will likely be some personality conflicts along the way, too. Hiring people who share your love for dentistry, your passion for helping others, and your aptitude for problem-solving will give you the expertise you need in the field to help you grow.
One golden rule that Linda tells every dentist: Compliment your staff.
“Happy staff makes happy patients.”
Create an Environment for Learning
Many dentists talk about professional development, but only the great ones make it part of the dental office culture. It can be hard to get your team members motivated to continuously improve themselves.
“It needs to be fun, it needs to be rewarding, and it needs to clearly show the benefit to the team member,” Linda advised.
Very few dentists can afford to send all of their team members to seminars and conferences. Fortunately, there are many webinars and online training opportunities available. The key is to ensure the lessons learned are put into action.
“People get busy and they fall back into old habits,” Linda explained.
Successful leaders monitor their team’s performance over time to ensure the coaching is implemented and effective.”
Training gives people the tools to do their job better. Since people love to do what they feel they are good at, training actually improves people’s satisfaction with their jobs.
Linda recommends linking team members’ performance and merit raises. She offers this formula:
- 25% is based on the team member’s personal attitude: Is the person cheerful, upbeat and a joy to work with?
- 25% is the ability to work well with patients and team members
- 25% is based on the financial health of the practice
- 25% is based on continuing education courses completed and implemented
Prepare. Achieve. Repeat.
When people know what is expected of them, it’s easier for them to achieve their goals. And when team members are meeting their individual goals, then the dental practice will meet its business goals. That gives you the playbook you need to repeat that success at every new dental practice you acquire.