You’ve spent many years and tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars on your dental education, developing the clinical skills you need to be an exceptional dentist. You’ve taken out loans to rent, lease, or buy your office, your equipment, and your supplies. You’ve hired staff: a front desk person, a hygienist, and a bookkeeper. You’ve hung out your shingle, advertised locally, joined associations, and asked your patients for referrals. You’ve done everything you can think to do to build a thriving, bustling, prosperous practice. So why isn’t your practice growing? Why aren’t you prospering the way you thought you would? What’s missing?
In today’s marketplace, there are more dentists than ever, competing in the same communities for the same pool of patients. The patients are facing uncertainty about medical coverage, changes to the insurance industry, and concern about rising costs. They want convenience, access to the most modern technology, and a personal relationship with the dentist as an integral part of their health care team.
Most dentists struggle, doing business the ways they’ve always done it, reluctant to embrace the personal and business operating strategies that will make them successful.
We’ve found there are three key decisions the most successful practices actively embrace to set themselves apart from their competition, and achieve extraordinary transformations in their businesses. These decisions are strategic planning, systems optimization, and purposeful delegation.
Strategic Planning: Deciding what you will do, for whom, and by when
Traditionally, all a new dentist needed to do to generate business was hang out a shingle and the patients would come. Dentists of 20 or 30 years ago gave little thought to business planning, goal setting, or active marketing to a target demographic. They didn’t need to.
These days, to not only remain competitive, but to grow a thriving, successful practice, dentists must make strategic decisions about who they want to serve and how they want to serve them. That requires a skillset called Strategic Planning.
Creating a Strategic Plan for your dental practice requires you to define specific goals and come up with unique ways to reach those goals. Your Strategic Plan defines, in writing, the following:
- What is your target demographic? Who is your ideal patient? What is their age, gender, profession, income, and education level? Where can you find them?
- How will you “brand” your practice? Are you a neighborhood family dentist? A high-end cosmetic dentist? A dentist who specializes in restorative work for aging patients?
- How will you market or advertise your brand to your target patients?
- What services will you provide? What income percentage will each service generate?
- What is your target annual revenue? What is your profit goal?
- Will you practice solo, or work with associates, partners?
- How many treatment chairs will you have?
- What business hours will you offer? How many days a week? Will you include weekends?
- What are your internal strengths and weaknesses as a dentist? As a business owner?
- What external opportunities or threats can affect your practice?
- When will you retire?
Smart business owners conduct an annual assessment of their Strategic Plan, revising and updating it as they grow and change.
Optimized Systems: Deciding how you will do it
Highly functioning dental practices design every step of every procedure for every task in the office. These procedures are the systems by which a company operates, and flow directly from the Strategic Plan. Optimizing systems leads to consistent, streamlined operations, improved quality, increased profitability, and reduced conflict and stress.
Examine every procedure in your office, and build a digital Operations Manual documenting step-by-step directions, forms and instructions for completing them, and scripts for interacting with patients. Develop job descriptions, checklists, and manuals for each position on your team. Use this Operations Manual to review and train your team, and update it as changes occur.
Systems to design and document include:
- Scheduling systems include all procedures for setting appointments, minimizing cancellations and no-shows, and automating patient reminders. A well-designed and documented scheduling system can increase your practice’s production by up to 30 days per year, without you or your staff working even one more hour.
- Hygiene contributes substantially to your practice income, helping you build patient relationships, monitoring patient health needs, and keeping patients on the schedule.
- Internal Marketing (how you generate referrals and raise your profile in the community) is key to differentiating your practice in your community.
- Treatment Planning Presentations, when systematized and scripted, can improve your case acceptance rate dramatically. Include identifying your patients’ needs, scheduling, outlining the case, closing the sale, and following up on the treatment, and you will help the patient trust you, value your services, and increase the amount of elective dentistry you perform.
- Financial Planning for the Practice systems include purchasing, payroll, cash flow, debt service, and capital investment. Define ways you will review and assess your financial systems regularly, so you can keep an eye on your overhead and profit.
- Financial Options for Patients systems include insurance, financing options, and collections. Every detail of interacting with patients about their finances should be carefully scripted to maintain patient trust and confidence while ensuring you are paid on time.
- Customer Service and Satisfaction systems include every task you perform to make your patient’s experience as positive as possible, and solicit feedback about their satisfaction with you and your practice.
Purposeful Delegation: Deciding who will do what, then letting them do it
Just because you’re the dentist, the practice owner, the chief income generator, and ultimately responsible for everything about your business doesn’t mean you have to micromanage everything. As a matter of fact, trying to do everything yourself will be a chief contributor to stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction.
Smart, successful practice owners delegate authority to get things done, while maintaining overall responsibility for the practice. How? By designing systems, documenting them, hiring and training good people to perform them, and then evaluating how well team members perform them. Successful delegation relies on three critical elements:
- Documentation: written job descriptions, checklists, and scripts (conversational guidelines) for every step of every administrative task.
- Training: including telling, showing, practicing, and observing team members as they take on new tasks will give you the confidence that your team knows what to do and how to do it. Include role-playing difficult situations during your staff meetings, bring in outside subject-matter experts, and offer external training seminars as necessary to keep your team’s skills current and effective.
- Evaluation: should never be just a formal once-a-year phenomenon. Evaluate your new hires frequently during their first 90 days, discussing their strengths and coaching them for improvement. For more seasoned employees, provide a formal review at least annually, discussing their career development goals and progress.
These three key decisions – Strategic Planning, Optimizing Systems, and Purposeful Delegation – can transform any dental practice from “humdrum” to “humming.”
For over 25 years, P&S Coaching has worked with practices just like yours to guide them through these critical processes, helping them double – even triple – their revenues in less than 24 months. We’d love to work with you, too.
If you are ready to take the next step towards success in your business, contact us for a complimentary practice assessment.