Becoming a dentist is not easy. You learned a lot of things in dental school but likely did not learn how to run a dental office business. Many dentists run into the same problem. Learning how to run a dental office business is something every dentist should have at least some knowledge of.
Many dentists think the same way when it comes to how to run a dental office business, they figure they will hire people to do it for them. While there are plenty of reliable people out there that can help you to manage your office, you should still learn how to run a dental office business just so you can make informed decisions about your practice. It is after all your practice.
Your Mindset Needs to Switch Gears
As a dental professional you likely know all that you need to about providing exceptional oral health care to your patients, but when it comes to your practice you are not only a doctor of dentistry, you are also a business person. You have to be able to switch gears from focusing on care to turn a profit.
It sounds a lot easier to do than it is. It can be difficult to put your business cap and think about banking and financial services when you are very focused on the next patient in the chair and their root canal.
Part of the problem is that most dental professionals have curated their self-identity as a care provider and do not think of their practice initially as a small business, but the fact is, as a dentist you are a small business owner. There are about 30 million small businesses in the US and your practice is one of them.
You have to be able to develop a keen business sense about your practice as well as provide exceptional care to help your practice to grow. Understanding the business end of things is critical. No one will care as much about your practice as you do.
Any successful dental office needs a few basics to get started. For example, you need space for the office. Will you build a space from the ground up or will you look for commercial property for lease? Money is typically the driving force that will help you decide which option is best.
If you go with the commercial lease will you have to make changes to the property to accommodate your practice. For example, will some changes need to be made to the commercial plumbing for the chairside sinks? Will the property owner allow the changes? Do you have the capital to make the changes?
Other start-up costs will also include:
- Equipment purchases or rentals.
- The actual office start-up costs. You will need computers, printers, data center software, and more to ensure your office runs smoothly.
- Tools and materials for the practice.
You have a lot of business based decisions to make when you are opening a practice. What sanitizing service will you use for your practice? What lab will you use or will you be doing in house lab work? Finding the best values for your parts, equipment, and supplies is very important when you first start because initially, the money will be tight.
Once you have all the details worked out for your dental office business, there are more details you need to move on to. For example, how will you bring in patients? The next section addresses one of the most important things you need to learn about how to run a dental office business.
Marketing for Dental Offices
A recent study found that about 73% of people looking for dental services turned to the internet to help them search. That means if you do not have an online presence for your practice you are missing out on a lot of potential patients. Digital marketing is the solution.
Whether your practice is an orthodontist office that relies on referrals from general dentists, or you are a general practice office, you will need to market that office. Helping potential patients find your practice through a strong marketing strategy is how you will grow your practice.
The most successful of practices have a local marketing agency that specializes in dental marketing to reach their target audience. Your target audience is potential patients. With the right team behind your practice, you will find the patient base that you need to grow your practice and keep it flourishing.
Part of learning how to run a dental office business has to be learning how to manage money for your business. While there are plenty of great bookkeeping services out there that you can connect with, you should still have your eye on the cash that flows in and out of your business.
Having strong support and a good financial plan for your business will help you take your practice to a profitable level. Attention to detail when it comes to business finance is imperative. At a minimum you should educate yourself on the following:
- What taxes your business is required to pay.
- When are loans due and how much you owe.
- What vendors are being paid and how much.
It is fine to leave the bulk of the financial stuff to the people that you hire, but at least once a month you do want to sit down and take a look at your books and reports. You would not be the first dentist that thought they had a pretty thriving practice only to find out that it was not and that things were not being managed right.
One of the best ways to protect your practice is to have a good understanding of the financial picture. It is your money and ultimately you are responsible for managing it. As your practice grows, speak with a trusted financial advisor that can make recommendations for managing taxes, reinvesting in your business, and growing your revenue.
Human capital is going to make help build your practice. Who you hire really matters to your business. Like any business, your employees are the face of your practice. They help to form your dental office reputation among patients. One of the most important things you need to know about how to run a dental office business is never to turn over hiring or firing to anyone. Even if you have a great manager, make sure you make it clear that you get the final say in hiring and or firing.
Here are some tips you can follow when your practice is new and you have not quite gotten to the point of hiring an actual dental office manager:
- Check references. An odd number of hiring managers and others never check a candidate’s references. Call their last job and get the low down on why they left, their work ethic, and how long they worked there. Check with every reference.
- Require a background check. Another thing that many dental offices do not do is require a background check. Most grocery stores require a background check to scan groceries. You need to require a background check to keep your patient’s information safe.
- Don’t rush to make decisions about hiring. It can be hard not to hire anyone that walks through the door when you are desperate for help, but you should not. Let the process play out and interview each and every candidate, you never know that last candidate may be the best candidate.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to due diligence when considering a candidate. You can pay a company to do the background checks, reference checks, and other parts of the process, but don’t skip any of it. You need highly qualified people that you can trust working in your office. Doing the work to find those people is worth it.
Dealing With Vendors
How to run a dental office business has to cover how to deal with vendors or it would seriously be amiss. You are going to have to deal with a lot of vendors and suppliers. There are a lot of vendors and suppliers that you will have to negotiate with to ensure that you are always getting the best value.
These tips will help whether you are dealing with electricians or you are dealing with the person you buy snacks from for the waiting room:
- Follow the rule of threes of business. Ask for three quotes, from three vendors, before you make a choice. For example, if you need some new chair covers. Ask three separate vendors for pricing for three different types of chair covers. Then compare your options.
- Ask for discounts. There are literally thousands of dollars that are left on the table in unclaimed discounts from suppliers. This is not only true of the dental industry but for any industry. Vendors typically offer discounts, but will not give them willingly, unless you ask. ASK.
- Don’t be afraid to switch things up. A lot of business owners (and remember you are a business owner) will stick with a vendor or a supplier out of loyalty. While that is a very nice quality to have, the fact is, loyalty does not pay the bills. If you find a better financial option, jump on that deal. You’re your old vendor or supplier a chance to match the pricing if you want, but don’t pay more out of loyalty.
Working with vendors and suppliers is one area where it is really important to develop that business sense. It can be easy to fall into a cycle of overpaying because you like John or Lisa. A great salesperson will make you like them, and they will take advantage of that. It is their job. It is just business. You may not like Sal or Mary, but Sal and Mary may be able to save you a lot of money. Don’t let personal feelings guide you when it comes to business. Run the numbers.
Keep Skills Sharp
If there are not enough things to do to learn how to run a dental office business, there is at least one more thing that has to go on the list. You and your staff have to keep your skills sharp. That likely will mean finding time for some continuing education so you can stay on the cutting edge of dentistry and provide your patients with the best in care.
Keeping your skillset up to date, and paying for your staff to do the same, may come with certain benefits like:
- Reduction in tax liability.
- Developing a sense of loyalty to your business in your staff.
- Promoting a positive reputation among your patients.
Everything that you do can either make or break your practice. Investing in additional education for you and your staff can be a great investment in your business. While this entire article has been dedicated to helping you to foster the idea that your dental practice is a business and you need to take a business approach, at the root of your business, is the care that you provide your patients.
Word of mouth marketing is still a very powerful tool. If you can elbow out the competition because your office offers state of the art orthodontic service or dental care, that can be one of your biggest marketing pros. How to run a dental office business is not just about managing the business, it has to be about how will you continue to help your practice grow. Furthering your education and your staff’s education will ensure that your practice never becomes stale and falls behind the competition.
A Final Word About Finding Success
Whatever it is that drove you to be a dentist likely has nothing to do with the business end of things but using that driving force to learn how to run a dentist office business will help you to find the success that you are hoping for. With a little planning, and a lot of learning your practice will become well established and enjoy years of growth.