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Features / November 8, 2017

Tips and tricks: running a dental practice

by Derek Levenstein

Providing excellent oral care is the main aim of any dental practice. However, that’s only made possible by multiple other factors that have much less to do with dentistry. From establishing a great team, to ensuring that your practice has an effective infrastructure, there is a lot to take into account when you’re setting up and running a dental business.

Having a vision

When you’re running a dental practice, vision is important. However, vision alone is not enough. Making this a reality involves goal setting and a series of practical steps that will take you from one objective to the next. When you’re defining vision and goals these are the key questions to ask:

  • Where is the business going?
  • What are the goals for the next six to 12 months? (Short-term goals)
  • What goals do you have for the next five years? (Long-term goals)
  • How will you measure your success? (eg, customer growth, profit, expansion etc)
  • Do you have a Plan B – ie, if you don’t hit the goals you set, how do you maintain momentum?

The importance of the business focus

While you may assume that it’s the dentistry that defines what you do, in reality the focus needs to be on the fact that you’re running a business. If the business foundations are missing then an exceptional dental service can’t shine. One needs to support the other to create a viable and competitive dental practice capable of building a client base and achieving long term staying power. At a basic level there are four key business elements to this:

  1. Marketing
  2. Workforce
  3. Service
  4. Growth

Marketing a dental practice

The volume of marketing you need to do will depend on your practice, its location, the local community and the goals that you’ve set. Make sure that you know your audience before you direct any resources towards marketing efforts.

Who is your potential customer, what are the local demographics, have you analysed the competition and what does your ideal customer want?Once you have this information, use it to create targeted marketing campaigns that hone in on those you want to come to you.

There are many different ways to market a business in 2017, from social media advertising, to the local paper and email – a cross-channel mix usually achieves the best results. Remember that even if your goals are fairly modest and you’re relying on a ready made local community they still need to know a) you’re there b) what you offer c) why they should come to you – that’s what marketing is for.

Handling the workforce of a dental practice

There are multiple staff to consider for a successful dental practice, from cleaning staff through to receptionists and the dentists themselves. Each one needs to be properly instructed and trained. Your dentists will need to have opportunities for ongoing professional development while administrative and support staff need to be inducted into their role and enlightened about the way that it fits within the business as a whole.

A dental practice staff can be large and there are many different aspects to consider, from employment contracts, to tax, benefits and scheduling holidays. Ensuring positive relationships between staff is also important to establish a positive working culture – workplace policies on topics such as discrimination or mobile use during office hours can be useful to clarify what kind of dental practice you are.

Defining service levels for a dental practice

Customers return to a business when they have had a great experience – creating a loyal customer base is as simple as that. It’s important to define your expectations to your staff when it comes to your idea of what great service looks like, as it’s your team who will deliver the quality of service you’re aiming for.

Achieving growth as a dental practice

Growing a dental practice has many different aspects to it, from setting visions and goals, as defined above, to careful cash flow management to ensure that you don’t run out of resources.

Make sure you have tallied up outgoings and expenses with incoming funds and targets – if you have a lean month how will the business cope? A key part of running a successful dental practice is having the resources to ensure that it stays open even if there are bumps in the road.

So, can you obtain financing to act as a safety net – or to get you off the ground – and do you have a system in place to spot problems with cash flow early on?

Your patients

Your patients are your customers and they will help you to run your dental practice effectively into the future. Engaging with patients might be the most important aspect of all when it comes to running and managing this kind of business. How can you better understand your patients, what would encourage them to recommend you to others and what more could you provide to keep them satisfied?

This is just a taste of a few of the elements involved in running a successful dental practice. Great professionals, a solid workplace infrastructure and smart marketing will provide a solid foundation for success.