Running a smooth and profitable dental practice is about planning, focus, standards and learning to let go, according to Ben Atkins, principal dentist and owner of Revive Dental Care. He shares seven tried and tested tips he’s learnt along the way.
1. Plan, plan and plan again
I’m a real believer in having a goal in mind and that means having a plan.
A plan starts with knowing yourself and your business. Have you got a plan to deal with the contract? What do you want to achieve, do you want clinical freedom? Do you want to reach a threshold? Are you wanting a secure income? Once you understand want you want from your business you’ll be able to set a clear route to achieving it.
Understanding your market and your customer is also key. My main customer is the NHS so understanding the contract we have is critical. My staff need to understand where the goal posts are. I often find communicating this challenging.
It’s also not just about profit. For many dentists time is the most important thing. And your plan can work around that, having more time for family can be part of your plan.
2. Learn to let go
Avoid micromanaging your practice. You need to accept running a practice requires many different skill sets, and you need to trust your team. I have a clinical team and a senior management team. They set budgets and they set targets. They are the best people for those roles and they let me get on with mine.
I’ve seen dentist paint their own surgeries. Why do that when it would be better off being painted by a decorator who does it for a living.
Collaboration outside your team is valuable too. I’ve been a customer of Dental Directory for more than 17 years. Through their network of business consultants I’ve been able to access expert advice, supplies and training to help develop my team and my business. It’s important to let other people into your business to get a fresh perceptive.
3. It’s only business
Many dentists prefer not to see their practices as a business. This a mistake. The good news is that you don’t need to do an MBA from Cambridge to run a successful and profitable dental practice. A one or two-day course, or an evening class at a local college - finance for non-financial directors for example - is a good starting point. I did a course at my local college and mixed with plumbers and decorators, in fact we still regularly meet up for lunch. It’s refreshing to know they face the same challenges we do.
Don’t dismiss mentoring schemes either. Find people you respect and admire. And remember if you can’t find someone in dental consider joining a local business network.
4. Diversification, it’s not all about the profit
An increasing number of dental surgeries offer non-surgical aesthetic procedures, or even services such as podiatry.
Diversification is not so much about profit as about turnover. It can help with cash flow.
Botox patients might want teeth whitening, and in turn need a dental check-up. I’ve known some surgeries to offer hair transplants.
If you don’t know where to start, ask for advice. Ask your peers, colleagues and your supply partner. I often turn to Dental Directory for advice.
5. Taking stock
Practice can spend money unnecessarily when they’re not organised, especially when it comes to consumables.
I insist on having all the drawers in the surgery set up the same, so that everyone knows where everything is. There are so many other variables, late patients, dentists having to stand in for colleagues, and of course that temptation to open a new pack of something when you can’t find what you need.
I recently purchased a practice and they had £20,000 worth of out of date stock in their drawers. Such a waste.
Being organised really is the secret to being efficient. So if you can’t do it alone, I go back to point 2 – let others help you. We use Dental Directory’s online tool which lets us order, manage and report on every item of stock in real time.
6. Never forget the patient journey
The patient journey should never be far from your thoughts. The time spent waiting for an appointment is one of the biggest patient gripes, so we have come up with a constructive way to use that time they spend waiting at the surgery, for example filling an updated medical detail form.
7. Remember why you love what you do
There are many challenges owning your own practice, but the rewards will always outweigh these. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of exactly why you want it and what you want to gain from it, then surround yourself with people that can help you and your business grow.
For more information about how Dental Directory can support your practice visit www.dental-directory.co.uk
Ben Atkins is the principal dentist and owner of Revive Dental Care www.revivedentalcare.co.uk