Starting A Dental Practice: What Every Dentist Should Know
So, you’ve refined your dental skills—fillings, root canals, and cosmetic procedures are all in a day’s work. But what happens when you decide to take the leap and open up your own practice? Suddenly, you’re not just a dentist—you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, and a marketer all in one! From scouting the right location to […]
So, you’ve refined your dental skills—fillings, root canals, and cosmetic procedures are all in a day’s work. But what happens when you decide to take the leap and open up your own practice? Suddenly, you’re not just a dentist—you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, and a marketer all in one! From scouting the right location to understanding the nuances of financing, there’s a lot to consider when starting a dental practice.
That’s where Eric Swarvar comes in. He’s an industry expert, creator of “The 2-Hour Dental Start-Up” program, and the author of “The Start-Up Dental Practice.” Leveraging years of practical experience and expertise, Eric provides a roadmap for dentists navigating the complexities of launching and sustaining a successful dental practice.
In this blog, we’re breaking down some of the key aspects that dentists should focus on when opening their own dental practice.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Where in the world should you set up your dental practice?
- Mastering three business areas to ensure your practice doesn’t crumble.
- Options for funding your start-up dental practice.
- Balancing clinical and business responsibilities.
- Why mentorship and advisors can be your saving grace.
- What comes after those crucial first years?
Choosing the Right Location For Your Dental Practice
“Location isn’t just geography; it’s strategy.” While you might have a dream location in mind, Eric suggests weighing your options carefully. Think about the benefits of a close-knit rural community where you’re the only dentist in town versus the bustling potential of an urban setting, where competition is fierce but the client base is expansive.
Eric’s advice? Consider factors like patient demographics, the local community, potential partnerships, and your long-term vision for the practice.
- Demographics: Understand the community’s needs. Are you catering to a high-end clientele, or is your patient base largely families?
- Competition: Research other dental practices in the area. Are there too many offering similar services? Eric advises using “geo-targeting” to find a location that’s not oversaturated.
- Accessibility: The practice should be easy to find and have ample parking or public transport options.
- Lease and Overheads: Pay close attention to the fine print in your lease agreements, and consider your operating costs.
Building a Solid Business Foundation
Your dental degree didn’t come with an MBA, and that’s okay. However, it is important to have a rock-solid foundation to ensure that the business side of your practice doesn’t crumble. As a key principle to the ‘The 2-Hour Dental Start-Up,’ Eric recommends mastering the basics of financial planning, equipment decisions, and insurance navigation.
- Financial Planning: Understand your startup costs, working capital, and cash flow. Create a budget and stick to it.
- Equipment: Modern, efficient equipment is crucial, but know where you can save. Eric suggests considering lightly used equipment for non-essential tasks.
- Insurance Navigation: Mistakes in insurance claims can lead to revenue loss. Invest in staff training on insurance protocols and coding.
Financing 101: Bootstrap or Seek Investment?
Money makes the dental chair go ’round—or at least it ensures you can afford one. Eric covers two primary routes you can take to finance your dental practice: bootstrapping (self-funding through personal resources) or external investment. Eric advises aspiring dental practice owners to deeply consider their financial circumstances, risk tolerance, and business aspirations before taking the leap in either direction.
- Bootstrapping: Bootstrapping offers you complete control and flexibility over your practice, eliminating the need to answer to investors or take on debt. However, the resources available are strictly what you can afford, which could slow down your growth and even allow competitors to get ahead. There’s also a layer of personal financial risk if the business falters.
- External Investment: Funding from outside investors can offer you the financial breathing room needed for quicker scaling, state-of-the-art equipment, and even aggressive marketing. But, bringing in investors often means giving up some control over your practice. Stakeholders may have their own opinions on how the business should be run, and they’ll expect a return on their investment, adding pressure to perform.
The Juggling Act: Clinical vs. Business Tasks
You’re not just a dentist anymore; you’re a business owner, and that brings a basket of additional responsibilities. This is where many new practice owners struggle—balancing patient care with the business’s demands. Eric often emphasizes, “You can’t wear all the hats all the time.” You are a dentist first, but when you’re running your own practice, you need to be a manager, a team leader, and sometimes even an IT specialist. How do you handle these roles without dropping the ball?
Eric recommends creating a time management plan early on, automating repetitive tasks, and setting standards for hiring and managing staff.
- Team Building: Invest in a strong admin team who are not only skilled but also align with the culture and mission of your practice. When you have a killer team handling administrative tasks, it frees you to do what you do best: dentistry.
- Time Management: “Never let administrative duties spill into patient time,” Eric insists. Schedule dedicated hours for admin tasks and stick to it. Time blocking or even color-coding your calendar can serve as useful visual cues to keep you on track.
- Software Solutions: Investing in management software isn’t just a luxury—it’s a necessity in today’s fast-paced world. From automating appointment scheduling and reminders to streamlining billing, quality software can serve as your digital administrative assistant.
The Power of Guidance: Mentorship & Advisors
In the dental world, going solo is often glorified. You get the allure of freedom, decision-making authority, and the absence of anyone telling you how it should be done. But Eric is quick to burst that bubble: “If you think you have all the answers, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Being the captain of your own ship doesn’t mean you have to navigate the waters alone! This is where mentorship and advisory support can serve as your navigational tools, helping you steer clear of the obstacles that many dentists often overlook.
- Legal Advisory: A legal advisor will not just help you navigate the complexities of contracts but also keep you informed about changing healthcare laws, permits, and regulations. Being proactive about legal compliance could save you a ton of money and stress down the line.
- Business Mentorship: Eric believes there’s no substitute for mentorship from a seasoned dental practice owner. A mentor can provide you with tailored advice based on your unique challenges and goals. Plus, they can offer emotional support and serve as a sounding board for your ideas.
The Long Haul: Sustainability For Your Dental Practice
So, you’ve navigated the choppy waters of starting your practice. You set up your office, hired a stellar team, and even acquired some patients. Fantastic! But Eric stresses, “Starting a practice is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” Your attention needs to shift from simply existing to thriving sustainably for years to come.
- Proactive Marketing: A robust marketing strategy is essential, not just for attracting new patients but for keeping the current ones engaged. Implement strategies that keep you in your patients’ minds even when they’re not in the chair. Think newsletters, reactivation campaigns, holiday cards, or an informative dental blog.
- Scalability: Scalability should be designed into your business model from day one. Ensure that your practice management software can handle more clients and that there’s room in your facility for potential expansions, whether it’s adding new dental chairs or bringing in specialists.
- Adapting to Industry Trends: The dental industry is always shifting, and your practice should always be in a position to adjust quickly. Allocating a budget for continued education and technology upgrades isn’t just spending; it’s investing in the future of your practice!
- Employee Retention: High turnover is a sustainability killer,” Eric warns. He suggests creating a work environment that encourages long-term commitment. This could be through competitive salaries, continued education opportunities, or just a positive work atmosphere.
- Exit Strategy: Even if you’re years away from considering retirement or selling your practice, Eric insists it’s wise to think about an exit strategy. Whether it’s merging with another practice or preparing a successor, early planning avoids rushed, less profitable decisions in the future.
Wrapping Up: Key Takeaways for Your Future Dental Practice
Starting your own dental practice is a monumental but rewarding task. With insights from experts like Eric Swarvar, you’re already a step ahead in the game.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Pick your location wisely; it has long-term implications.
- Understand your financials deeply; it’s the lifeblood of your business.
- Balance clinical and admin duties; each is equally important.
- Never underestimate the power of a good mentor; they can save you from costly mistakes.
- Plan for the long haul; success is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ready to turn your dental dreams into reality? Eric’s ‘2-Hour Dental Start-Up’ program offers a step-by-step guide from industry experts. Learn from lenders, CPAs, realtors, and more to launch a sustainable practice. To dive deeper into his transformative program or to schedule a one-on-one consultation, you can visit the2hourdentalstartup.com
A Bite of Dental Marketing
Hungry for more? Catch our full conversation with Eric Swarvar on our podcast, “Bite-Sized Dental Marketing.” Hosted by our own Eric Hubbard, each episode serves up a hearty helping of industry insights from leading experts.