I often find myself talking about the dentist that holds onto his or her dental practice with a white-knuckle grip. Everything needs to go through the business owner and it creates a bottleneck. It also makes it impossible for the business owner to step away from the business for holidays or personal reasons.
Often the reason this happens is because we dentists are Type-A personalities. We like things to be perfect. After all, the best way to ensure things are done the way we would do them is to do them ourselves.
But a business is a team endeavour. Even as a business owner and sole dentist of a practice, you need a team behind you to be successful. Your practice should have a life of its own where you can step away and it will continue to function without you.
If you decide to take on another dentist or already have a small team and decide to open another location, you might also find that you need to be able to scale your resources. The key to this growth is to ensure that you are maintaining the same high standards your patients have come to expect from you.
Along this journey, it’s important to know that there will be hurdles that come along, but you can’t give up in business. Sometimes it’s really tough. You need to push through anyway.
Here are a few ideas for those worried about heading in a new direction. It is impossible to take on new business and accept new responsibility without budging on your standards of quality.
1. Scale thoughtfully and mitigate risk along the way.
When you are considering a new opportunity, it is important to do a risk analysis. You want to be able to answer, “What could go right? What could go wrong? How do we mitigate the risks?”
This goes for big moves like opening a new practice location and relatively small moves like hiring a new dental hygienist. Before you take on a new opportunity or make a change, be sure to know what risk you are accepting and decide whether it’s acceptable or unacceptable for you.
2. Zero in on what you need from your team.
Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction. The best way to ensure you receive excellence from each of your team members is to ensure they are working toward the same goals as you.
Creating a training process and training materials for each position can help take some of the guesswork out of the technical skills, but honestly, the true key is hiring the right individual. For example, dentistry is at its core about solving problems. You’re looking for faults. You’re looking for things that aren’t right and then you’re interpreting the data through the lens of your training to come up with a treatment plan. Team members that know how to identify core problems and solve them will help you maintain a high level of service even as you continue to scale.
3. Good business is good relationships.
In dentistry, we rely on others. We rely on our front desk staff to book appointments and greet patients. We rely on our dental technicians to make things for us. We rely on our suppliers to offer high-quality products we can stand behind.
Each of these relationships is crucial to a thriving business. I’m a big believer in this. In fact, after I wrote the manuscript to my book, RETENTION! How to Plug the #1 Profit Leak in Your Dental Practice, I gave it to a friend to read. He goes, “Ah, so it’s a book about relationships.”
“Yeah, pretty much, mate.”
The focus on relationships between teams members and between team members and patients cannot be lost as a dental practice scales because it’s at the core of what we do. We’re in the service industry, after all.
4. Maintain your relevance.
It’s so important to stay relevant to your market. You need to understand the area you’re serving and what those patients are expecting. You can’t offer high-end luxury cosmetic dental services in a low-income area. Of course, you should also stay up to date on the latest and greatest when it comes to techniques. Learning better ways to treat patients is always a strong investment into the future of the dental practice, both for you and your team supporting you as well.
Staying relevant is easy if you lean into your relationships with your patients. Everything you need to know is there. What are your patients thinking about? What are they worried about? What do they need to reach or maintain their oral health?
5. Be open to trying new things.
Finally, excellence and especially scaling excellence comes down to innovation. You need to be willing to try new things. Change is scary in life and also in business so often we can become comfortable with the status quo and find we are resistant to change. But growing with your business in new directions can often help uncover better ways of doing things or more opportunities.
Building and scaling something that’s high quality takes precision and takes time. It can be difficult and even scary. While a dental practice is a complex entity with many moving parts, it is important to let go of the reins a little and let your team take on some of the responsibilities.
With a strong team, an open mind, and a focus on maintaining relationships, a dental practice can be profitable, stable, and thriving long into the future. Even if you can’t drill every cavity and speak with every patient as your practice expands, you can be confident that each patient is receiving the same excellent care because you’ve built a strong foundation.