Welcome to the introductory session, Episode One, of the Growing Your
Dental Business Show podcast. I am so excited to have you join me on
this journey. Where should you start? In this session, I cover the Five
Keys to Growing Your Dental Business as well as what you can expect in
Checkout the Transcript below, or to download the transcript, click here
5 Keys to Growing Your Dental
Welcome to the first
session of the Growing Your Dental Business Podcast. I’m your host, Penny Reed.
It doesn’t seem not long
ago that I began my career in dentistry.
Back in 1992, I had been in management with Wal-Mart. My dentist approached me and asked me to come
and manage his practice. I was pretty
excited. I mean, after all, even with my
IT job with Wal-Mart and then in the stores, I worked a lot of hours and many
of them were in the evenings and on weekends.
So I thought, this is awesome, no nights, no weekends, no stress. But dentistry had its own set of stressors as
I learned from going to work in what was already a thriving practice.
There were no manuals on
how to grow a practice. I kept looking
for the practice growth manuals and about all we had was an old textbook from
when my dentist went to school. So we
started out on a journey of working toward growing the practice. He shared numbers with me. We really buckled down. We tried harder for several months without a
whole lot of results. So what we found was we couldn’t get there alone.
We sought the help of
industry experts and we got the team on board and in a short period of time,
the results were remarkable and I was hooked.
I thought, wow, so many other practices are probably going through some
of the same struggles that we were at that time and I want to help them, too. So I replaced myself as his office manager
and with his blessing, I began my journey as a dental consultant. That was in 1994.
Well, I think it would be
silly to say that not much has changed since 1994 when many things have changed
since 1994. Even as a consultant, it
became more challenging to help practices grow.
And so I began to really think about what needed to happen to help
dentists, dental business owners, and the teams be more successful. And specifically one of the motivators for me
a few years ago was realizing the trend that was happening in dentistry for
dentists with their income. And I
realize that many of the listeners may not be a dental business owner; however,
I know you want to be part of a practice that is growing and profitable because
a practice that isn’t growing and isn’t profitable has no room to share greater
rewards with the team.
And specifically one of the
stats that I’m speaking to is the dentists’ earnings that were published by the
American Dental Association, one of the most recent studies that they
published, which was through 2014, and I know that’s two years ago, but for
this sort of data, it’s fairly relevant.
And what it showed was from 2005 specifically to 2014 that the average
dentist general practitioner’s income dropped by 20%. So I’m not talking about practice income but
their take-home pay before taxes.
Now, whatever your role may
be listening to this podcast, whether you are another consultant or a dental
business owner, associate, hygienist, administrator, assistant, fill in the
blank, it’s not very exciting to think that you would make less for doing the
same amount of work than you did years ago.
It’s pretty -- pretty disheartening.
So here are some of the trends that we’ve got to get past and adapt
We are facing more PPO and
insurance participation than ever before, making being a fee-for-service
practice not impossible but even more difficult. It can be done, but those practices are more
and more rare. There are also more and
more dental students who aren’t planning to own a practice, either that or
they’re delaying that practice ownership.
In addition, it’s more difficult for them to get loans.
We’re also finding more
dental business owners, whether it’s one location or multiple locations,
looking for those new graduates. The
competition there is pretty intense.
Also, patients are having to pay more out of pocket for dentistry than
ever before, and that’s not a trend that will likely stop. So we’ve really got to work on helping
patients create their “want” for great dentistry. We also have more competition from not only
corporate dentistry but also the small business that might have several
locations. So we’ve got to be at the top
of our game when it comes to managing our dental business.
It was interesting, several
months back, I bumped into a previous client and he said, you know what? It’s kind of funny that we bumped into one
another because one of my action items was to contact you. And so we wound up scheduling a coffee and
visiting with him and his business partner and office manager and their primary
objective in talking with me was, can you help us get reimbursed more from our
PPO? And, well, like any consultant or
person in the line of work of what I do, you always want to be able to tell
people, yes, you can help them with that.
And what I had to say was,
while I wish I could tell you that I could help with that, the competition with
the PPOs, it’s decreased. You know, it
used to be that the insurance companies were willing to bend over backwards to
get you to participate with their plans.
Now they have more plan providers.
So not to say that there isn’t a little bit of wiggle room in there for
negotiation, but it’s supply and demand.
If they have more providers in their area than what they need, there’s
going to be little room for negotiation.
So as we talked and the
conversation continued, as you can imagine, and maybe you’ve been in this place
before, too, it’s very frustrating not to be compensated what you’re used to
being compensated. It’s different if
you’re starting out in practice and you never knew what it was like to get that
full fee in the first place. It’s just
you don’t have that feeling of frustration.
So I shared with them – it
sort of hit me, an epiphany, that it’s a little bit like the serenity prayer,
if you’ve ever heard that or read that – Grant me the serenity to accept that
the things I cannot change – well, I inserted “in dental business” – the
courage and the knowledge to change the things in my practice that I can and
the wisdom to know the difference. And
that is really the essence behind this podcast as well as a book that I
recently published called Growing Your
It doesn’t focus on the
things we have no control over. It
focuses on how to grow our practice in a measureable way without breaking the
bank, without having to – unless we seek out that help and support which no one
truly achieves greatness alone, right?
You need your team to help you achieve those goals. You need industry experts, whether it’s in
technology, practice management, investments, to truly help you be
successful. Just like a professional
athlete, when you think about those teams, they don’t need a coach to tell them
how to play. They have tons of
experience, but it’s that perspective not being in the playing field to allow
others to see what’s going on in your practice and really help you.
So many of the areas that
we’ll cover will fall under these categories.
One is when I’m asked what really sets a practice apart, it really
starts with the culture of the practice.
And what I mean by that, in my mind, the definition of culture is it’s
the personality of the business and it’s really set – the tone is set by the
owners, which are usually the dentists in most states, their vision, their
expectations, and also their ongoing coaching of the team. An annual employee review doesn’t necessarily
give your team member a clear picture of what it is that they should or
shouldn’t be doing. Now, I do believe in
those greatly, but giving that ongoing coaching is huge.
Also, team selection and
training. If you have somebody that is
not capable of doing a job or position that you have or maybe if they don’t
have a great attitude, often I will share with my clients I wish attitude was
something that I had the ability to change because if so, I would have a talk
show and probably would be conducting their conference call while lying on a
beach somewhere in a beach chair under an umbrella with a drink that I’m
sipping on out of a coconut with one of those little straws and an
umbrella. We can only control our own
attitude. So selecting people that are
willing to do whatever it takes and think positively is huge.
And then also the team code
of conduct, how the team agrees to work together and hold each other
accountable in a kind way. When you
think about championship teams, they do their best and they also expect the
best of others. Also, when we’re
deciding where we need to start to grow our practice, the numbers will really
tell us that. And I’m going to go into
some specific areas of practice growth that really make a difference in your
practice, but we have to know our numbers, not only our overhead also our
dollar value per chair. And in future
sessions, we will talk about how to calculate that. And these numbers have to be measured and
And the easiest rule of
thumb is you should share as many statistics as you are comfortable with, with
your team. They likely, if you’re a
dental business owner, think that you make more money than you already do and
they may not realize the pressure that you’re under. And really when we think about it, it’s not just
the business of dentistry that’s faced a lot of pressure in the last decade,
let’s say since 2007. I know many
friends who have been laid off or downsized or have even had pay reductions and
those are not fun conversations nor are they anything that I really want to
visit in a dental practice. I want to
focus on practice growth.
So there are really 5 key
areas in growing your dental business.
And the first one, not necessarily in order of importance, is a healthy
flow of new patients and that’s usually where most practices will start. You know, they’ll focus all of their energy
around new patients, which it is very important. So where we really want to start with new patient
growth, I love advertising. I’m just
sort of a nut. You know, I love creative ads and websites and things like that,
but really new patient attraction is more marketing. It’s communication, how we answer the phone,
what our practice looks like, can our signs be seen, are we visible in the
community, how do we handle that patient’s question on the phone about their
insurance. And first and foremost, we
have to realize that hiding behind – and I love the internet and I love
Facebook, but we’ve got to be social even in our presence that’s online. So increasing new patients.
And next is being sure that
our active patient base – and I would say this is going to be true in most
cases, 90 percent, 95 percent of the time.
We do not want to shrink that active patient base. Now, if perhaps we’ve been participating in
Medicaid or there is a PPO or a DMO that we just have determined through
running the numbers we really don’t need to be on, this could show a downward
trend for a short period of time if we do get off of a participatory plan, but
that should be short term.
The third key in growing
your dental business is to increase hygiene membership. Now, we used to refer to this as our recall
or recare effectiveness in hygiene and I rebranded that, at least for my
clients, because I want them to think about – and this is for the general
practices, pediatric, and also perio, which for the periodontal practices that
are tuning in, I will say this: You do
want to be sure that you are sending your patients, ideally, every other recare
visit back to their general dentist. It
not only is good for the patient, it’s great to keep harmony with your
So hygiene membership is
the percentage of your active patients that are coming in regularly for their
hygiene recare visit. And what we’re
seeing happen with some insurance plans actually is they might only be covering
one of those visits a year. So we need
to be clear and specific with our patients.
And, doctors, your team members can prompt you to have this conversation
while you’re chairside to let them know why it’s important for them
specifically to come in at the 6-month, 4-month, or 3-month recare sequence
that you recommend. The more patients
that we see in hygiene, the more revenue – potential revenue that we have not
only in hygiene but to drive in operative.
The fourth key to growing
your dental business is efficiency. And
when I first put this together, I called it “scheduling smarter,” which that is
a component of efficiency, but it really boils down to many more things than
that. Most of us, for example, when we
get a new dental software or there’s an update, we learn just enough to
survive, right? I still remember when
our office had the paper records and I can remember the DOS based dental
software program, which some of you listening to this may not even know what
that is. You could google that. But the more efficient we are, the quicker
that we can be effective with whether it’s CAD/CAM technology, the intraoral
camera, or actually charting, the easier it becomes to get our jobs done. Also, doctors, hygienists, looking for ways
to delegate procedures especially if you are working out of more than one
chair. So increasing our
And last, but definitely
not least, is increasing our case acceptance.
That’s the fifth key. And
regardless of the specialty that you’re in, the better we are at communicating,
at giving a clear picture of the patient’s condition, which I think visuals are
the best. The better we are at doing
that, the fewer people that we actually have to present to in order to reach
the numbers that we need to reach to have a healthy practice. And the practice of dentistry is definitely
not all about numbers, but if we don’t have the profitability that we need in
place, then not only are we stressed out but we run the risk of becoming
So going back to these 5
keys to growing your dental business, one of the things that I discovered in
running the numbers and really putting this message together is if in the areas
of the first four keys that I mentioned, new patient growth; increasing active
patients; growing our hygiene department membership; increasing efficiency,
which could be scheduling smarter for that example, if we increase each of
those areas by 10% in our specific practice and then case acceptance, if we’re able
to get one more out of 20, yes, it’s okay, 5%.
If we do all of those things and you can run the numbers in your
practice with this, it doesn’t matter if you have a practice that is producing
$700,000 a year, a million, four million, ten million, the math still
works. So 10% in each area and then 5%
in case acceptance, you will grow your practice by 25%.
And so truly the message of
this podcast series will be to show you exactly how to do that and to bring in
not only industry experts but new methods to help you accomplish that in your
practice. And really one of the things
that I want to leave you with in this introductory session is to think about
what you believe is possible when it comes to growing a practice. Often our limitations reside between our
ears. They’re in our mind. Maybe we think it’s not possible to be
profitable, it’s not possible to achieve the levels that we need to in our
practice to really be able to grow to give our team raises or bonuses, for us
to be able to make a great income, set money aside for retirement, and remember
that dream that we had when we first came into practice.
So my commitment to you is
to share best practices on making your dental business more successful. In doing that, not only in the topics that I share
with you but also in the guests that we bring.
If you have someone in mind that you would love to hear me interview,
please be sure to share that and to download a transcript or learn more, visit www.growingyourdentalbusiness.com and be sure to click on the podcast tab.
Until next time, make it a