Building the Dental Practice of Your Dreams
Envisioning Your Dentistry Business
If you are like most dentists preparing to start their first successful dentistry business, you have a lot to learn about the nuts and bolts of setting up and managing your practice. However, before you tend to those details, it is a good idea to spend some time visualizing what dentistry success looks like to you. Think about what financial rewards you want to receive, but also think about the service you want to do for others and the character strengths you want to express. And, do not stop at thinking in words. Instead, use your imagination to see your dentistry business flourishing. It is this type of focused visualization that can get you started on your quest for success.
Scientific research shows that visualization is an effective way to improve performance. Many of the most successful Olympic athletes have used visualization techniques. What scientists are learning now is that visualization can help people from all walks of life achieve new levels of prosperity. As a fledgling dentist, you need every help you can get to improve your ability to have a successful practice. The bottom line is that if you see failure, you are likely to experience it, but if you see success, your odds are greatly increased.
What Kind of Dentist Do You Plan to Be?
Who you are as a dentist can have a profound influence on your ability to attract and retain dental patients. You need to identify your unique personal qualities and the characteristics you are most interested in developing if you want to have a clear vision of your dentistry business’s success. Beyond that, it is crucial to know what you stand for when it is time to develop the branding of your dentistry business.
Practicing dentistry demands you focus on the tasks involved in taking care of your patients’ oral health. Creating business success can only happen if you pay attention to your bottom line. Because you have so many details to think about, it makes sense to develop a persona that is very close to your personal value system and interaction style. In other words, make who you choose to be as a dentist compatible with who you are as a person.
Writing a personal mission statement can help you define yourself and your practice in clearer terms. As Stephen R. Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” By creating this personal mission statement before you begin setting up your practice, you provide yourself with inner guidance for making all the little decisions that make up your role as a dental professional and business owner. It helps your clients relate to you on a deeper level and allows them to trust you more.
Your Philosophy of Treatment
Developing a philosophy of treatment is extremely important to your dental practice. Once you have set an intention to practice dentistry in a certain way, large decisions become more manageable and small choices become almost effortless. It is also important to your clients to know what to expect from you. Many dentists include both a mission statement and a philosophy of treatment on their website. This can help attract patients to your dental practice who want what you have to offer them.
Start to work on your dental care philosophy by making a list of the functions you see your dental practice fulfilling. Some of these roles you may want to consider include:
- Helping people have better oral health
- Explaining options for dental treatments
- Reducing patient anxiety before and during dental treatments
- Offering unique services
- Improving patient’s’ appearance and self-confidence
- Providing excellent patient education on dental hygiene
- Serving a particular target market
Next, prioritize the list. All of these things, as well as other ideas you might come up with, may be important to you. But, what will set you apart as a dentist is which role or roles you focus on and value most. When you have set your top priorities for your dental practice, write one sentence that clearly states what you want to accomplish with your dental practice. This is your mission statement.
Follow this exercise by writing a few short paragraphs about each component of your mission to arrive at a statement of your philosophy of treatment. You do not have to worry about your writing style as you do this; you can hire a copywriter to come up with a compelling version for your website. The important thing is to get the ideas down, not only for your copywriter to incorporate on your website, but also to focus your own mind on your goals.
Your Philosophy on Payment
Before you even begin building your dentistry business, it is important to be clear on your philosophy about when and how well you expect to be paid for your services. Do some research to find out what other dentists are charging their patients to have a starting point for pricing dental care. You can also refer to the section on dental insurance later in this book to help you assess allowable charges for dental treatments.
Most dentists find that requiring payment at the time of treatment helps them avoid spending time and effort on collections and keeps the cost down for other patients. While this may sound reasonable to you now, you need to come to terms with what that means. It might mean that patients have to delay treatments until they can gather the funds for them, risking their own oral health and your ability to serve them the way you would like. It could also mean that your dentistry staff may seem uncaring toward your patients. There are ways around this, as will be discussed in the chapter on providing a positive patient experience, but there is no doubt this will be a challenge for most dental professionals.
Your primary goal may be to help your patients have great oral health, but you have no power to do that unless your dentistry business survives. As in the classic story of Beowulf, you must face the dragon. Do it before you ever open your doors to patients. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation in which your patients expect you to provide care even when they cannot pay. And, if there are certain situations that would cause you to relax your policy on payment, define them for yourself now so you will know what to do immediately when the time comes to make those decisions.
How Will Your Team Support You?
Once you have a clear vision of who you want to be as a dentist, you need to shift your focus to what your dentistry team will be like. How will you all work together to provide excellent dental care, a positive patient experience and support for each other? A part of this is nailing down what you expect from your dentistry team.
A lot of variation exists in the ways dentists work with other members of their team. Your goal here is to develop a plan that will work for you, given who you are and what goals you want to accomplish. Here are some of the ways different members of your team might support you in your dental practice:
- Provide exceptional customer service
- Keep dental supplies on hand at all times
- Keep records of daily transactions
- Ensure that patients are notified of upcoming appointments
- Take x-rays, clean teeth, and do other dental care tasks within their capabilities
- Assist with patient education
- Help you enforce your payment policies
As you visualize your dentistry business, imagine a synergistic atmosphere where all of you can accomplish together more than the sum of what each of you can accomplish individually. Your dental practice will be enhanced and your dentistry business will flourish in this teamwork frame of mind. Setting your expectations for your team now will prove to be an effective tool for dentistry success when you put your team together later in the process of hiring, training and managing your dental staff.
Your Business Goals
Establishing concrete goals at the outset will help provide your dentistry business with both focus and direction. If your dental school had taught you what you need to know about business, you would already know how to set these intentions. A business management consultant can help you crystallize your vague ideas of dental success into a workable plan. You can prepare for your consultation by thinking (and writing down) goals you are interested in pursuing. Your consultant can guide you through the following steps as work to achieve those goals.
- Set a Few Main Goals – Goal-setting can be a powerful method of enhancing the success of your dentistry business. Yet, it is important not to get too carried away with setting dozens of small goals. Focus on the most important things you want to achieve. When you have too many goals, you not only have a hard time keeping track of them all; you might not even remember that you have set them. Many dentists find that setting a maximum of five main goals is most effective.
- Set Attainable Goals – It is important to stay in an abundance mentality when you set the goals for your dentistry business. On the other hand, if you set goals that you can never attain, you are setting yourself up for failure. The problem is that as a new dentist, you probably do not know exactly what is possible. So take the time to do research to find out what others are doing in your career field to get an idea of what you can do.
- Be Specific – Instead of saying “I want to make a good income from my practice,” set a goal to make a specific amount. Rather than saying you want to serve the community, think of a concrete goal you can track and achieve, such as acquiring a certain number of patients to your dental clinic.
- Make a Commitment – Once you decide on the goals you want to pursue, stick with the plan. Do not second-guess your decision until you reevaluate your goals next year.
- Create a Daily Reminder of Your Goals – You can use many different methods to remind yourself of your goals. You can use your digital calendar to set up notifications that come up each morning when you open your computer. If you are a more visually-oriented person, you can make a poster for yourself to put in your home office or bedroom.
- Tell Others about Your Goals – Telling others what you plan to do is a good way of gaining support from your friends and family. One word of caution, though: refrain from telling your patients how much money you intend to make. They are likely to take this as a sign that you care more about their money than you do about their oral health. You lose their trust along with their business.
- Set a Time Frame – How long do you think it should take you to accomplish each goal? Savvy dentists choose a time frame for their goals that is reasonable based on their research. Remember to make it doable so you can enjoy the victory of what you have defined as business success.
- Plan a Reward – You have given yourself a target to shoot for; now it is time to think about the rewards and benefits you will have when the arrow has met its mark. These can be rewards you give yourself, such as a lavish vacation or the car of your dreams. Or, they can be rewards that will come naturally as you achieve business success, such as self-respect or more time to enjoy being with friends and family.