3 Simple Characteristics of Successful Dental Practice Owners

As an aspiring dental entrepreneur, you know that being at the top of your craft is of utmost importance. But when it comes to managing your own dental practice, your chances of achieving success increases if you possess certain personal and professional characteristics. The good thing is — all of these can be learned and practiced!

Ready to learn three simple characteristics that all successful dental practice owners have? Read on!

VISION-SHAPED AND GOAL DRIVEN

I’m sure you’ve heard the discouraging statistic that 95% of small businesses fail within a decade of first opening their doors. While that does appear to be a bleak prospect, keep in mind that by getting (and staying) informed of the common pitfalls that plague business owners, you can take active steps to avoid ending up in a precarious situation.

To that end, one important characteristic of a successful business owner is to have a specific vision and goals that go beyond just the bottom line. Think preemptively about the many details that go into effectively running a business- things like staff, payroll, accounting, and software program solutions. The ability to balance your larger goals as a dental practice owner with the seemingly smaller day-to-day operations functions can go a long way to paving the way for your success.

ASTUTE AND EFFECTIVE MARKETERS

The difference between a successful business and one that struggles is often found in the way that they approach marketing. Do you know who your target market is? Similarly, do you have an ideal client sector you want to reach? Is your practice’s marketing messaging aligned with those goals?

If you are not able to reach the right customer with the right messaging, your business can end up suffering in the end. It might not seem obvious right away, but eventually, the need to narrow in on your desired target market becomes vitally important, especially in the face of any competition.

A successful business owner knows how to market their services to their ideal clients.

HUMILITY AND WISDOM TO ASK FOR HELP 

Entrepreneurship does require a level of self-reliance, which is in and of itself an excellent trait to have if you plan on opening your own dental practice. However, no one can do everything perfectly all the time. If you want to focus on your clinical efforts, for example, you need to rely on other people and/or systems to help manage the operations, marketing and other functions necessary to make your practice successful. It can be tempting to try and do it all yourself, but humility and knowing your limits helps protect you from burn-out and also encourages confidence in the members of your team. Dental practices do not consist of only the dentist. If you want your practice to be successful, humility is a practical characteristic that benefits not only you but the whole business as well.

WANT MORE GUIDANCE?

This post has explored three very basic characteristics of successful business owners. If you want to learn about more examples or feel there are areas you know you need guidance on, contact Dr. Coughlin today. Bridge the gap between knowing what it takes to run a wildly successful dental practice and actually doing it!

 

 

What Are Dental Service Organizations?

Most dentists are faced with the decision to choose either open their own business, join another private practice, or become part of a Dental Service Organization (DSO).

But what exactly are DSO’s? What benefits do they have for your dental career, or alternatively, what are some of the drawbacks associated with them?

This post will give you a basic understanding of Dental Service Organizations and answer these questions with a goal to see how they might work with your own dental career.

WHAT ARE DSO’s?

Dental Service Organizations are also referred to as Dental Support Organizations. They both are commonly abbreviated as DSOs, and at their core, their business models provides non-clinical functions for dental practices. In many cases, services can include things like human resources, payroll, marketing efforts, IT solutions, and practice administrative support. For a dentist that seeks to focus primarily on their patients without the stress or worry that operations and administrative tasks can create, joining a practice that is managed by a DSO is an attractive option. DSO’s generally promise greater mobility and work-life balance compared to practices who manage their own operations.

That being said, there are definite advantages and disadvantages when it comes to joining a DSO. If you’re a novice dental practitioner, here are some to keep in mind when making decisions that affect your career.

BENEFITS

As mentioned before, the primary benefit that DSO’s offer is the ability for dental practitioners to focus on their clinical and patient experience, while the administrative and operational duties are managed by a third-party DSO.

This potentially means more time providing high quality care and less time spent on menial operational tasks.

Similarly, participating in a DSO can yield access to cutting-edge technology that might not otherwise be attainable through an independently managed practice. There are also special mentoring programs, coupled with attractive starting salaries, that can be especially enticing for dentists in the early stages of their career.

DISADVANTAGES

The biggest drawback to signing up with a DSO is the lack of independence and autonomy. Because DSO’s manage everything from payroll to administrative staff, your practice does not have a lot of freedom (if any) when it comes to management in these functions.

Another key disadvantage to joining a DSO is that the focus can become focused on numbers instead of providing patients with a high-quality standard of care. While DSO’s can boast greater numbers because of their ability and scope to serve more patients, the quality and personal nature can often diminish as a result.

THINKING OF JOINING A DSO?

Whether you have a freshly minted DMD degree or you’ve been practicing for decades, the decision to join a DSO does affect your career. If independence and autonomy are some of your goals, DSO’s might not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you hate being bogged down by the operations side of things, DSO’s could help you take away some of that burden.

Regardless of where you stand, you don’t have to make the decision alone. Reach out to Dr. Coughlin today and we can help you make the best decision for your career and/or practice – whether it’s with a DSO or not.

How Are Dentists Compensated?

One of the biggest questions that most dentists have upon graduating with their D.M.D is whether to join a Dental Service Organization (DSO) or open their own practice. Related to this is the difference in compensation plans that are available with each option. How exactly are dentists compensated in a dental organization versus as a business owner? Which option makes the most sense for you? These are the questions we will answer today.

GENERAL COMPENSATION OUTLOOK

Many dentists need to start generating income quickly to start paying off student loans or other expenses. The good thing is that according to Payscale.com, the average base salary for a dentist ranges from $82k-$200k, not including bonuses and commissions. How your salary is determined differs based on your location and whether or not you are self-employed or an associate in an established dental service group.

DENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

As an associate at a DSO or other established practice, you are typically paid by the hour or are salaried. You can also be paid as an independent contractor, and you would be expected to track income and set aside funds for tax purposes. However, you can also get a percentage of commission based on either the ‘production’ that you work on or, most commonly, of the funds that are collected after employer discounts, costs for office overhead, etc.

For example, if you are an employee at a dental group and you have several patients that have a 20% discount through their employer, you might only be eligible to receive roughly 50% of the remaining funds after they are allocated towards administrative expenses.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT

If you plan on or already run your own dental practice, compensation will look different for you as the owner. First of all, there’s no one over you determining your hours or commission rates, so your income potential can be higher than an associate. You also have more flexibility in terms of how you prefer to be paid – ie per production or a portion of total monetary collections for rendered services – which can maximize your compensation as well. One key benefit you have as a practice owner is to carry over your business as an asset when or if you stop working with patients.

However, like any business owner, you will need to take the overall overhead of your practice into consideration before compensating yourself. In addition to setting aside the appropriate amount of your gross income for tax purposes, several factors affect how you can claim as take-home pay. These include:

• Employee wages and benefits, if applicable
• Business Insurance
• Office space rental or mortgage
• Administrative systems like payroll, accounting software, etc
• Equipment
• Marketing

Once these main considerations are taken care of, then you can think about how much it makes sense to allocate for personal compensation. This number is often based directly on your overall success as a practice.

NEED MORE INFO?

Understanding the ins and outs of how you get paid as a dentist can be a little confusing. You might also be wondering if one type of compensation plan works better for your needs than others. If you have further questions about compensation or anything else related to your dental career, give Dr. Coughlin a call at (413) 224-2659.

Should You Lease or Own Your Dental Practice Building?

If you’ve decided to own a dental practice, there are lots of things to be mindful of to be successful beyond the day to day operations. Your time, money and other resources need to be spent on marketing, effective management techniques, and bookkeeping. In addition to all of these, you also need to factor the whereabouts of the physical location of your business. And with that comes the need to think about what your plans are for your practice for both the long and short term.

Do you want to have more flexibility for the physical location of your practice? Do you have access to funds for a down payment and mortgage for your practice space, if desired? These types of questions can help you hone in on the more practical option for your business needs and goals.

And these questions lead to a very important one.

Should you own or lease the office space for your dental practice?

 

PROS OF LEASING

Leasing is essentially the same thing as renting your office space. If location is of utmost importance to you, leasing allows you to have more flexibility than owning real estate. There’s a higher likelihood of being able to find short term leases, for example, if that’s something you feel you need. In many cases, leasing gives you more options in terms of property locations. Finally, you won’t need to have a large amount of capital to invest in real estate property if you decide to lease.

 

CONS OF LEASING

If you’ve had experience with renting at all, you know that one of the biggest drawbacks is that rental rates consistently increase over time. If you’d like your dental practice to remain in the same location for the long haul, signing onto a long-term lease might not be in your best interest. You also don’t get the benefits of property ownership, namely equity value and tax advantages, if you lease your office space.

 

PROS OF OWNING

Real estate ownership offers many advantages and benefits in general, and the same is true if you want to purchase property for your dental practice.  Some of the most compelling benefits are flexibility in controlling location and any future expansion projects, the ability to build equity as you pay down the financial terms, and to eventually earn a return on your investment.

 

CONS OF OWNING

In contrast, owning your dental practice location requires a significant amount of upfront capital. As a property owner, you would also be responsible for any upkeep and maintenance, including fronting the cost for any property-related damages. These responsibilities can take away from other tasks necessary to growing and sustaining your practice,like marketing, staff management, and accounting.

The decision to lease or own your dental practice property is based on a combination of your personal and business needs. It’s good to think through all of your options with either choice.

 

WONDERING WHERE TO BEGIN?

Are you just starting out with your practice? Sign up for Dr. Coughlin’s program that details the principles of success to learn what it takes to have a successful, thriving dental practice!

Benefits to Owning a Dental Practice

The decision to open your own dental practice versus working as an associate at a larger managed organization is one that only you can make. However, if you’ve never thought about owning your own dental practice, there are benefits to it that you just can’t get as a dental associate. 

Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each option to make the best decision for you and your desired lifestyle. 

Interested in opening your own dental practice? Here are some benefits of taking that entrepreneurial step. 

 

FREEDOM TO OPERATE AS YOU WOULD LIKE

Unlike managed organizations, if you own a dental practice, you’re free to run operations as you see fit. Practically speaking, this means that you call the shots of what goes on in the office; there are no middlemen making decisions for you. Even decisions like benefits for your team or customer service guidelines are in your hands. If you like the idea of truly being your own boss and enjoy detailed work, owning your own dental practice is a good option to consider.

 

MAINTAIN YOUR IDEAL ENVIRONMENT AND TEAM

A key benefit of owning a dental practice is the degree of control you have over the environment and team choices in the office. Instead of being forced to work with what you have, you can decorate the practice to your preferences. You can also hire employees that you have a personal connection with who may not otherwise be chosen in a larger organization. Because a dental office’s environment can play a big part in overall patient satisfaction, keep this in mind in the process of deciding what career path to take. If you value the ability to express your own individuality in the workplace, owning a practice could be a great fit.

 

SCHEDULE/FLEXIBILITY

Time: none of us seem to have enough of it, and busy dentists are no different, regardless of where they work. However, if you’re a practice owner, you ultimately get to decide the hours and schedule you want to work. Of course, dental practices are businesses. Things don’t always work out the way they should on paper – something inevitably always comes up at the end of the day. But the fact of the matter is that you still have the ability to choose and regulate the hours of your practice versus being forced to adhere to a set schedule each week. This kind of flexibility is appealing to many dentists.

 

WEAR MANY HATS

As an owner of a dental practice, you’re able to do far more than just interact with patients. You’re the decision-maker for the marketing, accounting, stability, and growth of your business – which means you wear a lot of hats. If you’re excited by the challenge of operating several different projects at once and get bored with performing repetitious tasks easily, owning a dental practice is right up your alley. At any given time, there’s always a different project to work on. Overall, your role as a business owner can be very administratively focused, especially when compared to an associate dentist in a managed dental organization.

 

FINANCIAL BENEFITS

Finally, owning your own business gives you significant financial benefits. Instead of working as an associate for someone else, you’re able to build wealth for yourself. There are also tax benefits to running a dental practice. Take advantage of the savings from writing off business-related expenses to maximize your financial gain.

 

WANT TO OPEN YOUR OWN DENTAL PRACTICE?

If you’ve decided to open your own dental practice, that’s great! Contact us today and let us help you grow and develop your business into a reputable and successful dental practice in your community. 

 

Top Customer Service Tips for Dentists

Did you know that in today’s day and age, in many cases, dental providers may be employed by a large corporation and the dentist may not have any ownership in the company? This can lead to patients feeling they are not important and are just a number in the office. That is not only bad for the patient but also for the corporation. The top priority in every dental officeshould be seeing customers smile. One because they’re proud of their teeth, and two because they’re happy with their dentist.

Chances are, there are plenty of dentists to choose from in your area. So what makes patients pick their dental practice and stick with it? It’s not just how you treat their teeth, but how you treat them altogether. Yes, to run a successful dental practice isn’t just about how you handle dental procedures, but how you serve your patients in all the other aspects. Your attitude and atmosphere can go a long way.

Customer service is key in setting you apart from your competitors. And in this day and age, with the ease of social sharing and online reviews, it’s really important. So, you might be wondering the best ways to make an impact on your patients and keep them coming back. These five easy tips will help get your patients passing along their good experiences, giving you free referrals and recommendations.

  1. Remember your manners.

It’s free and easy, and quite possibly the most important: make your patients feel valued! Sure you’re busy, but don’t let them know it. Give your patients all the patience you can and don’t make them feel rushed. Talk to them about their concerns and explain procedures in detail in a way they can understand everything in easy terms.

  1. Create a culture of top-notch customer care.

Create a standard for your team to live up to everyday, with every patient. Make sure your staff is genuine and observant. Be sure they welcome patients as soon as they walk in and that they’re overly-pleasant every time they pick up the phone. Remind them to pay customers compliments and to converse with them like they’re a friend.

  1. Go above and beyond.

Anybody can give out a free toothbrush. Go for the gold vs. the ordinarydental officeexperience. Pass out gift cards if they have to wait a while. Offer incentives for referrals. Provide special toys or trinkets for kids.  And when you have an unhappy patient, make things right, right away. Actually listen to their complaints and work to resolve the problem.

  1. Give patients a positive experience.

Many people hate going to the dentist. But offering an office that feels welcoming and refreshing can make all the difference. Create a space they feel comfortable, whether it’s bringing a comfy couch into the front area or playing soothing music while they wait.

Oh, and don’t make them wait long. A good rule of customer service is making people feel like they’re a priority, and making them wait for you does the opposite of that.

  1. Keep a clean space.

Having a dental officeobviously means keeping your clinical areas hygienic. But making sure the other areas are clean can be just as important. What’s the waiting area look like from the patient’s perspective? How does the parking lot look? Is your receptionist’s desk cluttered with paperwork? Are your restrooms tidy?

No matter how good you are at what you do, customer service can make or break your practice. Having a friendly staff and a caring team can take your dental officeto a whole new level. The best way to get referrals and grow your practice is by fostering a patient-focused culture. After all, they’re the reason you’re in business! Learn more about what you can do as a  dentistto grow your practice with this program created to help improve the customer care you provide.

 

Go From Preparing to Practicing Dentistry

Completing dental school is an amazing accomplishment. For so long, your days have been full of learning what you love and chasing the goals you’ve longed to achieve. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and your career is closer than ever. But, before you wear that white coat, you might be wondering what it’s like outside the classroom and inside an actual office. Oftentimes, newly graduated dentistsfind that they feel alone as they stumble through the unfamiliar realms of sales, customer service, and hiring staff.

At Ascent Dental Solutions, we know exactly what it takes to run a practice, maintain a practice and grow a practice – and we’re here to help you do the same. So, what should you know before you get there? How can you ensure your success as you transition from student to dentist?

By this point, we know you have the skills to serve patients and perform the routine duties that come with being a dentist. But, we also know that dental schoolrarely prepares you for the day-to-day issues that are just as important. Sure, you’ll spend a lot of time fixing teeth and filling cavities, but you should be spending just as much creating, maintaining, and improving your dental practice. This is essential in providing the upmost of patient care and offering quality services that will help your practice grow.

As with most jobs, your success starts with how hard you want to work. To make the most of your dental career and run a practice you’ll be proud of, Dr. Kevin Coughlin can help. As a 35+ year veteran of dentistry, he runs a successful multi-location dental practice in Massachusetts. He’s also one of a small amount of dentists in the country with both a Fellowship and Mastership in the Academy of General Dentistry and has worked with both DSO’s and MSO’s during his career. But beyond serving patients, he also loves helping new dentists discover the joy in establishing their careers – and he’s coached countless of them to prepare them for this leap. Whether you’re planning to start your own practice or join an existing one, Dr. Coughlin can make sure you’re prepared and help you establish a success plan for your career path.

Having a leader to learn from can be the key for your career. You’ll increase your confidence, gain first-hand knowledge from one of the best in this business, and relieve stresses that might be holding you back.

Find out more about Dr. Coughlin’s proven blueprint for success, and how you can use it as you trade in the classroom for your long-awaited career.

Manage Your Dental Practice. And Your Time.

Life is busy. The days go fast and the years seem to speed by – especially when you’re running your own practice. You’ve learned by now that being a dentist can be a demanding job, but just as equally rewarding. The key is mastering your schedule and making a plan so you’re not constantly running all over the place and working longer hours than planned. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve to make the days go as easy as possible. So as your patient list gets longer and your availability gets smaller, you need to figure out how to manage the clock as best as you can.

These time management tips can help you get through the day not just more easily, but more effectively.

1. Ignore your phone.

Checking your phone in between appointments can mean working longer hours. Not only is it a distraction, but it can take up longer time than you think. Instead of picking up your cell, focus on other tasks you need to get done so you can complete your day earlier. Set aside a specific time of day to catch up on emails so that it’s not a distraction.

2. Don’t do it alone.

Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to control everything. You’ve hired employees for a reason, and they’re here to help. Stick to your dentist duties and don’t be afraid to delegate the rest. Assign specific tasks for each role in your office and let your team members do their jobs. If everyone does their work diligently, you’ll find you can dedicate your time more beneficially to the more important matters.

3. Take care of your team.

A successful office starts with a happy team. If they’re doing their job to the best of their ability, yours will be so much easier. Remember that they are the face of your office and the reason it runs smoothly. Make sure they have proper training so they feel

empowered. Provide good scheduling software so they can plan and prioritize quickly and simply. Take their feedback seriously and listen to their suggestions.

4. Put the patient first.

You (and your team) won’t have to spend so much time trying to make sure patients are happy if they feel comfortable and accommodated. And when they are, they’ll tell their friends. (Easy advertising!) Small things like providing good reading in the waiting area, fun activities to keep kids busy, a nicely decorated office, and a space that feels welcoming will go a long way. Go above and beyond where you can. Give gifts (everyone loves free stuff!) and a new tooth brush or travel size toothpaste is an easy, practical giveaway.

5. Have a site that sets you up for success.

Being a dentist today is a lot different than years ago. Now, patients can help make your job a lot easier, saving you and your staff a lot of time. Having a good website can reduce phone calls in your office, which will give your employees more time to focus on other duties. (Plus, it can keep your patients happy because they’ll avoid long wait times to speak to someone.) A good website will review the services you provide and share important information that answer basic questions like available hours, services offered and current team members.

6. Take a break.

Running around from morning to evening can be exhausting – and not very productive. One of the best things you can do for yourself – and your patients – is to set aside time to rest and reset. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it does need to happen. Set aside at least a half-hour each day as quiet time to let your mind take a break and to think about the nonclinical tasks you need to get through before you head home. Remember that working on your business, not just in your business is essential for success. It might be hard to find time to “give up” but this time will help you be more effective in the long run – and your practice and patients will be better for it.

The rise of corporate dentistry is relentless

The rise of corporate dentistry is relentless. With rapid expansion and almost limitless budgets, dentist/owners are being forced to compete against entities with incredible purchasing power and efficiencies of scale that are almost impossible to achieve as a solo owner.

Shockingly, many dentists aren’t even aware of this growing threat to their business. Corporate dentistry  – which include Managed Service Organizations (MSOs) and Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) – is growing at a rate of between 40 and 45 percent each year.

What is the difference?

Dental Service Organizations are usually chains and run like franchises. Some have a universal look and feel along with strict franchise practices and branding. Some existing dental practices may be permitted to retain their own unique character and feel. However behind the scenes the operations are often changed to favour certain suppliers and adopt uniform business practices.

If you are a dentist who hates the nuts and bolts of running a business, I can certainly see the appeal of such an arrangement. However, if you are like myself, and have an entrepreneurial outlook, such a scenario might seem a bit constrictive.  

The bigger issue is with the second type of corporate arrangement, Managed Service Organizations or MSOs, and its relationship to venture capital and equity firms.

Equity firms typically invest short-term.  When they get involved with dental firms the goal is to triple or quadruple their money over a 3 to 7 year timeframe. This puts a lot of pressure on the dentist and staff as the investors constantly demand increased efficiencies to maximize profits. If you hated running a business before, this model is not going to change how you think about it.

Long-term sustainable growth is not the goal. Maximizing return for investors in the short term is. Indeed what often happens is that the practice is flipped to new ownership frequently as the old owners cash-out. And the process of revenue squeezing starts all over again.

This focus on short term results can damage a practice’s reputation in the community and leave it open to competitors who are taking a longer view and choose to compete on service rather than price.

In the end how you run your business is up to you. The important thing is to have all the information and understand the ramifications, both positive and negative, before you make any decisions.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.