5 Characteristics of Effective Leadership

It’s no secret that the most successful teams and businesses start at the top. When it comes to establishing a dental practice that goes the distance, one of the biggest reasons is due to effective leadership. If you run a dental practice, understanding the characteristics of effective leadership can make or break the success of your practice. Read on to see what components you can implement (or continue doing!) to boost your practice’s sales and reputation.

BE AN EXAMPLE

An important characteristic of any good leader is the ability to exemplify the skills, personality and motivation that you would expect from your staff members. This means that you demonstrate an ability to work with multiple personality types and are excited and motivated to drive results for your team. As a leader, your actions and behavior are watched carefully. Keep this in mind.

ETHICS AND INTEGRITY

A similar facet of effective leadership has to do with ethics and integrity. In order to earn the respect of your staff, following ethical best practices is of utmost importance. Stand by the values you want to have in your practice. Keep your promises, as much as is possible. Remember that a team is stronger if it’s unified rather than divided by office politics, drama or even intense personality clashes. The “Golden Rule” still applies to leaders: treat others as you want to be treated.

COMMUNICATION

Communication is a vital component of any successful relationship, including the workplace. Make every effort to establish a smooth and comfortable environment among your team. Transparency can go a long way to repairing and healing conflict, especially between managers and staff members. Effective leadership involves communication about both the successes and trials facing your dental practice. Collaborate and brainstorm on solutions and ideas together rather than keeping them only to upper management. By establishing clear lines of communication, you instill trust and openness in your team, which makes it easier to come together for the common goal of working to make your practice successful.

SKILLS

The dental industry, like many others, is not stagnant. New technology develops rapidly, which requires knowledge and skills. In order to be a truly effective leader and run a successful dental practice, you need to master and possibly even edge out the skills your competitors have. This involves study, research and time outside of your work in the office, but it is worthwhile.

INVEST IN STAFF

Finally, your practice would not be successful without the hard work of your employees. Your business will do better if you invest in your staff’s career motivations and work with their own set of skills. If possible, meet with your employees regularly. Understand the ins and outs of their daily role, how it benefits the practice, and recognize your staff for the work they do. The best leader knows how to honor the people who work and support them.

GOT QUESTIONS?

For more information on what makes an effective leader in the dental industry, browse through our website or book a consultation call with Dr. Coughlin today.

Benefits for your Team

When starting and running your own dental practice, one of the biggest concerns to think about has to do with how to manage your team. What needs do they have? What basic benefits should you cover for your team in your dental practice? Are there any basic requirements? This article will discuss some of those questions.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

In the United States, employers with W2 employees are expected to pay for social security and Medicare benefits. These benefits make up part of your employee’s tax withdrawals on their paycheck.  It’s important to consider social security and Medicare benefits first when evaluating the costs of benefit programs because they are required for any W2 employee.

DENTAL INSURANCE

As a dental practice, offering your team a discount on dental services is appropriate and maybe even expected. There are several ways you could offer dental service benefits. Some practices cover 100% of employee dental services. You could also cover up to a specified amount per employee.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Another standard benefit for most employers to sponsor for their staff is health insurance. The practice’s financial situation often dictates how flexible you can be, but it’s best to consider what options are valued most for your team. If you can’t afford an insurance policy with both low deductibles and low premiums, which option fits with your budget and your employee’s needs? These questions are important to consider. In Massachusetts, health insurance is required, so don’t skip this.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Most employers offer employees the ability to contribute to a 401K, 403(b), or other form of retirement account. If your dental practice is profitable with a fair amount of room in the budget, matching your employee’s contribution attracts both current and potential new staff alike. Make sure your retirement benefit program works for both you and your team.

PAID VACATION & OTHER BENEFITS

Your team works hard to bring the best dental care to your patients. They deserve adequate, and even generous time off if your budget allows. Do you want to allocate a specified amount of time off up front for salaried employees? Would you prefer an accrual system? Keep in mind the differences and specific regulations between salaried and hourly employees and plan accordingly. For example, a Massachusetts dental practice with more than 11 employees is required to provide a certain amount of paid sick time as part of the basic benefits package.

In addition to paid time off, other “nice to have” benefits might include things like paid family leave, subsidized childcare, discounts to local attractions and businesses, and more.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Do you own or manage a dental practice and still have questions about benefits? Comment below or send us an email and we’ll help you out!

How to Prevent Dental Burnout

As a dental professional, stress often is the name of the game. Long hours, emotional and physical components, and potentially adding business management as a dental practice owner all adds up to a scenario where you’re chronically tired and overwhelmed. How do you know if you’re burnout – or on the way there? Can you prevent burnout from happening in the first place? If so, how?

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Dental burnout is extremely common, with some studies stating that over 80% of dentists experience it. It’s understandable given the emotional, social, and physical demands of dentistry, not including the added stresses of running your own business if you’re a dental practice owner.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of dental burnout:

  • Chronic fatigue and inability to wake up easily in the morning
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of sense of fulfilment and/or purpose

Typically, these signs of burnout start to occur for some time prior to your reaching a breaking point. With the right tools and knowledge, you can confidently navigate your dental career with support systems in place if needed.

NAVIGATE SCHEDULES

As a dentist, your work schedule is often demanding and strenuous. If you own your dental practice, there are added factors to consider, including managing cash flow, staff, etc. Whichever position you find yourself in, establishing a consistent schedule with important breaks and downtime included goes a long way to boosting your mood and sense of purpose. Socialization is vital too – even in these interesting times – so make sure you’re connecting with loved ones as much as possible. Healthy diet and exercise are beneficial as well.

ESTABLISH A POSITIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT

You most likely spend more time in your office than you do at home. The environment you work in contributes greatly to your mental and even physical health, so it is important to consider workplace stresses. Is there a gossip culture? Is everyone on the same page when it comes to duties and responsibilities? Do you feel supported? Consider meeting with your office staff to brainstorm and make any changes to help relieve some of the stress you carry.

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY

Effective communication between and among your team members is vital to managing professional boundaries. Delegate administrative tasks to your staff. Share expectations of your day to day workload with your team and family members. WIth proper communications and expectations in place, burnout is significantly less likely to occur.

NEED MORE HELP?

Looking for guidance to help prevent you or your staff from dental professional burnout? Pick up a copy of Dr. Coughlin’s book Just Enough To Be Great In Your Dental Professional for practical tips on building success in the dental industry.

Questions to Ask Before Offering Teledentistry Services

Over the past several months, social distancing and remote work have become the new normal for most Americans. For dental practice owners, implementing telehealth options to continue operations is in many cases a necessity in order to comply with both federal and state recommendations.

If your practice hasn’t already done so, consider getting your team and patients on board with a telehealth program. Not only does it mean that you can still offer your services, but your patients will also feel appreciated and thought of during this uncertain time.

However, there are some things you need to consider before turning your practice into a telehealth operation. This post will go over just a few of these factors.

HOURS OF OPERATION

The nature of dental work is that many visits are due to emergent scenarios like cavities or an infected tooth. Other patients may only see you twice a year for their checkups. This can make determining standard hours of operations difficult under “normal” circumstances, but remote services add more stress to the issue.

Here are some questions you need to consider regarding hours of operation in a telehealth-based world. By reviewing these and other factors, you can be more prepared for the changes that telehealth services bring.

• Do you want to set aside certain hours for emergency vs regular visits?
• Will telehealth services only be for non-emergent clients? How does this relate to cleanings?
• If your in-person support team are necessary for your business operations, how do their positions fit into telehealth practices? Is there room for them to work remotely if possible?

PROGRAMS

There are many different platforms available for telehealth programs. However, an important thing to note is that not all of the popular options (Skype, Facetime) offer HIPAA Compliant regulations for their video conference services. Platforms that provide HIPAA compliant protected teledentistry services include Cisco, GoToMeeting and Zoom. Since the privacy, protection, and security of your clients is of vital importance, this is an important aspect to keep in mind. It is also likely that some training for telehealth platforms may be needed for both staff and patients, so preparation in this area can be very helpful for all involved. For example, consider training and designating one staff member to be the “go-to” person for all things related to the technical side of telehealth services.

PAPERWORK

Much of the administrative aspect of running an efficient dental practice relates to the proper use, storage, and disposal of patient-sensitive paperwork. When it comes to preparing your office for telehealth services, make sure to go through these questions about paperwork to ensure as seamless a transition as possible.

• Do you offer your patients a disclosure form to receive teledentistry services?
• How do you plan to store paperwork from telehealth visits for record purposes?
• What systems do you have in place to properly secure paperwork if moving them from one program to another?

NEED HELP?

Want to implement teledentistry options during this time of uncertainty but aren’t sure where to start? Dr. Coughlin is here to guide, support and encourage you now and in the future to grow and sustain a dental practice that goes above and beyond. Call us today!

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!

 

 

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.

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.

 

Selling a Dental Practice to a Corporate Buyer

If you are selling your dental practice, it is important to be aware that not all buyers are individual dentists. Corporate buyers are becoming more and more common. The two categories of corporate buyers are dental management organizations (DMOs), and small group networks (SGNs). The main differences are that DMOs are large, owning from 30 to several hundred dental practices, and that DMOs have virtually unlimited resources. SGNs are small, typically owning less than 20 dental practices, and are limited in their available investment capital.

Assessing the Offer

Regardless of which type of corporate buyer has put an offer on the table, it is important to carefully assess the offer. Fortunately, there are 5 simple steps to help you decide whether the offer is right for you.

Know your value: You cannot accurately assess the offer that is made unless you understand the valuation of your practice. There are numerous ways to perform this valuation, and there are many complex factors that can affect the value. Therefore, a professional valuation is always advised.

The buyer may make an offer that is significantly higher or lower than your valuation. If this happens, it is important to learn why. Get professional advice if you are considering an offer outside your valuation range to be sure you are getting a fair deal.

Understand the buyer: You probably already know that you need to investigate the financial strength of any prospective buyer. For a corporate buyer, this should include asking your accountant to review the company’s earnings expectations, financial statements, and tax returns. Also check references and reviews, with an eye toward developing an informed picture of the company’s track record of purchases and sales.

In addition, it is important to understand the buyer’s goals. Corporate buyers want to acquire the existing patient base and grow the practice’s profitability. They generally want to retain the current owner as a manager, which may or may not interest you. They also have an existing transition process focused on cutting costs and maximizing revenue. Your economic goals become tied to the corporation’s.

Know the payment structure: Regardless of who buys your practice, financing will likely be involved. With a corporate buyer, though, the structure may be highly complex. For example, a portion of the purchase price may be contingent on your ability to hit certain goals and objectives over a predetermined number of years. In addition, you may receive a portion of the purchase price as equity in the company rather than cash. You may even be required to purchase additional equity.

Know the risks: Signing a contract with a corporate buyer involves a great deal of risk. You do not know the corporate buyer that well, and there is no recourse for equity stakeholders if the company goes belly up. However, if you are willing and able to assume the risk, are willing to work hard to hit goals and objectives, and feel confident in the purchasing entity, you could make a strong return on your investment.

Because corporate purchase agreements are highly complicated and involve high levels of risk, it is vital to seek professional advice. Only you, your financial advisors, and your dental business advisor can determine whether a corporate buyer makes sense for you.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. 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.

Keys to Selling a Dental Practice for the Maximum Price

Dental practice valuation is a highly complex blend of art and science. Ultimately, though, any practice is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it. If you want to maximize the selling price, there are a few things you can do to make your practice more attractive to potential buyers.

Accounts Receivable

The majority of dentists are happy with an accounts receivable cycle as long as 45 days. Still, if yours is significantly lower, it can prove that your practice has a healthy cash flow. Upgrading your revenue management technology and procedures can help.

Location

While the real estate idea of “location, location, location” does not fully apply when selling a dental practice, there is no denying that location matters to prospective buyers. In particular, buyers are interested in the demographics and population trends of the area, as those affect the patient base. For example, a buyer interested in complex restorations would likely prefer an affluent area with an older demographic, while someone who specializes in pediatric dentistry will want to be in a neighborhood with lots of young families.

You don’t need to move your practice in order to sell it, but you will get the best price by focusing on buyers whose primary interests match the demographics of the area. Of course, if your practice attracts patients who are willing to travel a long way for your services, that can be a selling point on its own.

Practice Philosophy

Everyone has a different philosophy and approach to treatment, and you certainly don’t need to change yours. However, if you are looking for the maximum selling price, you should be sure to discuss these topics early on with each potential buyer. Every buyer is hoping for a strong, existing patient base, as well as to focus on the areas of dentistry that most interest him or her. It might be that a buyer can see a new direction for your practice in the form of additional services or new technology, but if your approaches are wildly different, some of your existing patients might leave after the sale. Buyers are aware of this risk, and will likely not offer top dollar for practices that do not naturally mesh with their ideas.

Intangible Assets

Dental practices generally have a wide variety of tangible assets, such as equipment and furniture, but intangible assets can add tremendous value to the practice. Brand equity and intellectual property are typically the most important. Brand equity includes, but is not limited to, such factors as reputation, perception of service, and loyalty from both patients and employees. Protecting the brand can be a very important element in the sales process, and a top brand can bring a significantly higher price.

Intellectual property includes anything that you developed that is unique to your practice, such as codified policies and procedures, treatment methodologies, and ways of managing the business side of your practice. The more successful your practice is, the more your unique intellectual property is likely to be worth at the time of sale.

Technology Considerations

It would seem obvious that sophisticated dental technology automatically raises the selling price of a dental practice, but this is rarely the case. At the time of sale, technology is really only worth the demonstrated financial impact that it has on the practice. In other words, you may get a premium for a piece of technology that demonstrably improved processes and, in turn, revenue. But simply running out right before the sale to buy new software will not get you much return on your investment.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there is a plethora of dental technology on the market, and most dentists like to equip their offices with the technologies they like best. Second, used equipment has a very low cash value. Finally, the buyer may be entirely unfamiliar with that shiny new program you installed, and unimpressed with your claims of what the salesperson told you it could do. Being able to point to results is key.

Ultimately, the best way to obtain the maximum price for your dental practice is to start long before you are ready to sell. Build the best practice you can, constantly refine and improve your processes, and create a strong brand. When you are ready to sell, focus on buyers who are looking for what you have to sell, and whose philosophies mesh well with your own.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. 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.