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 downside of becoming a dental franchisee

Are you considering buying into a dental franchise? It certainly seems like an arrangement that means less headaches with marketing. Becoming a franchisee also comes pre-loaded with processes to help insure everything runs smoothly out-of-the-box.

Of course there is a downside. As a franchisee you have certain obligations to the franchisor. For some this loss of “professional sovereignty” may feel like they aren’t in an ownership position at all.

As a dental franchisee it’s easy to fall into a professional rut as you have less and less emotional investment in your business. In the end many dentists find themselves simply punching the clock, day in and day out.

This leads many to view the services they offer as products rather than treatments for patients. What happens next is that the practice becomes a glorified assembly line – where treatments are assessed based on price and patient need comes second to profit.

Obviously this does not apply to 100% of franchisees. Many offer advice to patients that may cost the practice some additional revenue. And they do this to create loyalty and make their operation stand out among the other chain services in the area.

However if you are a franchisee there really isn’t much incentive to be “great” when good enough is all that’s expected.

Being part of a chain means a steady flow of patients because of brand recognition. As an example, the local McDonalds or Starbucks doesn’t need to promote itself. These independent stores, as franchisees, don’t have to worry about being amazing. They simply have to be.

It’s the same with dental franchises. Business is good, because the brand is strong. And because the brand is strong, you don’t often see individual service initiatives from the franchisees.

Another factor that contributes to this is that most dentists working in chain operations only stay for two years. So quality service improvements run the risk of annoying the next dentist/franchisee because they go beyond the work they are prepared to do in order to hit the minimum brand standard.

As a customer, I always choose the independent operator.  It doesn’t mean I don’t trust the chains. I simply want my dentists to have more of a long term investment in myself and my community.

Independent operators have more “skin in the game” and they see their community and patients as more than a resource to be exploited.

As someone who has worked on both sides of this ownership model, I can say that as an independent owner the added stress of being 100% in charge is mitigated by the level of satisfaction it brings me, my team members and my patients every single day.  

If you are considering whether or not to invest in a franchise and you’d like to explore your options, click through and book a coaching call. It could be the best investment you make in your dental career.

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

Dentists need to adopt a business mindset

I’m a working dentist.

However, all my success has come because I run my practice as a business.

If there is one major complaint I have about dental schools, it’s that they focus on the skills you need to perform exactly one half of your job – clinical skills.

But being a successful dentist who runs one or more practices takes a lot more than knowing your way around the gumline. It takes business sense.

When I was starting out I had to learn these lessons. I wasted a lot of time and a lot more money making mistakes and learning from them. In the end I figured it out and was able to grow my business to include 14 practices.

I did this by developing processes and procedures that I was able to replicate over and over again.  

Today’s young dentists have it even harder. Many of them graduate with so much debt that setting up a practice of their own right out of school is prohibitively expensive. So they join an existing practice as an associate.

Even then there is very little preparation provided in schools to help them land that first job or succeed and prepare for a financially secure future.

That’s not to say established dentists don’t have their own issues when it comes to the business of running a practice.

With Managed Service Organisations (MSOs) and Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) growing and expanding into just about every marketplace, established practices are increasingly feeling the competitive pinch.

It hard to compete when your competitor has the power to muscle suppliers and vendors because of the scale of their purchasing power.

So can an independent dentist succeed in this environment? Of course they can. But it means managing the practice as a business first. Dentists need to constantly reevaluate processes and procedures and offer superior service that makes every patient a brand ambassador who happily refers them to friends and family.

So how do you develop the skills necessary to manage your career in this business? If you are struggling at the beginning of your career or you are worried about MSOs and DSOs eating your lunch then you might want to start by looking at coaching programs for new dentists or advanced business coaching for dentists.

I’m happy to chat and help you decide what your next steps should be so that you can enjoy the success you deserve without wasting a lot of time trying to figure it out yourself. Drkevin@ascent-dental-solutions.com

Dental Practice Purchase Agreement: What to Look For

As the name suggests, a dental practice purchase agreement is the document that actually spells out the terms and conditions of the sale. This should be drafted by an attorney to ensure that all legal concerns are addressed. Still, it is vital for all dental practice buyers and sellers to understand what needs to be in the dental practice purchase agreement. Here are some of the most vital but often overlooked clauses.

  1. Contingencies

Any purchase agreement should have listed contingencies, or specific events that must occur in order for the purchase to move forward. Should any contingencies fail to happen, you can walk away with no liability. Sample contingencies include, but are not limited to:

Approval of the existing records by the buyer’s accountant

Obtaining a loan at the desired terms

Buyer’s assumption of the existing or entry into a new lease at acceptable terms

Buyer obtaining attorney approval of the purchase agreement

  1. Non-Compete Covenant

A non-compete covenant prevents the seller from practicing dentistry within a certain geographic radius from the purchased practice for a period of time. This covenant needs to be detailed, specifying which related activities, such as becoming a shareholder or director of a nearby practice, are allowed or prohibited. Of course, if the seller stays on with the practice for a period of time, the non-compete covenant should not start until the seller’s last day of employment at the practice.

  1. Defective Dentistry

If something small goes wrong with dental work performed prior to the sale, it is reasonable to expect the buyer to fix it. However, if substantial failure occurs, responsibility for fixing it should be allocated between the buyer and seller. A common provision states that the seller can choose to either return to the practice to fix the work or pay the buyer 50 to 75 percent of the buyer’s customary fee to perform the work, and specifies both the time period for which the election is in effect and the method by which the buyer will notify the seller of such issues.

  1. Warranties and Representations

Warranties and representations are the seller’s statements on which the buyer’s purchasing decision is based. All verbal representations should be written into the purchase agreement. Common warranties include broad statements about the worthiness of the practice, such as having no liens or encumbrances on the assets and the seller’s dentistry license never having been revoked.

  1. Accounts Receivable

Most dental practices have numerous accounts receivable, or monies that are owed to the practice. The buyer may choose to purchase all, none, or some of the accounts receivable. This election, along with specifics on how any accounts receivable retained by the seller will be collected, should be written into the purchase agreement.

Other Documents

While the purchase agreement is the key document in a dental sales practice purchase, it is not sufficient on its own. Other important paperwork that should be carefully drafted includes, but is not limited to:

Non-disclosure Agreement

Intent to Buy Letter

Deposit Receipt

Office Lease (if applicable)

Purchasing a dental practice is a fairly straightforward process. However, carefully drafted paperwork, created or approved by an attorney, is vital to ensuring that all relevant issues are addressed up front and in writing.

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.

Why should dentists join the ADA

Dentistry is a business. And you need to treat it as such if you want to maximize the return on all your hard work and skills development.

A big part of being successful in business is the support you get from being a part of an association.

Recently I spoke to Dr. David Preble of the American Dental Association about how the ADA helps dentists at every stage of their career journey.

Currently the ADA counts about 63 percent of working dentists in it’s membership, representing more than 161,000 men and women from across the country.

That may seem like a lot. But with boomers retiring and selling their practices and millenials making up almost 50 percent of dentists the challenge is to find a real value proposition that speaks to dentists wherever they are in their career.

The ADA provides a broad range of services from legislative and regulatory advocacy, practice-based advocacy with third-party payers and governmental agencies, continuing education, peer review, scientific research, the development of dentistry policies and standards, as well as, practice management tools and resources.

I’ve been a member since 1983. Over the years I’ve had both agreements and disagreements on policy. However in the end the mission statement is to represent the dental profession and dentists and I think it generally does a great job.

With increasing competition, financial risks and educational debt having a greater impact on individuals than ever before it’s good to have an group to advocate on our behalf.

For new dentists the ADA is a tremendous source of information and knowledge to help guide those new graduates through some of the trials and tribulations of either starting a practice, joining a practice, and other areas related to getting a career started on the right foot.

“A new dentist can really benefit from the services like our Career Center,” says Dr. Preble, “which we are building to be even better and better. That really helps dentists make more informed and better decisions about where they want to practice, and how they want to practice.”

“We also provide networking opportunities through local and state dental societies, which are an integral part of the ADA, along with practice development resources, and even licensure guidance and loan refinancing options.”

It’s not just new dentists. For dentists who have been practicing for between 8 to 20 years and are dealing with the practice management issues, where perhaps their practice isn’t growing and doing as well as they’d hoped for a variety of reasons the ADA has an enormous amount of information to help.

Again Dr. Preble says “for those dentists in that mid-career part, they can have ADA tools and resources to answer these third-party payer and other business related questions, along with access to online scientific resources, etc.”

Finally, the last group are those individuals more in the twilight of their career. Are they in a position to retire financially? Is their clinical practice in a position to pass on to another individual or group? Again, the ADA is there with knowledge, information and expertise.

“When dentists get into the later part of their career, “ says Preble, “The ADA has practice transition information, along with answers to financial questions and then lots of opportunities for mentoring new dentists”

If you are a new dentist a membership in the ADA is a critical to becoming part of the greater community of peers and will provide you with knowledge and networking that will help you throughout your whole career. If you’ve let your membership lapse then maybe it’s time to re-think and re-engage with this important organisation.

Additional resources

www.ada.org.

Center for Professional Success
www.success.ada.org.

Successful dental careers require more than clinical skills

If you’re just coming out of dental school it’s safe to say that you probably have the requisite clinical skills to do your job.

Unfortunately clinical skills are not the only thing you need to have a successful career.

Dentistry is a business. If you don’t treat it like a business, then you are setting a ceiling on your own financial security.
I learned very young one of the most important skills they don’t teach you in dental school is how to choose the proper career path.

Most new dentists graduate with a lot of debt. That means the dream of opening your own practice right away is out of reach for most of us early in our careers.

The reality is that you’ll probably be working as an associate for a few years while you get your own financial house in order.

Depending on where your see your career taking you, you may consider joining an independent practice or one that is connected to a Dental Service Organization or Managed Service Organization.

Deciding on which route you want to take boils down to one question – do you have the entrepreneurial drive to one day own your own practice, or are you content to be an employee?

There is no right answer. However it’s a decision that you will have to make early and it will determine the path of your career going forward.

Whatever path you choose it’s important that you not only burnish your clinical skills, but also pay attention to how the practice is run. In essence you have two jobs – improving your skills and learning the business.

I’ve been a “wet-finger” dentist for over 35 years. When I graduated it was a different environment for dentists. When I started I had the luxury of time to figure things out. I made mistakes and I learned hard lessons. Eventually I was able to put in place processes and procedures that not only worked – but were also easy to replicate.

Today, the commoditization of dentistry has accelerated the learning curve considerably. So if you don’t get everything going right from day one then you will struggle.

I started consulting with new dentists because, through my work at Tufts, I saw that dental schools are very good at clinical, and often ignore the business and career development part of dentistry.

I didn’t see enough emphasis on accounting, legal, sales, marketing and other aspects of the business that can make or break a career.

Getting these skills, along with putting in place the proper processes and procedures that make a practice efficient at every level is the best way to ensure sustained growth and position you to achieve the maximum return on your investment when you eventually go to sell.

If you are a new dentist, or simply struggling with the business part of your dental practice, then I encourage you to book some time with me to talk about your current situation. It’s up to you how you want your career to play out. Talking to someone who knows what they’re doing with a solid track record of success is the best place to start.

How you brand your practice is crucial to its success

How you brand your business is key to how you’ll be perceived by existing clients and those looking for a new dentist.

How do I know this? Because I used to be bad at it!

I’ve learned, of course, and have leaned on the wisdom and services of branding and marketing professionals ever since.

But back in 1983, I made a blunder. Although I was marketing in many mediums at the time, I thought a humorous TV spot might be a useful strategy.

The commercial featured an absurd image of a dentist brandishing a carpenter’s drill about to start work on someone’s choppers. The idea was to apply a comedic twist to people’s fear of the dentist’s drill.

It didn’t work. Let me put it another way: people hated it!

So there I was, a successful dentist and I almost lost it due to a sixty second commercial.

The way you present yourself online, in print through marketing of any kind, is very important.

You want to consider the type of audience you have and the customer base you want to have. Look at the reviews you’re getting online to see what people are saying. Do a close review of your competitors and see why they’re getting their business to the level it’s at or even getting more business than you are. And use marketing and use the internet and social media and design to get your business to where you want it to be.

The lesson here is that you are an expert at dentistry and there are other professionals skilled at making you shine in the marketplace.

Pro-tip: if your marketing consultant suggests the carpenter’s drill idea, find another one!

New Dentists: independent or corporate practice a personal choice

Congrats. You’ve finished school and graduation was a blast. However after you’ve taken off the cap and gown, you have dentistry degree certificate and a lot of decisions to make. Life happens fast and you don’t have a lot of time before you have to begin your career.

You’re at the proverbial fork in the road. And you really have two options: corporate dentistry (Managed Service Organizations or Dental Support Organizations) or starting your own practice.

Corporate dentistry is definitely an easier road and a lot of grads are tempted by the allure of a steady, predictable income. I come from a different world. I know how great it is to have your own practice, set your own rules, define your own standards for performance, and even set your own hours of operation.

I’m not here to judge. What works for one dentist won’t work for another. Corporate dentistry isn’t going anywhere and both private practice and corporate work each have pros and cons to consider.

One of the objections I’ve heard when speaking to new dentists who are considering opening their own practice is, what they see, as a lack of experience in clinical skills and complete absence of any practical business knowledge.

To these dentist corporate dentistry looks pretty good: more skill experiences, a built-in primer on running a business and the piece of mind that comes with knowing everything else is the corporation’s problem.

But here’s the thing. I’ve talked to many practicing dentists who have taken this path only to find out that the above scenario isn’t necessarily true.

Experienced dentists today say 50 or 60 percent of the stress in their practice, is not related to their clinical focus but rather, caused by staff and patients.

These are stresses that will happen whether you’re the captain of your boat or a hired hand on someone else’s.

For me, being independent and in control of both the clinical and business aspects is very important. Not only do you control every factor in your professional life, it also pushes you to get the training on the clinical skills you need and upgrade your management skills.

It really comes down to the kind of person you are. Do you just want to do A, B and C? Then explore a corporate dentistry opportunity.

Just don’t do it because you’re lacking clinical skills and business savvy. You can learn those while developing your own practice. And this is something I help new dentists do through my private coaching programs.

So ask yourself: what kind of a person am I? Are you happy being the employee, or would you rather develop the skills to create something special? The answer to that will ensure you make the right decision: your right decision.