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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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. 



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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. 


E40:Podcast: The Benefits of Dental Therapy

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Good afternoon. This is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and you’re listening to Ascent Radio. This podcast is brought to you by Ascent-Dental-Solutions.

I’d like to start every podcast with special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta. His company, Stand Out and Be Heard, has been participating in over 75 podcasts. And without his expertise and his business acumen, this podcast would not be possible.

I also would like to give special thanks to the VOCO Company. They have been supplying over 40 years of dental supplies and products to the dental community.

They’re a worldwide company and have headquarters in Germany and their headquarters in South Carolina, and a special thanks to VOCO for their expertise and supporting this broadcast.

This afternoon, we have three guests. The Kellogg Foundation is a foundation that is almost totally devoted to improving oral health for our most vulnerable population. And that’s the young children under the age of 18, but particularly, those most prone to dental disease under the age of ten.

This foundation has been providing services, finances and expertise and looking for solutions to improve this epidemic situation, which is dental caries and dental disease, primarily in our younger population, and primarily the population that’s underserved in need of the greatest assistance.

Today, our guests are Dr. Mary Willard, Ms. Sarah Wovcha and Dr. Terry Batliner. The three of you, thank you so much for your expertise and knowledge in the subject of improving the situation. And special thanks again to The Kellogg Foundation for their effort and expertise in this area. I’d like to start with Dr. Willard. Mary, what do you think is the most significant problem for dental education and dental care in this particular population?

Mary: The biggest issue is access to care, I believe. We have many populations living in inner cities that have trouble getting appointments with dentists. Sometimes in places like where I live in Alaska, it’s because there are very few dentists in our remote villages and communities. Sometimes in inner cities it’s because the dentists don’t accept Medicaid or uninsured patients.

Kevin: If you had the ability to snap your fingers tomorrow, with your expertise, knowledge and background, what would you say would be the single best solution, in your opinion, to improve the situation?

Mary: I don’t think there’s one single thing that we can do, but one very effective tool is to implement the use of dental therapists in our dental teams to expand access to underserved populations.

Kevin: Sarah, if I was to ask you the same question, is there anything you’d like to add or delete to those recommendations of Dr. Willard?

Sarah: No, I think Dr. Willard has hit the nail on the head. Those are precisely the issues that we face in Minnesota.

Kevin: Dr. Batliner, with your expertise and background, is there something you’d like to add or delete or do you think that’s the significant problem and that’s perhaps one of the strongest options or solutions?

Terry: Sure, let me just define the problem a little bit more. I live in two worlds. I have three dental practices in Boulder, Colorado and around Boulder and I also am the associate director for The Centre for Native Oral Health Research at The University of Colorado where we conducted research on Indian reservations.

There really are two types of problems and Mary touched on them quickly. One is that there’s not enough providers who take Medicaid. In my role in Boulder, I’m a Medicaid provider and there aren’t very many Medicaid providers, even though the compensation is pretty good in Colorado.

And then in my role as a researcher with native communities, we see that the dentist to population ratio, which averages 1:1600 in the United States, on reservations such as Pine Ridge in South Dakota and the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico has a dentist to population ratio of 1:4000 or worse than that. So it’s very difficult for people to access care.

In combination with that, in places such as native communities or in the Medicaid population, the amount of disease is much higher. And so we find that kids three years old, perhaps in Navajo at age three, 70 percent of those kids have untreated decay. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, about 55 percent of those kids have untreated decay in our latest data. So there’s a lot of issues.

We also found that the Hispanic Medicaid population in the Metro Denver area is comparable with their degree of disease to the kids on Pine Ridge. About 55 percent of kids have untreated decay.

Kevin: I thank the three of you for that feedback. I am a practicing dentist. I still practice. I was actually in my office practicing since 7:00 this morning and I deal with all different populations. My practice is fairly large. We see on an average of about 116, 000 patient visits a year and I am quite familiar with the problem.

Since we have a variety of listeners, in your opinion Dr. Willard, what would you say the dental therapist for those who may not be up on the topic, they may not be as informed or educated, and sometimes there’s misinformation.

My personal opinion here on the East Coast, but particularly in New England, you have two schools of thought. One school of thought is they’re very much against these mid-level practitioners, these dental therapists, these expanded duties. And my personal opinion, it may not be accurate, but my personal opinion is many in the dental community find this as a threat.

If we do the SWOT analysis — Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats — they perhaps are concerned that there’s a threat to their business and to their income. Other individuals may be concerned with quality of care, the ability to monitor the quality of care. Could you address those issues and perhaps sway the listeners how those potential issues could be misguided?

Mary: Basically, the dental therapist is a primary care provider, new team member who brings additional services and brings a different team player to the dental office. What we have is a provider who is able to provide basic restorative, preventive services and is typically from the community.

For me, that’s the big aspect of what this dental provider brings, is a familiarity with the customs and needs of the community they’re serving, especially when they come from that same community. It’s a way to provide care closer to home and also having a therapist on board is a way to provide patient navigation services as well, so services that are out of the scope of a dentist.

What we see in Alaska right now is that the dental therapists are able to provide the basic restorative and preventive services that are needed and then they can provide referrals to the dentist for the higher level care. As a result, we’re seeing that the dentists are able to perform more of the higher level services and are not spending as much time on the basic restorative.

So what you’re going to have as a dentist working with a therapist is an increase in your production, especially in those higher levels like partials, dentures, implants, crowns and visits because you got that fixed during the restoration. We’re finding that it’s increasing the bottom line for the dental practices as a whole.

Kevin: And that’s possibly a motivation to move the dental profession perhaps in a more positive direction. Ms. Wovcha, Sarah, if you were to add or comment to Dr. Willard’s assessment, would you agree, disagree, add or delete anything?

Sarah: I agree with Dr. Willard’s assessment. I would also say that if we look at the facts in terms of not only the training, but what we are seeing when dental therapists are engaged in a practice, they bear out that they are quality, efficient providers. To give a specific example of that in Minnesota, dental therapists at our training programs in Minnesota are educated side by side with dentists. When they become licensed, the exam that they undergo is in a blind setting.

In other words, the evaluators do not know whether they are evaluating a dentist or a dental therapist for the procedures that they are assessing. So it’s completely competency based. Again, they’re trained with dentists at the same institutions and they are evaluated in the same way in a blind setting.

I think the difference is that dentists are trained to do around 500 some procedures in Minnesota, for example, and dental therapists are trained to do about 50 some procedures.

So they are learning in-depth how to do these less complex restorative procedures and they’re gaining a repetitive skill set. If you just look at the sort of objective external factors of the training and the assessment, it bears out that they are competent and at least at the same level of quality as dentists.

Then when we look at how they actually perform in practice, the State of Minnesota Department of Health has done an assessment of all licensed dental therapists and have found that they are productive in practice and there have been no confirmed incidents of malpractice since they have been licensed in our state. Again, there are very objective metrics that show quality, efficiency and expanding access to care.

Kevin: Dr. Batliner, is there anything you would like to add or comment or delete from the previous two experts? Is there something that you’d like to present to our listeners?

Terry: Sure, I think the quality has been studied. Dental therapists have been studied more than any other type of providers in the last ten years and have been shown to provide quality comparable to dentists doing the procedures that they perform, which is a smaller number than dentists. I think the other thing to consider is that they can operate more cost effectively.

For example, in my practice, I pay our associates 30 percent of collections. So let’s say they do — just to make it easy — $300 an hour, so they get paid about $90 an hour.

We hire hygienists in Colorado. We pay them quite a bit in Colorado, around $40 an hour. It’s reasonable to think that I could hire, if they were legal in Colorado, a dental therapist for somewhat more than a dental hygienist. I think that’s what Sarah has found in Minnesota.

So let’s say we pay the dental therapist $45 to $50 an hour and then they can do, in our studies of their performance around the country, around 75 or 80 percent of the things that people need when they walked in the office. So it’s a cost effective arrangement. It would allow more offices to provide care to underserved groups that may be parts of programs such as Medicaid that pay based on a discounted fee schedule.

Kevin: Dr. Batliner, I’m going to do a follow up question with you. If we could snap our fingers and based on the information and data, there’s roughly 500,000 dentists in the United States at any given time. And my understanding is that roughly around 200,000 to 250,000 are actually practicing fulltime. If we could snap our fingers and create another 250,000 dental therapists tomorrow morning, what would be the motivation to have those individuals go to the population in the locations that we need?

Is there a solution or a discussion that The Kellogg Foundation and the experts in this area are looking into? Let’s just say a miracle happens tomorrow, we’ve reached through the political quagmire and we’ve got these hundred thousand plus therapists, how do we get them to the areas that we need?

Terry: The first thing is we have to recruit them from those areas. As Mary has learned in Alaska, by recruiting people from the villages and they’re trained quickly in somewhat between two and three years, where they don’t lose touch with their home community and then we found that they return to their communities. That’s number one. Number two, if you want to involve more people of color, socio-economically disadvantaged people in the education system, you have to keep it as inexpensive as possible. Because it’s difficult for people to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars and then pay that back, as many dentists have to do.

Keeping the training as short as possible, CODA, the Council on Dental Accreditation, has kept it at three years after high school. I think that’s good. The programs need to be cost effective and quick, and that will involve more people. I think those are really the issues; recruit people from the communities, keep the training as short as possible and as inexpensive as possible so that the people we need to get trained can get trained.

Kevin: Ms. Wovcha, Sarah, let me ask you a follow up question in regards to this situation. These therapists, how would they be compensated? Do you see this as they would be compensated not only through maybe a clinic such as Dr. Batliner owns, or do you see this as a State or Federal government sponsored, and they would be compensated for their services and their education through tax dollars in some shape or form?

Sarah: What we are seeing in terms of actual practice is that they are compensated as a credentials provider with medical assistance and private insurance as well. So they’re compensated in the same way that other dental providers are compensated.

We’re also seeing that they’re eligible for loan forgiveness, for example. So they are receiving in Minnesota, for example, some government dollars and there are actually private foundations that are helping to offset the cost of education. Is that answering your question?

Kevin: It is. Part of it is selfishly, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not as well educated in that area as I should be. I’m assuming, like Dr. Willard working in the Alaska area, there are limited number of private practices. So I’m thinking out loud now on this podcast, is the therapist coming from the community would potentially have their own facility because there’s not enough dental facilities and is there an issue or a problem? Again, in full disclosure, I personally am 100 percent for expanded duties and always have been. I think it creates competition, it provides better access to care.

And selfishly from a financial stand point, I think most business people, particularly in dentistry, realize that a dental assistant provides an enormous increase in income and so does a dental hygienist and so do dental associates. So from my simplistic point of view, why wouldn’t dental therapists also? And I think Dr. Willard touched on those bases.

But in the areas where there’s just not enough dental facilities, do you see any issues or problems with these therapists striking out on their own to create more environments for the populations to be treated?

Sarah: I don’t see problems with that. In fact, the model is well adapted to be able to expand access in regions that don’t have dentists or don’t have traditional facilities.

Let me give you an example, again, speaking from the perspective of Minnesota. In Minnesota, dental therapists can practice in any setting in which there are 50 percent or more patients on medical assistance or uninsured patients in poverty. That can be a private practice setting, it could be a community clinic, it could be a mobile dental clinic, a hospital, a school based setting. There’s a large array of settings in which they can practice.

They must be in a relationship with the dentist. In other words, they must have it’s called a collaborative practice agreement, so that they can have a level of supervision by a dentist. But they are able to work independently.

In other words, in a large state, a dentist could be practicing in Saint Paul, Minnesota and the dental therapist could be five hours away in the wilderness in Ely, Minnesota practicing. So they’re certainly well situated to do that, and they are, in fact, doing that.

Just to give an example of distribution of dental therapists compared to dentists in Minnesota, our most underserved regions are our rural regions. And according to the study of the Minnesota Department of Health, right now 74 percent of dentists practice in urban settings and only 26 percent practice in rural settings. And with dental therapists, the numbers are almost double in rural and significantly less in urban.

So 47 percent of dental therapists practice in rural regions and 53 percent in urban. So we’re seeing better distribution of dental therapists that reflects the community in need.

The last thing I would say that Dr. Batliner touched on is that the way that we compensate dental therapists in Minnesota is much more sustainable for a clinic. For example, on average, a dental therapist in Minnesota receives $45 per hour and dentists receive $75 per hour. If you calculate the savings for a clinic, and this is really quite a conservative estimate.

If they see around 1,500 patients per year and I’ll say that the providers I employ see more like 2,000 per year, the cost savings is $1,200 per week or $62,400 per year. And what we do with that funding is reimbursed in our dental providers. In other words, I can hire two dental therapists for the cost of one dentist and they can provide 50 of the most commonly needed restorative procedures in our clinic.

Kevin: First of all, I want to thank The Kellogg Foundation for putting their emphasis and financial backing to this problem. It has to be addressed, there’s no reason it can’t be addressed, and with experts like we have on today’s panel and the conversation starts to get discussed, action steps can be made.

I want to thank our three speakers and guests today. Dr. Mary Willard, Director of Dental Health Aid Therapist Educational Program at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Ms. Sarah Wovcha is the Executive Director of Children’s Dental Services in Minnesota. And Dr. Terry Batliner is a member of the Cherokee Nation and currently working on faculty at the University of Colorado and is also the owner of Sage Dental Care with three private practices also in Colorado. Your expert opinions, in my opinion, are so important.

I can tell our audience, I know that this is a difficult subject for many, but quite honestly it’s pretty straightforward. Let’s get together as a profession. Let’s recognize the seriousness of the problem. Let’s put our heads and minds together and try to eliminate our selfish own wants and needs and see if we can tackle this from a political standpoint and educational standpoint. As I see it, it’s a nutritional issue, a motivational issue, an educational issue and with experts like on today’s panel, there’s no reason we can’t improve the current situation.

I want to say thank you to all three of you very, very much for your expertise and time. I would like to follow up. I can tell from responses that there will be many other conversations and other points of view. But you’ve been listening to Ascent Radio.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. Please, for this podcast and other information, turn to Ascent-Dental-Solutions, with a focus on knowledge, consultation, training and development.

In closing, special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard, for sponsoring this expert podcast and the production of those podcast. And I also want to give special thanks to VOCO and their financial support and their excellent products and services to the dental community.

Thank you all for listening. This is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and I look forward to speaking to you soon.  

E39: Podcast: Developing your team members

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of healthcare and the business of healthcare. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Welcome to tonight’s podcast. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and CEO of Ascent Dental Solutions, with a focus on knowledge, consultation, development and training. I’d like to give special thanks to VOCO Dental Supply Company.

Without their generous support, many of these podcasts could not be provided. VOCO has been providing dental supplies and helping the dental profession improve the quality of care and service to patients for over 40 years.

I’d also like to give special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta, his company Stand Out and Be Heard. Without his expertise and training most of these podcasts also would not be possible. So a special thanks to Stand Out and Be Heard, Mr. Doug Foresta.

Tonight, we have a podcast about developing team members. How do you take your staff or team members and make them more valuable and more engaged? I have several questions that have been written in and I’d like to address those questions. But to begin with, let’s talk about number one, what is important in developing your team.

Doug: The first thing I want to ask you Dr. Coughlin is — this is Doug Foresta — what I want to ask you is first of all, what is the importance? Can you say a little bit about what the importance is of developing your team towards the value of a practice?

Kevin: The first thing I would tell you is if you don’t have a successful team, you don’t have a successful business or practice. I think intuitively, all dentists understand that they’re generally the leaders of their organization. But unfortunately, most of us are not trained in leadership, we’re not trained in management, and many times, we don’t know how to facilitate our team members.

I’d like to tell everyone that when we talk about staff, staff to me means an infection. Team members mean to me individuals that share a goal and they are there to support your patient base, your business, and their main job is to improve the quality of care and service to our patients.

I’d like the listeners to understand that when a patient opens their mouth, they are a patient. But when that patient doesn’t have their mouth open, they’re actually a consumer. It’s important to understand the difference that day to day, we are not just seeing patients, we’re also seeing consumers.

And as consumers become more savvy, they have more information and data at their fingertips and this data and information can be disseminated so quickly. It is critical that you and your team understand that you’re not just dealing with patients, you’re dealing with consumers.

Doug: Can you give some examples? I know one of the things you’ve talked about is this idea that every team member is a sales person for your practice. Can you give us some examples of what you mean by that?

Kevin: Yes. I have been practicing general dentistry since 1983. I practice fulltime. I practice five days a week and sometimes I feel I practice seven days a week. I have 14 locations. I practice all forms of dentistry. I have over 150 employees and over 20 dental associates.

So when I speak to you as a consultant, as a person providing information and knowledge, I deal with these things on a day to day basis. Many of it has come from research, but most of it has come from the day to day trials and tribulations and the processes and procedures that we’ve been able to implement, that have not only improved the quality of care and service, but have improved our team members’ life and their lifestyle and my life and lifestyle, to make us more efficient, more profitable and to make it just an overall better experience.

The first thing I would tell you is your team has to understand that not only do they need knowledge in the basic dental procedures, whether that’s periodontics, endodontics, oral maxillofacial surgery, implant dentistry, temporomandibular joint or temporomandibular disorders, cosmetic procedures, sedation options, pediatrics, dental radiology, public health, the list is really extraordinary. And the ability to train your team to not just understand the clinical aspects, but in my opinion, what’s just as important is the value of these services. If Mr. and Mrs. Smith understand the procedure but don’t see the value, then I can tell you you’re going to spend a lot of time with empty unproductive chair time in your office.

Over and over, over my three and a half decades of training, education and lecturing, I have seen that many offices are well educated in the procedure, but they’re not trained in the sales. They’re not trained to educate their patient base or consumer about the value of the service. And that’s a critical piece that must be understood and must be taught.

I think there isn’t a dentist or a dental personnel out there that doesn’t realize that some individuals are just innately better at sales. In general, the medical and dental profession generally frown upon the word sales. Sales sounds unprofessional. We’re above the fray, we shouldn’t be selling anything. We provide care and treatment.

In the world that I live in, I believe that sales is positive. When you can educate, inform and motivate patients in a certain direction for a specific treatment, providing that treatment is the correct treatment and best for your patient, then sales are critically important because they motivate your patient to do what you think is best for them. And that’s not always the most expensive care, but it’s sometimes not only the most inexpensive care.

What I’ve learned over time is that you have generally five different patient types. You have the event-driven patient, the reactive-driven patient, the proactive-driven patient, the discretionary-driven patient and the regenerative-driven patient. It’s critical that your team members and you as the CEO of your office and leader understand these five different types of patients. Many times these groups will overlap.

The event-driven patient is the patient that just simply comes when something happens. Their tooth broke, they make an appointment. Their tooth hurts, they make an appointment. What motivates them is the event. The reactive-driven patient is the type of patient that knows they should, but unless something actually happens, they don’t do it. There’s some kind of motivator. Either they’ve gotten divorced and now they want better teeth, they’re looking for a new job and they think their smile is not as nice as it should be, they learn that their overall health may not be as good as it could be, they may be developing hypertension, diabetes and part of that medical issue is their dental component is poor.

The proactive patient is the patient that’s tooth-based. They want to treat one tooth at a time. They don’t look at the entire maxillofacial skeletal pattern, they don’t look at the occlusal schemes, they don’t look at the way the teeth upper and lower jaw and temporomandibular joint complex work as a very highly sophisticated tuned instrument. They’re proactive in that their tooth broke and they just want to fix that one tooth.

The next group or discretionary group is they want to look and feel better. Typically, in my experience, these are individuals that are a little older in life. They generally have been able to relinquish the responsibilities to their family and their children. Their children are generally grown, they’re out of college, they’re generally 50 years of age and older. They’re thinking about retirement and they say, “You know, this is the time for me. I want to look and feel better. I want to be a little selfish and start taking care of myself. The last few decades have been supporting other people.”

The last group are the regenerative-driven patients. What they want to know, is it worth the investment? They have the time, they have the finances, they have the knowledge, but really what they’re looking for is is there value in this care? If I do procedures A, B and C, is this going to be a good investment? Is it going to last me several years or perhaps several decades?

It is critical that you educate your team members to understand and sort of define these five groups because how you interact with these groups are going to determine your success rate and how patients accept your treatment plans.

Doug: Can you say a little bit how that ties in?  As you were saying that, I was thinking about the patient who says, “Is my insurance going to cover this procedure?” Are there certain types of clients who are more likely to just stick with what the insurance covers and then others are more likely to do other things that might not be covered by insurance?

Kevin: I attend well over a couple a hundred hours of continuing education courses every year. I’ve listened to experts not only in business, but in medicine and dentistry. And my analysis is you will always have that group of patients that no matter what you try, no matter how much you want them to believe, like and trust you, as I call it the BLT, at the end of the day if their insurance isn’t paying for it, I don’t believe they’re going to do that treatment.

However, we can improve our odds by isolating these groups of patients and trying to motivate them, try to manipulate. And I know that’s a poor use of word, but manipulate in a positive manner. What you have to try to focus on is the value. Not the cost, but the value.

Day in and day out, I simply say to a Mr. and Mrs. Smith, “I’ll be happy to remove your tooth today, but I don’t think it’s the correct or best treatment for you. In the short term, it will certainly be the most inexpensive approach, but in the long term it will be the most expensive approach.”

What I found over time is patients are motivated by time, money, sex and fear. What I mean by sex, just to make a point in this podcast, is people generally want to look good.

However, what I have found is if that individual is entering into a new neighborhood, a new job or a new relationship, that motivation, that hierarchy, moves higher to the top because they’ve been in a comfort zone. They’ve been in a relationship for years, they’ve probably allowed themselves to gain a little weight, they’re not exercising as much, their dental hygiene is not as good as it should be, they’re overall concern with cosmetics and aesthetics is less. But then there’s a changing event.

Perhaps it’s a death, perhaps it’s a divorce, perhaps it’s a new location and a new outlook on life and then that motivation of looking good and feeling good moves up. And basically why do you want to look good and feel good? In most cases, you want to have a vibrant personal relationship with another partner.

So keep in mind that in most cases there is an overlap of all these subjects. But in general, I think it doesn’t take long and it doesn’t take much education and training to understand that certain people are motivated by time — how quickly the procedure can get done, how quickly they can get in and out of their appointments because they’re very busy, they tend to be a type A personality.

The other group is that value. They don’t mind spending the money, but they want to find the value. Are they spending the money for the right reasons and are they going to get the results?

Another motivator which you can use to your advantage is fear. Many times patients have the finances, they have the time, but they don’t associate the fear and they are afraid of a root canal. In my opinion, if we could guide them to do the crown before the tooth breaks, there’s much less likelihood that they’re going to need a root canal. And when they understand it in those terms, they’re more likely to accept your treatment plan.

I’d like to share some statistics with you. Generally, the average patient in the United States, over the age of 20, spends approximately $500 a year on dental care. It’s critical that you understand that those $500 simply are telling us and our profession that most patients are treating tooth by tooth. They’re event-driven patients. They only come to see you because of an event.

Our job and your team’s job is to change them from event type patient to regenerative-driven patients. Showing them the value so that they’re looking at their entire stomatognathic system and they’re not treating one tooth, they’re treating their entire upper and lower arch and temporomandibular joint complex to get the best long term aesthetics function and cost results.

Doug: I have the last question for you here which is, thinking about when a dentist comes in and says you need this, you need this and I recommend this procedure, we’re talking about the importance of team members and sales. Do you find in general, that patients will sometimes if the team member either is the one to initiate saying I need this or maybe backs up what the dentist says, does that sometimes make the difference versus the dentist being the one to say you need this procedure?
Is there a difference in the level of trust with the patient?

Kevin: Based on my data and research almost 90 percent of all treatment plans are not accepted. For our listeners, don’t take this out of context, but a comprehensive treatment plan includes soft tissue management, hard tissue management and temporomandibular joint treatment and elective procedures. So a treatment typically would be Mr. and Mrs. Smith needs four quadrants of root planing and scaling. They need to be put on a three-month recall or re-care program.

They generally will require some kind of chemical intervention with prescriptions of Prevident, Periogard and Periostat to chemically fight their periodontal disease. And they need a comprehensive periodontal re-evaluation in three to six months.

In general, most patients will require the surgical removal of four wisdom teeth to create room and function and to reduce the chances of infection, pain and discomfort later on in ages. In most cases, almost all patients would benefit from some intervention of orthodontic care to align level raw teeth to provide stable accusal contacts on the upper and lower arch. That is a comprehensive treatment plan.

In most patients, what they’ll say is, “I’ll come in and have my teeth cleaned every six months.” And depending on how the practice evaluates their data and information, some patients would say that there are 100 percent success rate on the treatment plan because the patient had their teeth cleaned every six months.

If you want to be truthful, the reality is that patient did not accept your treatment plan. And the reason they didn’t accept it, in almost all cases, is they found no value. They were not motivated by sex, fear, money or time, and if there’s no motivation, there’s no reason to do something. That falls on the dentists and the dentist’s team members.

I think most contemporary offices would agree that a morning hurdle is critical. That morning hurdle reviews that patient’s medical history, dental history and treatment plan that has not been accepted. And that gets the team member and the dentist on the same side.

So a direct answer to your question is when a team member emphasizes a treatment and that treatment is supported and backed up by the dentist, the success rate increases by over 80 percent. But if you’ve had no morning hurdle, the dentist and the team members are not on the same page and you’re not prepared before Mr. and Mrs. Smith arrive at your office, your success rate drops by 80 percent.

It’s almost like anything. You never should go into a business meeting without a plan.

And that leads me to the last point, and a future podcast will deal with it, and that’s what I call the three Ds. You have to Design, you have to Develop and then you have to Deliver. Not only end to end service, not just clinical, but the business aspect.

The way the phones are answered, the way patients’ questions are answered, the way their insurance forms are filled out and monitored. These three Ds are critical.

For the dentist listening to this podcast, if you’re having a problem, take a look at these three Ds and focus on your design, focus on your development and lastly the way it’s delivered. And if you and your team aren’t on that same page, you cannot be delivering positive results.

The outcome is unproductive, inefficient time, lost revenue and most important, your patients are not getting the care and service they really deserve. They may think it, you may hope they’re getting it, but I think almost all good honest clinicians will realize that they’re short changing their patients.

Not every patient will do exactly what you say, but in the real world, if you can improve five or ten percent, that is huge to your bottom line. And that also is huge to the number of patients you’re providing a higher level of care and service and ultimately, that’s the goal.

Doug: Thank you, Dr. Coughlin. I wanted to reiterate that last part that far from what you said about sales being a dirty thing, truly if that person needs that — one of the things I hear you saying is if that patient really needs this and we fail to sell them on it, then we’ve actually failed their health. Our bottom line and we failed their health.

Kevin: A hundred percent, I agree. Most of us as practitioners, we get caught up in the run-of-the-mill day to day things. In the end, if you look at yourself not just as a service care provider but as a patient yourself, what you want is you want to know what’s best for you and your family and show the value of what’s best for you and your family.

And once you can show that, most people in the United States of America will find a way to get that care and treatment. Data says that almost 85 percent of all patients finance anything over $1,000. And part of not just training your team members, not just educating your team members and yourself, is you have to have financial policies that are available to allow your patients to come up with a structure to meet their financial needs.

Just like anyone, most people don’t pay cash for a car. Most patients do not pay cash for items over $1,000. And in most medical and dental care, $1,000 doesn’t go a long way.

So you have to have the financial plans, processes and procedures in place to make it easy for your patients to attain what they want. And that’s the best health, at the best price for the best service.

Doug: Thank you very much, Dr. Coughlin. I appreciate it.

Kevin: Thank you very much. You’ve been listening to Ascent Dental Solutions. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. I really appreciate this time with you. I want to give special thanks to VOCO Dental Supply. Without their expertise in health, this podcast could not be presented.

And also special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his podcast company, Stand Out and Be Heard. Without his expertise and production acumen this podcast would not be available today.

Thanks again for listening. I hope you enjoyed the podcast and I look forward to speaking to you in the near future.  

E38: Podcast: Tips for recent dental graduates

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of healthcare and the business of healthcare. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Welcome. Today’s podcast is brought to you by Ascent-Dental-Solutions. You’re listening to Ascent Radio and my name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

As always, I’d like to give special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard. Without his expertise in podcasting none of this information would be available. I also would like to thank VOCO. VOCO Dental Supplies provide some of the topnotch, best supplies in the dental business.

VOCO has been sponsoring Ascent-Dental-Solutions and my thanks go out to their company and their support in providing information to the dental community.

Today’s topic is from dental school to a dental practice. Twenty questions to get your career going in the right direction. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. I have 14 practices here in Massachusetts with 150 plus employees, 23 dental associates and I’ve been practicing general dentistry for the last 34 years, and still practice to this day, and actually was practicing a few hours ago.

So the trials and tribulations that I deal with on a day to day basis are coming from personal experience.

But today’s topic, if you’re interested in hearing more, you can go to, sign up for our program and we have a free webinar offered June 26th at 6:00 pm EST. That webinar will go into greater detail about the trials and tribulations of being a recent grad and looking for that first job. Also, this ties in for the senior dentist, knowing what that new graduate is looking for so that both parties end up with the best results.

Let’s get started. First, as a new graduate, you must actually have some kind of background and understanding of where you’d like to go. Your options are generally as follows: you can start in a solo practice on your own, you can join a solo or group private practice, you can consider your corporate options such as a DSO or Dental Support Organization or MSO, Managed Support Organization.

The difference between the two is, in general terms, the Dental Support Organization is backed by dentists, owned by dentists, controlled by dentists. The MSO or Managed Support Organization is generally backed by venture capitalists equity groups.

And although the probably would like to think that the dentist is in control, in general, like most business, the people who put up the money and are paying the bills are generally in control. That would be up for further discussion in a follow up podcast.

But to stay on topic today, what I really would like the new graduate to look at and to consider is to determine what course is best for you. Think about dating. Think about marriage. If you decide that you’d like to have a different partner every six to eight weeks, if you like to play the field, if you’re not really interested in children or settling down, then probably a marriage would not be the best opportunity for you.

In business, ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Would you prefer to handpick your employees, yes or no?
  2. Are you good at networking, meeting new people and marketing your services, yes or no?
  3. Do you have a clear and unique vision for the type of dental practice that you want to create, run and manage, yes or no?
  4. Are you comfortable developing policies and procedures for a wide variety of topics, not just clinically but business-wise for your practice?
  5. Are you passionate about creating a professional environment and surroundings?
  6. Do you have an idea or goal or vision of what you’d like to see your practice and how you’d like to treat your patients and provide care and services?
  7. Are you willing to invest the time it takes to get started? In general terms, in my 34 years of practicing dentistry, I have found that it takes between six and 18 months before your business starts running a profit. And for the new graduate, you must understand the trials and tribulations of not being on a guaranteed income. The risks that not being on a guaranteed income create for you and your family.
  8. Are you comfortable being financially frugal for at least some period of time? Because in those growing years, there’s tremendous risk and there’s tremendous trials and tribulations until your processes and procedures are in place and your patient flow is in order.
  9. Are you interested in handpicking your equipment and your employees?
  10. Do you have a distinct idea of what you want in an employee and in an equipment and supplies?
  11. Do you enjoy and have the self-knowledge and acumen to make business decisions, whether that’s deciding whether to lease or purchase, whether it’s deciding which insurance plans or third party players you’d like to join or not join?
  12. Are you flexible with the location and the community in which you’re willing to work?
  13. Is having a commitment and a tie to the community important to you?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then then more than likely, your personality profile will fit ownership; buying an existing practice, running it and controlling it yourself. If the answers to these questions are no, then in most cases, you would probably be better off considering some kind of corporate entity or group practice where you’re more or less an employee.

And by all means, there’s nothing derogatory with being an employee. Some people actually are much more happy just focusing on their clinical care and treatment and letting the trials and tribulations of running a small or medium or large size business to people who may have better business training, better knowledge and expertise in these areas . So please, don’t take this podcast out of context.

My personal opinion is based on your personality, your drive, your fortitude and what you’re looking for in the ten to 20 questions that I just posed, will probably help you decide whether you really like to be in business for yourself or you’d rather have someone else be in charge of those types of decisions.

I cannot emphasize how critically important coming to that conclusion and answer within yourself will drive you in the correct direction and make your business and personal life so much more comfortable and in my opinion, so much less stressful.

So think about those questions and consider the podcast on June 26th at 6:00 pm for additional information when I’ll go into greater details with Mr. Steve Parker, the CEO of Excellence in Dentistry and also the producer with Woody Oakes, Dr. Woody Oakes of The Profitable Dentist Magazine. I cannot emphasize the importance, again, of asking these questions, reflecting on them and having them determine the direction that’s best suited for you, your family and your personality.

Once you get through with the direction, you must then consider, what are the options for developing and purchasing a solo practice? In this short 20 minute podcast, I could generally tell you these are some of the things that you should consider. You should be able to obtain the last three year tax returns from the office that you’re interested in purchasing.

For this hypothetical example, assume that the average is $1 million. I will then tell you in general terms, somewhere between 35 and 60 percent of that fee would be the purchase price, excluding any real estate. That would be generally 80 to 65 percent would be associated with goodwill and the balance would be accounts receivable, supplies and inventory.

Just as a general rule, anywhere between 35 and 65 percent of those average three years will be a ballpark figure of what I think will be a relatively fair acquisition for the practice. The reason there’s such a broad range between 35 and 65 percent is the practice that you’re considering, is the existing owner going to stay with the practice or are they going to leave the practice immediately, or in some timeframe in the next 12 to 24 months?

The longer the existing owner is willing to stay with you, in my personal opinion, the higher the percentage and the more valuable the practice would be for you. Because more likely than not, the goodwill that you’re paying for you’ll actually get value for. More than likely, the staff will stay with you. More than likely the majority of patients will stay with you.

When you make this acquisition into a solo practice and the existing owner plans on leaving the practice relatively soon, then my personal experience over three decades is that approximately 30 to 40 percent of the patient base will be lost and approximately 50 percent of the staff will leave within 12 months. And that’s because they haven’t had a chance to adjust to your philosophies, your process and procedures.

Taking a look at the next option, which is joining a corporate entity, I think you have to understand some of the basic business principles. When you’re joining a corporate, whether it be a DSO or MSO, understand one thing; it is a business and they have investors and they must provide a return on their investment to those investors. If they don’t, then that equity group has made a bad decision and in my opinion, very seldom do they like making a bad decision.

Knowing that, the first thing you have to understand is in most cases you’ll be compensated on either a production or collection basis. Right now throughout the United States, anywhere between 25 and 35 percent of net collected money is generally considered a realistic compensation package. In many cases, these corporate entities will want you to pay between 25 to 100 percent of your laboratory bill.

In most cases, they’ll be willing to offer you some kind of continuing education package, some type of 401k profit plan. In most cases, they won’t contribute to their profit plan, but at least it would be managed and maintained and be a vehicle for you to put in pre-tax dollars. In many cases, they will pay for your malpractice insurance.

And for the new graduates, generally you can expect the malpractice cost annually of anywhere from $1,800 a year to about $5,500 dollars a year, depending on the procedures, your background and training that you’re implementing.

I cannot emphasize enough that from my own personal bias, owning something, in most cases, offers the greatest likelihood of financial success. Obviously, there are exceptions all over the place, but my personal opinion is for the best financial success I would guide the new graduate to consider ownership.

Remember, for those novices, when you don’t own the majority or 100 percent, many times the decision processes will be made by other people. So you may share in the profit, you may have ownership, but the decision process may be out of your hands because the majority or principal ownership is owned by other entities, other individuals. And that may or may not be something for you to consider.

In the end, corporations that offer MSOs and DSOs, they offer you a work-life balance. As I like to say, they paint a tremendous picture of how you can go home at night with less worries and stress, focus in on what you’ve learned over the last four to six years of dental education and provide excellent high level care and service to your patients, which in my personal opinion as a healthcare provider, should be the number one goal.

What you give up is control. What you give up is the autonomy to take your business, your patients and your practice in the direction that you think is best.

That corporation may in the back of their mind want the best, but they have a different strategy and different obligations. Their obligation is to minimize expenses, maximize profit. So in a specific period of time, usually between three and seven years, they’ll plan on selling that asset and move on to another category of assets or perhaps in an entirely different business direction. And the new owners may have similar or different wants and needs. So you must understand that you may have to be flexible because what you like now, three to seven years down the road may be entirely different. It may be better, but it could also be worse.

When you’re in that solo practice or group practice that’s owned and provided by dentists, many times you’re on like minds. You have a similar idea, you’re more focused on quality control, you’re more focused on long term relations and you’re more focused on building long term relationships and business processes and procedures that will prove over the test of time. You’re in it for the long gain.

I always say that these are difficult decisions. They need a process and a procedure. You need to really think long and hard about what makes you tick. And once you understand that, you’ll make the correct decision, or most likely the correct decision, to move in the direction of solo and group practices controlled and owned by dentists or corporate dentistry that are generally managed and run by VCs, business men and women that may or may not have a similar strategy that meets your wants and needs.

Like everything in life, there is no 100 percent guarantee in any route. Each of us in our dental profession have strong beliefs and desires about what corporate dentistry is and is not, and what private practice is and is not. And after 34 years, my personal opinion, again, is your personality, what makes you tick will determine whether one direction or the other direction is best for you.

I’m planning in going into greater detail on the upcoming webinar this June 26th at approximately 6:00 pm at night. Please go to Ascent-Dental-Solutions, in that website to sign up. I look forward to going into greater detail with Mr. Steve Parker and I hope to be able to answer questions online.

Please feel free to submit them to Ascent-Dental-Solutions so that I can, perhaps, address some of these questions ahead of time and be prepared for them.

You’ve been listening to Ascent Radio. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. And again, special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard.

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!

E37:Podcast: Chris Collins on building your dental brand online

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Good afternoon. This is Ascent Dental Solutions. You’re listening to Ascent Radio. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and I want to thank Doug Foresta. Without his expertise and his business, Stand Out and Be Heard, we would not be able to have this podcast on a weekly basis. Doug, thank you so much for your expertise and your knowledge in podcasting.

I also want to give special thanks to VOCO. VOCO has also been a sponsor of Ascent Dental Solutions. VOCO is a German company with headquarters in South Carolina and they provide over 210 different dental products to the dental market. These products are excellent. They can compete with any brand and their care and service to my organization has been exceptional. Thank you, VOCO, for your promotion.

Today, our guest is Mr. Chris Collins. Chris is a web designer, a graphic designer, a creative freelancer. He works with entrepreneurs, small businesses around the world to help their businesses grow and start their dream products.

In full disclosure, the logo for Ascent-Dental-Solutions, which focuses on knowledge, consultation, development and training, was produced and done by Chris. Chris, nothing but positive reviews for my logo. I want to thank you very much.

How can you help the healthcare profession, but dentists in particular, improve their branding? What are your suggestions and recommendations? And is branding even important for a solo practitioner or a small group practice or large group practice?

Chris: Thank you for having me on and thank you for complimenting me about the logo. It was a lot of fun to make and I’m glad that you got good feedback. I think branding is of the utmost importance for all businesses, dentists and healthcare alike. We’re living in an age where folks can pick and choose a lot of different options and the world is at their fingertips on the internet. A quick Google search away they can find many different options, get in the car and go to many different practitioners, dentists, anything.

Having very strong branding, I think, is quite important because a lot of people make their decisions based on what they see online or what they see in print and sometime it just comes down to do I like the look of this business? You want to have it be consistent as well.

I see a lot of businesses thrown around different materials both online and in print and in person that don’t really give a cohesive and consistent look into what their business is all about. So I think that branding can really help with that and especially logos and flyers, advertisements, all those things.

Kevin: In your research, Chris, in your opinion, from the general public standpoint, what is probably most important in our listeners, or let’s just say our patients or clients? What are they looking for that, in you research, is most important to the physician or dentist in healthcare? What are their patients and clients really looking for?

Chris: I think it depends on the person who’s looking. I think there are a lot of different aspects to why someone would pick a certain business. So the way that you present yourself, both online and in print through marketing of any kind, is very important.

So you want to kind of cover all your bases and think about the type of audience that you have or the type of customer base you have. You want to look at the reviews you’re getting online, which are very important, and see what people are saying. You want to take a look at your competitors and see why maybe they’re getting more business than you are. And use marketing and use the internet and social media and design to your advantage.

Kevin: I’ll share with the listeners a story that just happened to me last week. I started business in 1983. For those listeners, we have 14 offices, about 150 employees here in western Massachusetts. I’ve been doing double trunk ads in the Yellow Pages back in the early 80’s, radio shows, TV, all kinds of different marketing. Recently, one of the individuals associated in our business thought it might be sought of comical to do a TV ad where the doctor is actually holding a carpenter drill and that drill is held in the hand like they’re drilling on a patient’s mouth.

The objective, in my opinion, was to lighten up the advertisement, to add some humor. The negative feedback from that, in my opinion, was astounding. In other words, I spent 34 years building a state of the art practice with the highest levels of efficacy, service and care, and in a 60 second pitch you sort of defeated almost all of that in such a short period of time.

I know that the intentions were positive, but the results, in my opinion, were less than positive. And certainly, the feedback that I’ve heard from individuals like, “Dr. Coughlin, what was the idea of having that old-fashioned drill? That scared me.”  Et cetera, et cetera.  

I learned firsthand how something unintentional can have very intentional consequences.  It could have happened to me, it could have happened to any of our listeners, but I would be very cautious on how you present your business and yourself and the points you made, also depends on the individual clients that you’re promoting.

My particular expertise is you generally have three categories of patients or clients. You have those gold card patients that have no insurance. They demand the highest level of care and service. They have the financial means to get that care and service. They can be extremely demanding and want only the best.

Then you have the other extreme that are many times under subsidized government plans. They generally pay for no care and no service. These are subsidized by taxpayers and generally their treatments are dictated by government agencies. In other words, they only pay for certain procedures and processes, not everything.

Then the vast majority falls somewhere in the middle. They’re looking for the highest level of care and service, but it has to be affordable for them or at least terms have to become available for that affordability so they can get the care and service they’re looking for. In your professional opinion, with those three basic marketplaces, do you see anything particular in a brand that works better in one area rather than another?

Chris: Yeah, I think it goes without saying that I’m learning something. Thank you for telling me a lot about this. I don’t know too much about dental industry, but that makes a lot of sense that those three exist and that you may want to look at them in a different light. I think that yeah, your branding can definitely differ.

If you have someone who has a lot of income to spend on this and is basically paying for things out of pocket, if I’m understanding that correctly, they want to know that the quality is there. And maybe the price isn’t as important, so they want to see all the options. They want to be impressed by what you have to offer.

Whereas other folks really want a kind of down to earth, very comforting like you come in, we are not going to cost an arm and a leg, we’ll take care of everything for you. Your insurance will be accepted. Everything is going to be easy and painless.  And they may not want to be scared away by the big ticket items that they may want but they just can’t afford.

I’m not sure if that answers your question, but branding can do a lot and marketing can do a lot to discourage folks from coming if they only are interested in one thing, say price, or it can encourage people if they’re interested in more. So you can’t ignore those aspects of marketing and let customers fall through your fingers or be scared away.

Kevin: Chris, take us through the process. For those listeners thinking about hiring you or just trying to gather additional information, what is the actual process where you educate the healthcare professional in how to create a brand, how to market that brand? What are the actual steps and the time that’s associated and potentially the cost of creating a brand that’s going to be successful in the short and long term?

Chris: It’s different for everyone and I think that’s an important part of my process which is every business and every person and every entrepreneur has a story. I really liked hearing your story about the failed TV ad, that was really interesting to me. So if I were meeting with you or any other business, I would want to hear your stories first and usually within a few minutes, I get a very clear idea of what the business is like and what the person is like and the kind of customers that they get, and more importantly, the kind of customers that they want.

It’s usually very clear quickly what their target demographic is and what their business is all about. It’s funny that in such a short time I can get that information.

People, when they start speaking about their passion, project or their business or whatever we’re working on, it becomes clear that they are interested in a particular demographic. There’s a particular vibe, I guess. And that’s one of my strengths, I think, is seeing right away the type of business and the direction that they want to go in.

From there we kind of know who they’re looking for as a customer and we can kind of drill down what has worked in the past and what could work. And a lot of times what they’re doing now they may know I want to attract this kind of customer to my business.

But everything that they’re doing in terms of branding or marketing isn’t really attracting that type of person. So we can kind of look at it and say, “Why don’t we start here? Why don’t we design a brand that speaks to those people?”

First we may start with the logo. Website is of great importance. Do we want to do advertising? Do we want to do social media? Are you thinking you’re going to be getting a lot of new customers from the internet? If so, we probably want to spend a lot of time thinking about SEO, which is Search Engine Optimization. So I do pretty much all of that for my clients.

They could start with just an idea and by the end of working with me we have a logo, we’ve got a website, we’ve got a whole plan going forward, we’ve got a store online. Whatever it is they want, I guess in your case it wouldn’t be a store, but we can do it all. It really starts with the vision that they have.

Kevin: Nationally, the United States, the average dentist has revenues depending on who you’re quoting and the data you’re looking at, of anywhere between $800,000 and $1.2 million. And as a general rule of thumb, the marketing budget for that is between two and four percent.

So basically speaking, if we took $1 million and we said five percent, you have roughly a $50,000 to $ 35,000 budget yearly. Are those dollars adequate to create the expertise that you have for, I hate to use the word average practitioner, but to give our listeners some down and dirty information so that they can help process the information and create the right processes and procedures that work best for them?

Chris: Yeah, I would say that’s adequate. I know that all businesses are different and I pride myself and I hope other people in my profession do too, on working with companies of different sizes. I really like working with small businesses as well as larger businesses and entrepreneurs.

Typically, to create a brand and a website and just to get it all started online, which is the biggest part of my business, usually costs less than $5,000 at least for a basic but beautiful website. That leaves quite a bit for, I would suggest, advertising.

I don’t know if you want to talk more about advertising, but advertising using Google is an amazing tool. You talked about your television ad, but nowadays you can target your ads; who is searching for a dentist within five miles of this particular location?

So you can really drill down and you’re only paying for it when people click on your ad and go right to your storefront or your website or you’re paying only when people call your business. So you’re really drilling down to potential customers. You’re drilling down to I’m paying for when people call, new customers call. And then you can work with your staff to make sure that hopefully they make the appointment and you get a new client or customer.

Kevin: I can tell you from my own 34 years of experience owning a small business and building a small business that there’s two things our listener should consider. One, getting them to call the office. How do you get them through that front door? But equally, if not just as important, if you screen, your profile, you evaluate the calls coming in, the single biggest question that we get day in and day out, is do you accept a dental insurance?

Since the vast majority throughout the United States has some kind of dental insurance, for the vast majority of dental practices, they would be marketing to an insurance based clientele.

And no matter how great the brand is, no matter how much the patients love you, at the end it many times comes down to dollar and cents for the vast majority of patients. And the question that we’ve been charting for years, and that single one question is, do you accept our plan?

For our listeners out there, please make sure you know the dental plans that you’re accepting and not accepting. Because you can have a hundred calls in a week, but if I’m correct — and I believe I am — that they want to know, is the procedure covered, do you accept my insurance, and the answer is no, then you may be paying for a click you may be marketing. And really I think for the vast majority of healthcare professionals, certainly in the field of dentistry, certainly your easiest clienteles to deal with, your most profitable clienteles are those that are fee for service.

You don’t need ancillary team members to process claims, call insurance companies, hunt down those finances, determine what’s approved and what’s not approved, what would be paid for, what’s not paid for. So those individuals that don’t have insurance, in my personal experience, those are the ideal, best clients for your practice to build the most profitable and successful business.

For all of us we probably have to meld these different groups of clients in there and I would caution you to make sure your front desk team members, your patient coordinating schedulers know exactly what plans are covered, what plans aren’t covered and what kind of dollars would be generated from the procedures that you’ve accepted in those plans. And if not, you many times find out you’re seeing plenty of patients but you’re losing money month after month because the plans that you’ve signed up for are no longer cost effective.

I’ll give you a quick example. The state pays $14 to provide inhalation sedation. And I’m saying to myself, if it’s costing me $100 to get my nitrous oxide tanks filled and I’m being reimbursed $14, you don’t have to be a mathematical wizard to find out that this is probably not a profitable procedure for you and your staff.

We’ve got a few minutes left and Chris, if people were trying to find you, if they wanted to get out there and give you a call or send you an email, what’s the best way to contact you?

Chris: I would say, just go right over to my website which is My brand is Creative. I was going to mention, if we do have a minute, about what you just said. You can be very creative about getting in front of some of these problems that you had.

You said a lot of people are asking the question, do you accept my insurance? If I heard that from a client, I would say, this is maybe something you’re wasting a lot of time on answering that question, maybe saying no, maybe saying yes. So we should have on the website a very easy to spot place where that question can be answered right away for them.

In terms of the advertising, you’re right. You don’t want to be paying for a click from someone who may not end up being customer, so why not create advertisements online that cover those basics? I know when I’m searching for a practice I may say, who accepts in the western Mass area, my insurance. That may be my search online. And you can profit on that by creating an ad that targets people who are searching for just that.

So you could have a series of ads that are targeting folks who only accept the types of insurance that you accept. Or if you’re looking for people who don’t have any insurance because they’re the better customers, create ads that look for folks who don’t have insurance. So there’re a lot of ways to do that.

Like I said, my website is So if you’d like to find creative ways to get more business, that’s pretty much what I do.

Kevin: Chris, it’s been a pleasure for you to take your busy schedule and speak to us on today’s podcast. Again, my personal thanks. The logo you developed and the assets that you’ve helped me with in developing a brand for Ascent-Dental-Solutions has been instrumental in providing success. Thank you so much. And again, for the listeners, it’s Thank you Chris so much for your expertise.

And I want to thank Mr. Doug Foresta and his company Stand Out and Be Heard for the production of this podcast. Week after week he spends his expertise and time to put out the best product available.

You’ve been listening to Ascent Radio. My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin and the knowledge, understanding, education and training of Ascent Dental Solutions is paramount.

And I also want to end by thanking VOCO for their expertise and their help in sponsoring this information to get out to the healthcare profession and businesses in general.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, thanks so much for listening and I look forward to speaking to you very soon.

E36: Podcast: Jeff Rock on the benefits of LinkedIn for dentists

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of healthcare and the business of healthcare. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Welcome. This is Ascent-Dental-Solutions. You’re listening to Ascent Radio and my name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Before I begin the podcast, I’d like to thank VOCO Dental Supply Company who has been providing sponsorship for this. They are one of the world leaders in some of the best dental products available for the clinical treatment of our patients, which is perhaps, our most important asset. I’d also like to give special thanks to Mr. Doug Foresta. He is the owner of Stand Out and Be Heard and without his expertise none of this podcast would be available.

I’m pleased today to introduce Mr. Jeff Rock. Although most of our listeners are dentists, we have business leaders and business people all over the world listening to this podcast. And I’m fortunate enough to have Mr. Rock, who is a story activist, a career coach, a personal branding consultant, speaker and workshop leader.

I’m fortunate to have Jeff today in particular, talk about LinkedIn and how it can affect our profession, how it can affect actually all businesses. You think after 34 years of operating a small business and owner of 14 dental practices and 160 employees, I would know more than I do about LinkedIn. That’s why I asked Jeff to speak today.

Mr. Rock, thank you so much for taking your valuable time to talk to our audience today. Can you just tell us what you think some of the best attributes of LinkedIn is for our audience.

Jeff: Sure, and please call me Jeff. I’m really glad to be here talking with you today, Kevin. I’m a big proponent of LinkedIn, not because LinkedIn pays me anything, but because I’ve seen what’s it has been able to do for my clients. So why would someone who owns a dental business want to be on LinkedIn? And there’s lots of reasons and we can go into them in more detail, time permitting, but if you look at LinkedIn in broader terms of social media, it’s the place for professionals. No one’s even close in terms of the number of professionals that are on there and active. It’s a place for you to establish and communicate your brand and your brand value.

Also, it’s a way to connect with others in the dental community and other business owners so that you can keep your practice current and keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry and again, maintain the brand of your practice.

Kevin: Jeff, in your experience and expertise, what are some of the biggest mistakes that we as professionals make using LinkedIn?

Jeff: The biggest mistake is not being on it. Disregarding it as part of your practice. I have a friend who’s probably one of the best known people in social media, Neal Schaffer, and he says social medial replaces nothing, yet compliments everything. I think that that’s absolutely true of dentistry as well. You have to show up and have a presence.

It’s trite to say that we are going through a lot of change technologically. We absolutely are, but it’s relevant to dental practices. Things change quickly and from a technology perspective, from a demographics perspective, it really pays to be plugged in. And LinkedIn is one of the places where you can have a presence.

I think the biggest mistake is not being there and then the second biggest mistake is ignoring your community. And if I had to put a third, I would say it’s not understanding that you’ve got multiple audiences. So your audiences are patients, but also potential employees.

You’ve had a lot of employees, Kevin, and I’m sure that you would attribute a lot of your success to having really good employees. Top talent is a differentiator. And being present on LinkedIn and establishing yourself as a great place to work is a competitive advantage and will be more so as the talent pool gets smaller and all the baby boomers retire.

Kevin: Let’s get into some of the nuts and bolts since our listeners have all different areas and levels of expertise when it comes to social media, but in particular LinkedIn. As far as your expertise and your Swift River Coaching expertise and experience, what would you say the contact frequency is? Should you be updating your LinkedIn profile weekly, monthly, quarterly, daily? What’s your recommendation?

Jeff: My recommendation is probably for something along a practice, weekly is fine. If you do it on a daily basis, once you get everything set up to your liking, and by set up I mean you’ve got a great headshot, professional headshot there, that your headline differentiates you to some degree, that there is a summary that expresses your brand and your personality and that you’re connected to the groups and the organizations and the thought leaders that you want to follow. Once all that is established, if you do a daily practice, ten minutes a day is plenty to keep in touch with your community and also to feed your community so that you are recognized as an active member. But realistically you could probably do an hour a week to keep on top of things.

Kevin: Do you create, Jeff, a master link or do you take the entire LinkedIn community that you’re associated with and break them into categories? For example, just self-promoting myself, do I break it down into being a speaker, a business leader, a clinician, or do you consider that as one group and you talk and educate that group as one single entity?

Jeff: I would say as one single entity. For yourself as example, those are all parts of you and who you are and what you do. Many of my clients have different aspects of their careers. Some are speakers, some are running their businesses, they are authors. They tend to have multiple disciplines or cross disciplines and different ways of expressing who they are. And maybe they’re doing soccer coaching on the side. I like to have it as one continuous cohesive message because it’s really all about who you are as a human being. And one of the things you want out of LinkedIn is to come across as a human. Not just a dentist, but someone who’s a real person with lots of interests and things that make them interesting and that are particular to the individual that brings a different perspective to the practice. So I like to see everything combined.

Kevin: Let me ask you a follow up question, Jeff. When you go onto LinkedIn and Dr. Jones or Dr. Smith says, “Will you accept?” And then after you accept them into your LinkedIn network, there is a multitude of other individuals who you may or may not know. Do you, as a general rule, recommend accepting all of these individuals? How do you determine which ones you should accept?

Or is it true of LinkedIn, like it is advertisement, there’s almost no bad advertisement and there’s no downside of connecting with pretty much anyone on LinkedIn? What would be your guidance and expertise to new people to LinkedIn or those considering joining LinkedIn to promote themselves and their businesses?

Jeff: What I tell people is that it’s very much a numbers game. Because the more people you’re connected to, the further your reach. The deeper you reach. I have, I think I’m closing in on something close to 1,400 direct connections where you see three levels down.

So that puts me in the many, many, many millions of people that I can then connect with or who can see me. It’s very rare where there is someone on LinkedIn who is fraudulent like you often get in Facebook. If somebody has a photo and there’s some history there and more than a couple of connections, if they look legit, then I accept them.

One of the other reasons that’s most compounding is, you don’t know who they’re connected to that will connect with you. There may be someone that’s two or three levels down that could make a huge difference in your life or their life that will happen because of that.

With all of the connections I have globally, I can see into most companies at some level in the world and particularly, in the United States because I have so many connections. So it behooves you to have a high number.

The other thing is once you hit 500, you get the 500 Plus badge in LinkedIn and so people who look at you will think of you as a super connector and that’s a positive aspect.

Kevin: You mentioned earlier in this podcast, Jeff, that as a general rule, you might want to reach out and update contacts on a weekly basis. When you’re updating either your own profile or expressing some kind of program or interest that you have, is there a certain volume, a certain number of words or paragraphs that we should stick to that gives you the most recognition or let’s just say, the biggest bang for your buck?

Jeff: When you’re reaching out to individuals directly, keep it short and on point. If you’re writing a post that you’re going to post on LinkedIn, generally speaking, 500 to 1,000 words is a good amount. If it’s much beyond 1,000 you’re going to lose people. And if it’s much below 500 then it’s hard to really get a point across.

Kevin: How long have you actually been a coach of Swift River Coaching? How long have you been doing this particular area of expertise?

Jeff: I started my company in 2010. I’ve been an official coach since 2006, but I had a lot of stuff when I was in Corporate America and coaching was part of my role. But as a career coach and story activist, it’s been seven years.

Kevin: That’s fantastic. If people wanted to reach out to you, Jeff, if they wanted your expertise and your knowledge, and particularly the healthcare community, but my area of expertise in the dental field, how would they reach you? How would they be able to get in touch for you to share your expertise and knowledge to get them started in LinkedIn so that it can be the most effective for their business and their team members?

Jeff: The easiest way is to visit my page which is I offer a free consultation for 30 minutes to tell you if and how I can help you. Or just send me an email

Kevin: Fantastic. And is there a number, a cell number or phone number you’d like to share?

Jeff: Sure. It’s 413-668-8433.

Kevin: I’d like to let the listeners know that if you’re new to my podcast, I am a practicing dentist. I work full time. I’ve been practicing since 1983. I have 14 locations, approximately 150 employees, and we see on average about 116,000 patient visits a year.

And for those healthcare professionals listening or any business people listening, a day does not go by where someone hasn’t connected with me or my office through social media, whether it’s LinkedIn, whether it’s Facebook.

Jeff, I cannot thank you enough. We’ve been fortunate enough to be listening to Mr. Jeff Rock. He’s the owner and creator of Swift River Coaching and his expertise is a career coach, personal branding consultant, speaker and workshop leader.

If you’d like to speak with Mr. Rock, he can be reached at 413668-8433 and his email is Jeff I can’t thank you enough for being with us today. I really appreciate your expertise and taking the time to educate our listeners.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. You’ve been listening to Ascent Radio with a focus on knowledge, development, expertise and training. This is Ascent Radio and my special thanks to VOCO, who’s been sponsoring our podcast. Their areas of expertise and their products in dental services and dental products is without compare. Thank you, VOCO.

And I’d also like to say thank you to Mr. Doug Foresta and his company, Stand Out and Be Heard. Without his expertise this podcast could not be available.

My name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin. Thank you so much for listening and I look forward to talking to you very soon. Thank you.