Whether you are venturing out from being an associate or you have just graduated dental school, this could most likely be the most stressful time in your career; if not your life. The mental checklists alone are enough to drive you to the point where you wonder if it is best you stay in a practice as an associate where budgets, staff, and marketing are someone else’s problem. But, you survived dental school, you can survive this as well. While the lucky few can afford the luxury of hiring a consultant to do everything for them, the rest are left to start from scratch on their own. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Demographic Studies and Surveying
There are many companies, including the American Dental Association that can help you research an area to open your practice. They will provide data that tells you how many dental offices are in an area and what their specialty is. Although the “cluster effect” in retail works well, a method where you may find many retailers grouped together with the mentality “If they don’t have it next door; we will”, does not work so well in dentistry. Find a city where your services are needed or where your practice can stand out and succeed. Many dentists open their practices in a community they live in or grew up in. Just make sure if you do that, the area is not blanketing with too many dental offices. You can also do surveys in the area to determine the community’s dental needs.
Set a Budget and Stick to It!
It is easy to get carried away. You have in your mind what your dream office will be. You can always expand as you grow. If you fill every operatory and buy every new piece of technology out there, you will be buried in debt. Dental supply companies offer refurbished equipment that is usually less than five years old and looks brand new. A reputable company will also offer warranties with this equipment as they would a brand new unit. If your office has four operatories, do you really need to have them ready to use immediately if you are brand new? Chances are, no. The point is to make sure you have the necessities to house a dental hygienist and yourself while you build your patient base.
Hire a Dental Team
The biggest mistake some dentists make is thinking that they can get away with the bare minimum when it comes to staff. In order for you to look professional and be ready to build your client base, you at least need a hygienist, dental assistant, and front office administrator: You also do not want to wait until you are about to open or are open to fill these positions. Your new dental team will be essential in helping you set up the office and marketing. As you begin marketing, it will be important to have someone answering your phones and making appointments prior to the office being open for business.
A great way to build your cliental is to become a part of some dental insurance programs. There are different types of dental programs: HMO, PPO, traditional, dental fee plans, and government assisted programs. In order to be a part of these programs, you must begin the process of credentialing which can be a long process depending on the insurance company and type of insurance it is. Becoming an in network provider will get your name on lists for dental offices that they refer the insured to. This could be a huge marketing tool for you.
If you have not already, it is a great idea to enroll in a dental practice management program for yourself. This type of program will help you see the administrative side of dentistry so that you can better oversee your business. As a dentist, it will only benefit you to know about insurance, reports, scheduling, and creating an office manual for your team to follow. Your name is on the door; always be aware of what is going on, especially with accounts and insurance. The investment in a continuing education program in dental management will pay for itself.
Marketing and Social Media
Would you believe that a lot of marketing can be free marketing? Social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter are huge resources for marketing your dental practice. These are great places to start. Next you should set up a website. In this day and age when people hear about a business, new or old, the first thing they do is check out the website. Have this in place before you begin advertising in local magazine and papers. Join your local Chamber of Commerce, there you will meet local business owners and network with them at events. Do not be shy and timid when it comes to marketing your business. Invite local newspapers to see your office and do an article, send your team out to other dental practices to introduce your practice to the dental community, and hand out your business cards at every opportunity you get.
Last, but not least, do not forget to breathe and utilize your resources when possible. Talk to other dentists who have opened up practices, like former classmates or people in a study club. Contact your local dental association and network with other dentists. Remember you are not the first person to take this huge step and never forget the outcome, a dental practice you can be proud of. These stressful days will one day be a distant memory.