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Practice Life Stages: Ways to Grow

The first few years of practice were hard. You assembled your staff, established your systems, and built a patient base, all of which took long days and a lot of dedication. Now comes the time to enjoy the consistent practice growth for which you’ve laid the foundation. But this doesn’t mean you can stop putting in effort, it just means you may need to shift your focus a bit. 

Ms. Linda Miles, CSP, CMC, Founder of Linda L. Miles and Associates (now Miles Global), created a guide to success throughout the stages of a dental practice. This second part of a three-part life-cycle series summarizes her thoughts on growing and maintaining a practice that is both meaningful to you and delivers an exceptional patient experience:

  1. Learn to Lead: As the dentist you are the undisputed leader—business owner, clinician and head of the office. You must lead by example and set the ethics, culture and personality of the office.  The goal is not necessarily to be liked or loved, (though either is fine) but to be respected. Respect must be earned. Be enthusiastic, professional and courteous. Provide service that is capable of changing a patient’s life.

  2. Collections are Critical: As the practice grows, so do the accounts receivable. Have firm payment expectations that are sufficient to provide the cash flow necessary to maintain the practice and, most importantly, clearly communicate those policies to patients before you begin treatment. Accepting multiple payment options such as cash, major credit cards or a healthcare credit card may help patients when they are committing to their care plan.

  3. Attract New Patients: Marketing has two parts. One third of your efforts should focus on acquiring new patients and the remainder should go toward retaining your current patient base. Create such a WOW experience internally that your patients know they are appreciated and wouldn’t think about leaving the practice. A suggested marketing budget for an established practice is about three to four percent of monthly collections.

  4. Be Tech Savvy: Invest in the right technology and then invest in training on the right technology. Updated equipment and technology enhance the value of the practice in the eyes of potential tech savvy patients, but also for future buyers.

  5. Learn to Balance: Now is the time that you should be able to enjoy some of the fruits of your labor. Develop life balance by investing time in friends, family and hobbies. This is done not by neglecting your practice, but by relying on the systems you’ve established and your practice’s increased productivity to achieve your practice goals in fewer days. This will also involve learning to delegate—assigning jobs to others, while insuring that they have the resources and mentoring needed to take on the responsibilities. Ideally you should be able to work three days per week, thus leaving time to focus on your life and interests outside the office. This can set the foundation for a more fulfilling retirement.

  6. Determine Your Future: During the last ten years of your anticipated practice life you should think about life after dentistry and how you would like to transition out. If you have more than 2,500 active charts you might consider bringing in an associate, selecting an excellent clinician who matches well with your office culture and personality.

  7. Reinvest in Your Passion: If you elect to stay in practice rather than retire you should now consider investing time to learn new clinical procedures and money to update to new technology and an appealing facility. Personal growth reignites your passion for dentistry, and the investment in new technology and a modern facility will increase the value of the practice when it is time to sell.

This information is based on “The Four Life Stages of a Dental Practice:  A Guide to Success” by Linda Miles, CSP, CMC, Founder of Linda L. Miles & Associates (now Miles Global) and was provided courtesy of CareCredit, an endorsed company of ADA Business Enterprises, Inc.  Learn more about CareCredit here or calling 1.800.800.5110.

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