If you tell kids today that there was a time when the Internet didn’t exist, they’d be amazed. In fact, they’d wonder how you made it through life. Today’s dentists would be equally surprised to hear that there was a time when any dentist could open a practice and automatically be successful. Due to the low supply and high demand of dentists at that time, practice success was virtually guaranteed. However, even in this era of technological advancements, today’s new dentists are struggling and wondering if they’ll ever make it. Things may seem bleak, but if new dentists gain a thorough understanding of today’s unique challenges they have the opportunity to prosper.
Understanding the challenges
There are unique challenges facing new dental graduates. The growth of delivery models including dental service organizations and small group practices, insurance carriers’ lowering reimbursements, the challenges of keeping up with clinical techniques and new technology and mounting student loan debt have all, at the very least, challenged new dentists to give critical consideration to their next steps. Here are five recommendations that can help every new dentist move toward a more successful career.
Analyze before purchasing
A new dentist should perform a complete business analysis before purchasing a practice. Almost everyone has a valuation performed when purchasing a practice. However, it’s important to conduct a complete and thorough analysis of the practice to determine future stability and growth. There is always some level of attrition when a practice is purchased. A business analysis looks at the current state of the practice and future trends that will help indicate the attrition rate. Practice valuations only look at the stated value of the practice today.
After the purchase, go slow
When a new dentist begins telling patients about all the dental treatment they need, things that weren’t done, things that weren’t done well, and so forth, it creates a cascade of patients leaving the practice. Build relationships. Get to know your patients. Gradually, everything else will fall into place.
Find a mentor
Having a mentor is one of the most powerful strategies of highly successful people. One new dentist who I knew well had his father’s best friend — a CEO of a Fortune 500 company —as a mentor who was able to help advise him on how to build a $1 million dental practice. Mentors can be friends, family, instructors, colleagues or outside advisors. What matters most is their ability to provide guidance on subjects that are of critical importance to the career of the new dentist. The right mentor can change the course of a new dentist’s career.
Start saving early
One dentist I knew told me that from the time he entered practice he would take his pocket change every night and throw it into a shoebox. He believed that if he started saving pennies, nickels and quarters he would be training himself to move on to dollars — hundreds and thousands. Over time, this new dentist was on track to be financially independent at the age of 52 with only a slightly above average production level practice. The point of the story is not to save your change. The point is to start saving early. According to the Levin Group Data Center the average retirement age of a dentist is now 70.8 years of age. We believe this will be increasing consistently until it reaches approximately 75 years of age. Saving early will create financial independence much earlier than the current average retirement age.
Create your vision
Give serious thought to your vision for the future. Some new dentists want to own their own practices. Others want to build a small group of practices. And there are a certain number of new dentists who simply want to find a job for a few years to pay off some debt. The important factor is to understand your vision of where you would like to be in five years. Consider where you see yourself in five years, where you want to live, whether you want to be an owner, an employee, or associate and how much debt you’re willing to accumulate. These factors should be carefully thought through before making career decisions, and should be revisited regularly to see if they are still on point for your life.
Dentistry is a fantastic profession where you spend your career helping people. But it is also a business with all the associated business concerns and challenges. Dentists who use these tips to help decide what type of career they want to have and how best to pursue it, can be poised for success.
Dr. Levin is the CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm. Founded in 1985, Levin Group has worked with over 30,000 dental practices. Dr. Levin has authored 65 books and over 4,000 articles on dental practice management and marketing. To contact Dr. Levin, visit www.levingroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.