Dental Entrepreneurs and Practice owners – a special breed
Owning a business is still one of life’s greatest achievements. You are basically in control of your destiny. You are your own boss and you are in charge. You get all the perks and you get all the profits.
When you are the sole proprietor of a small business you must perform many roles and functions. You are the C.E.O., C.F.O. and oversee the H.R. department. It’s complicated work and requires many skills and resources. That is why so many start-up businesses fail. Some business owners say it can be lonely and all consuming at times. After all, you take all the risks and have all the responsibility.
Dentists wear many hats and operate their business in a highly regulated industry. The average dentist is treating patients while the business is happening around them. It is a unique environment that creates additional challenges and forced dependency. The dental business model leaves very little wiggle room for competence as compared to other businesses. Additionally, the healthcare environment has two distinct operations (the clinical and the business) that must perform simultaneously with excellence and efficiency.
The clinical side of running a healthcare facility requires diagnostic testing and analysis. The guidelines and laws governing these services require licensed professionals to diagnose, administer and recommend treatment or therapy. In addition to serving the ill and providing wellness visits, the healthcare community is focused on prevention which relies on patient compliance and socio economics.
The operational aspect of the business is also regulated and requires trained professionals to manage the day to day activities. These functions range from the traditional transactional work like scheduling and billing to managing payroll, paying taxes and a host of other financial, regulatory, human resource and facility management activities.
While the operations division or team is the engine of your business, it does not produce revenue! Centralizing these activities and streamlining them must be a focus for your office. Consider software upgrades and outsourcing some functions like insurance eligibility and patient confirmation/reactivation. I can recommend software and service companies if you would like to investigate these areas.
In a dental office, each person has specific responsibilities and performs critical work. Because the dentist is rarely present to see, hear and manage what is happening in the business environment, that team must be dynamic. It is critical that they be well trained and inspired to create a wonderful patient experience. Your receptionist, appointment coordinator and your office manager can make or break your image with the public and your dental network. If they are caring, competent and friendly then they will enhance your brand. If they are too busy, lack people skills, aren’t competent or caring than they will hurt, not help your business and reputation. You can never underestimate the value of good phone and likeability when dealing with the inquiring public. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – Charles Jackson Smith, Sr. 1960.
The clinical team must be fluent in your standard of care and must work well with the business team. Additionally, all team members must understand their role in the organization. Everyone in a dental office is inter-dependent, it is a team sport. However, a dental office does not have a backup quarterback or a second string of players to designate, if one of the starters goes down or under performs that day.
It’s your choice not chance that determines how people feel when they do business with your company! You can create a great experience and you can develop systems to consistently deliver excellent customer care or not!
Managing the risks and maximizing the benefits.
Entrepreneurs and business owners have to take risks! When you borrowed the money, on top of your existing school and personal debt, to buy or open your practice you took a risk. When you hired your first employee you took a risk that the business would grow. When you hired your first hygienist you took a risk that the practice could support the extra provider and that the patients would embrace them for their hygiene and perio management.
Businesses are run by people who deal with the risk/reward challenges differently. Businesses, like the people who own them, have hidden agendas, challenges, burdens and responsibilities. Everyone agrees that you have to take risks to grow your practice but you must smart. Do your due diligence to minimize the downside but be decisive and execute. You cannot sit on the sideline. Change is moving at record speed and whether you are starting the journey or nearing the end, you need to own a strong, vital and profitable entity.
Today, small businesses (dental offices) have a huge advantage over their toughest competitors. Nimble businesses can change direction quickly. Large corporations (regional and national chains) turn slowly and cannot implement change on the fly. The costs and integration issues are significant and the logistics are much more complicated for them. This is an edge the small business owner has and must exploit now.
Today, more than ever before in the history of our great country, businesses are faced with an onslaught of technology which has the promise of greater diagnosis, improved efficiency, customer attraction and enhanced marketing capabilities. But the costs are high and the financial burden can be great. The burden and reward of technology implementation is real and requires serious thought. If you are a laggard, you will never truly be able to recoup what you lost by waiting to implement the technology. You will never know the upside of being an early adopter.
Most of us have the same adoption style in specific categories. If you are a gadget person than you will probably be an early adopter for technology items. Do you know anyone getting an iPhone 5 even though their current smart phone works great? Remember, adoption styles vary, even amongst us. The iPhone purchaser may be slow or resistant to change when it comes to their clinical materials or financial products, so the same person can have different adoption styles. I guess it depends on a host of business, personal, ideological and economic pressures, including the competitive advantage motivator, which is inherent in successful businesses.
When we dig deeper about adoption styles we must acknowledge the “must be first” adoption style. This is indicative of business people who want to stay ahead of the crowd. Their reputation requires them to be on the cutting edge of technology. It is their brand to do so. These are what I call the “eager, early adopters”!
Fifteen years ago it was a rarity for a restaurant or bar to have large flat screen televisions on the walls throughout the restaurant. Back then, multiple plasma televisions were very costly and may not have been considered practical. I am sure there were many restaurateurs who felt the televisions would take away from their ambiance and the public wouldn’t like them. Do you think the first bars or restaurants to have these flat screens attracted new patrons? Think of all the sports bars today!
Think about the hotel industry. Let’s take Marriott for example. They must have thousands of hotel properties and hundreds of thousands of guest rooms with televisions. Do you think they waited for the tube type televisions to break down before they replaced them with cable ready, flat screen systems? Do you think they wanted to take on the debt to equip all the rooms with internet and WI/FI? Of course not, but they knew they had to. Their brand depended on it. Marriott had no choice but to equip their rooms with the latest and the greatest to support their brand.
Dentists need to think like business people. Their technology acquisitions and integration speak volumes about their operation and their brand. Besides the advantages that these items deliver in the here and now, technology helps create a more desirable and profitable exit strategy.
Adoption Styles must take the form of business decisions not personal comfort zones. A business does not have the luxury of being shy, quiet, empathetic or generous. A business survives to provide a service and make a profit. It is the beast that needs regular feeding. Her are generalizations of the three most prevalent adoption styles.
Early adopters and the early majority are seen as cutting edge or progressive to the general public. The message is a positive one that will attract new patients.
The late majority are conservative but not resistant to change. They take very little risk and get very little benefit from their acquisitions.
The laggards tend to see the world of opportunity as scarce and force a self fulfilling prophecy on themselves and their practices. Their unwillingness to pull the trigger minimizes opportunities and assures premature, critical mass to set in. Their growth will be stunted by their business acumen and they will only realize the benefits of adoption, after years of doing without.
In my thirty one years in sales/distribution I have worked with hundreds of small business owners in two distinct industries. I have determined that opportunity is attracted to the doers and shakers. It finds people and companies with momentum and a track record of success. Have you ever said? They’re always at the right place at the right time? She’s so lucky – everything she touches turns to gold. These people make their luck by being in the game to win!
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” — Michelangelo