Everything Dental Blog September 2018

Rules to live by for transitioning dentists

Industry experts say that dentists aren’t good business people. I strongly disagree with this common assertion. Dentists are human. They excel at what they like and resist what they don’t. In defense of dentists, it is the dental schools that have failed to prepare dentists adequately for the business side of healthcare. Most dentists have never been exposed to a management, operations, marketing or business course. As a result, many dentists strive for clinical perfection and settle for a passing grade in their customer service, operational and management prowess. Additionally, many great clinicians experience paralysis by analysis. They have been taught by management consultants to focus on the numbers (P&L) and often forget that dentistry is a people business.  

I know the following to be true because I have lived it. I am humbled by the exposure, opportunity, and experience that a handful of doctors have provided for me. They have let me witness and participate in their journey and now I can share what I have learned from them. These guidelines are applicable if you are a first-time practice buyer or are buying your twenty-fifth office.

  1. Every transition requires onsite supervision (this could be the previous owner/new owner or operations manager) to successfully transition the practice. Onsite supervision should end 30-60 days into the transition and the responsibility for achieving daily, weekly and monthly targets now becomes that of the local management team. While the goodwill and active support of the seller are beneficial and encouraged, rely on your integration team and a solid marketing plan to grow your new practice.
      
  2. Within the first week, preferably the day after the closing, there must be formalized training for all operational and clinical staff members (separate meetings for the front office and back office personnel). These meetings should clearly define expectations and goals for the individual, their team and the organization. It is critical that your systems, protocols, and reporting are adopted by each office and strictly adhered to. Failure to create and or adopt systems throughout the organization will result in subpar performance.
  3. You must fire swiftly. Being nice and empathetic or living in fear of removing a staff member is always the wrong impulse. It just wastes time and the new owner becomes a hostage to the existing team and failed policies and processes. You will know if a team member is in alignment with our mission or not, within a day or two. The exception to this rule is when the dentist (seller) does not stay on with the practice. In this case, the value of key employees (receptionist and hygienist) rises temporarily. 

    Remember, in most cases, great staff members are either developed (taught by you) or come from another practice. Competitive wages/benefits, a harmonious work environment, and effective training make for loyal and engaged staff members. Staff turnover and the rigors of hiring and training personnel is costly, delays progress and stifles growth.

  4. Consolidate Imaging and Practice Management Software immediately. This applies to all transitions especially dentists with multiple offices. Having the correct PMS and image capturing software is critical for ease of use, analysis, and efficiency. When an office does not have seamless integration or uses multiple bridges to connect technology it is inherently problematic. It leads to more clicks, more IT issues and compromises the integrity and simplicity of the system. The goal is to have cross-trained employees and administrators that utilize identical applications with a common user interface across your office(s). Unfortunately, many doctors will buy equipment because of a low price point and they’ll sacrifice efficiency for the duration of that equipment’s life. This is short sited and will result in diminishing returns. Dentists and small business owners should start thinking, planning or converting to Cloud-based applications that provide unprecedented access and analytics.
  5. Create KPI’s (key performance Indicators) that provide you with the data you need to improve operations. Your KPI’s will change as you focus on specific areas of the practice. However, certain KPI’S are always in vogue such as: production/collections, new patient numbers, provider comparisons, and your accounts receivables. I recommend Dental Practice Pro™. It is an incredible tool for all practices and it operates on the Cloud.
  6. Take the management team on a field trip (training and team building – “Offsite”). This is when you share your vision and mission and begin developing your management team. Emphasize leadership, responsibility, and accountability. Always put hard deadlines on benchmarks and projects! The reason to go off-site is to create a level playing field. The old team will be territorial until they respect the new members. This will go a long way towards normalizing the new. Change is difficult and not voluntary in business.
  7. Review, upgrade and streamline all policies and protocols. Every system and cost center must be reviewed and improved systematically. Whether it’s negotiating a better fee on for credit card processing, balancing your procedural fees or tweaking your insurance verification protocol, every system should get overhauled every year!
  8. Appoint an HR officer or work with an outside vendor like Bent Erickson™ to create a professional employee handbook and to make sure that you are complying with industry norms and employment law. I’ve heard stories from clients about associates who have worked with expired licenses because they failed to keep up with their mandated CE requirements. As you grow your business so does your exposure. Your OSHA, HIPPA, Risk management, CPR and Infection control mandates should be managed and tracked by your organization. In short, protect your employees and protect your business. When you protect your business, you are protecting your reputation.   
  9. Audit operatory and office equipment for functionality, condition, and appearance. Repair, replace or introduce technology and equipment that provides additional revenue or improves your efficiency. Your staff will appreciate reliable, clean and up to date equipment and it will enhance your brand and the patient’s perception and experience.
    It’s always been confusing to me. A dentist will lease a nice car for $500 a month and when the lease is done they’ll do it again in perpetuity. However, a dental lease may improve a dentist’s speed, comfort and revenue, like a 2D/ 3D Imaging Panoramic machine, but many resist the obvious. It makes no sense to me. The equipment lease costs about the same per month as the car lease, but the technology pays for itself and then some. Additionally, the dental equipment lease, unlike the car lease, ends with a dollar buy out and you get to keep (own) the equipment!
  10. Marketing must be an investment, not an expense. Your online brand and reputation is your brand and reputation. Does someone in your practice (organization) monitor and manage your social media reviews? This must be a major focus and concern for your business. Are you a three-star or five-star dentist on Healthgrades, ZocDoc, and Yelp? Your signage, stationery and web presence must have continuity and must be deliberate. What does your practice stand for? Is your messaging resonating with your target audience? Are you attracting the kind of patients you seek? Your internal and external marketing plan must be in alignment with your digital footprint and it must be in place prior to closing.

For aspiring dentists and entrepreneurial dentists who wish to own and operate multiple dental practices, empower your management team, embrace analytics, operate efficiently and control costs. Dentists need to attract patients, deliver comprehensive treatment plans and provide financial solutions to improve case acceptance. Dentists must be cognizant of their hourly wage and their fees (reimbursement) for the popular procedures they perform. Far too many dentists operate with blinders on and fail to acknowledge the relationship between time and money. Every dentist can benefit from attending Pankey™ or Dawson™ or some other credited program to advance their skills and treatment planning prowess. A well-oiled organization in the clinical area will do more dentistry in the same amount of time. An efficient administrative team will enhance revenue and produce a world-class patient experience.

If you are buying, selling or looking to merger your dental practice in the Tri-State area than contact me through http://heknowsdental.com/