Starting a Dental Practice?
Avoid These 10 Mistakes
When people have worked in a dental practice for some time and seen it in operation, they often assume that they have all the knowledge and experience they need to open a practice themselves. Unfortunately, running an already established dental practice and launching a brand new one from scratch are different animals. Many rush into the decision without a realistic understanding of just how much is involved and end up making costly mistakes. To help you avoid the pitfalls and overcome the obstacles, here are 10 mistakes which a lot of people make when setting up their first dental practice.
- Assuming it will be an easy task
The first point to take on board is that opening a dental practice takes a huge amount of time, money and commitment. You will be faced with obstacle after obstacle for at least a couple of years before your practice could be considered up and running in a profitable way. Of course there will be good times as well as challenging ones, but it is better to prepare yourself now than to be confronted with a less than rosy reality later on.
- Failing to stand out
The UK has plenty of dental practices all offering very similar services and if your practice is no different, you will be facing an uphill struggle from day one. Ideally you would offer a service or procedure which no one else is offering, but failing that you should be focusing on differentiating yourself through marketing and delivering exceptional customer service. Take a look at the other dental practices in your area and look at where their service and/or marketing messages are lacking, e.g. family friendly, affordable or dentistry tailored for people who are frightened.
- Underestimating the cash you will need
Starting a dental practice is an expensive project from the outset as you will need to create the facility and buy all the equipment before you can even begin to invest in the business itself. It’s almost certain that you will underestimate just how much funding you will need, and that’s without considering how you will support yourself financially while you are setting the practice up. You are likely to have to cut back on your spending and live a more modest lifestyle for at least a couple of years.
- Spending too much on supplies and equipment
In the early days of your practice you will want to limit your overhead costs as much as possible. Bear in mind that while you might be tempted to splash out on the latest dentistry equipment and machinery, your patients will not notice the difference. They will, however, notice if you have cheap furniture and décor. You can upgrade and expand your dentistry tool kit when you have some profits in the bank, but for now it’s better to focus on the customer experience and choose competitively priced UK dental supplies.
- Not planning for growth
The smaller your practice the more you are restricting yourself in terms of future profit. Rather than leasing small premises with space for just one chair, find the right premises from the beginning. You should include enough space for 3-4 surgeries, a waiting area for patients, reception area, staff room and decontamination room.
- Neglecting your business strategy
Do you have a clear business strategy which outlines how you will make a profit, how long it will take to make a profit, how much this profit will be and how profits will be reinvested. Try to look ahead over the next 36 months and estimate how many patients you need to attract, how much each patient is worth in terms of revenue and how much money you will take on an average day, week, month and year. You can then deduct your costs such as rent for the premises, utilities, wages, laboratory fees and supplies to work out where your profit (or loss) is coming from.
- Underestimating how much commitment is needed
To get a dental practice off the ground you need to be prepared to put in the majority of your time. From planning the project to actually being open you should be prepared to work at least 6 days a week while growing the business. If you have a partner and/or family, make sure you have discussed this with them to avoid problems down the line as much as possible.
- Targeting the wrong customers (i.e. thinking only about yourself)
While it might be tempting to design a practice you would like to visit, you are probably not your target customer. Think about the types of patients you want to attract to your practice and design the facility with them in mind. For example, if you want to run a family friendly practice, consider providing an area for people to leave their prams and a selection of toys and books in the waiting area. If you are targeting the older customer, ensure you have onsite parking and the seating is not too high or low and don’t blast chart music in the waiting area.
- Picking your fees out of the air
You should never choose your pricing structure without conducting market research. Find out what other dental practices are charging in your area so you can ensure that you are competitively priced. You may even choose to offer slightly cheaper fees or an introductory discount to give people and incentive to try you out.
- Failing to ask for (or listen to) early feedback
You should be seeking and considering as much feedback from your initial patients as possible. They will guide you towards delivering the service that they want and help you to avoid creating a practice which does not fulfil a need. For examples of customer feedback surveys, click here.
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