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You’re poised at the edge of a fast-flowing tributary. You need to get to the other side, but you are uncertain about the depth, current, and your ability to forge this water. The prudent traveler would look for a better path across. The problem is that there are no bridges or roads to take advantage of. About that time, you spy a rock just down the bank and about a foot or two into the water. Once you survey this rock you notice another and another, which, if used as stepping-stones, you could cross and emerge safe and dry. With the exception of a stick to steady yourself, the problem is solved. I want to be that stick or walking staff that adds stability and certainty to the steps you take to thrive in any dental economy.

As review, we know that multi-doctor offices are growing by 20% per year while solo practices are diminishing by 7%. Patients have become informed consumers and price and convenience are at the top of their lists for selecting a dentist. The public as a whole has healthier teeth (demand) while there is a dentist on every corner (supply). Any sane person would take pause and consider that if you are not moving toward consumer hours, a wider range of services, multiple doctors, and understanding new patient acquisition and profitability, you will not be competitive in the next 5 years. Welcome to the new Dental Economy, a climate shift that has taken place in medicine, vision, and pharmacies and now it is happening in dentistry.

This is part two on what to do when you realize that success will be spelled out by your situational awareness, ability to improve your current actions, and becoming accountable for your results regardless of your location or circumstances. Go back and read “If We Act Like Sheep, Wolves Will Eat Us” (national corporations, insurance companies, and organized dentistry).

My perspective is that this is a three-pronged approach to a result that guarantees you a 15%-25% growth rate forever, moves you to no debt, and creates lots of savings while decreasing your stress and improving your life choices and family relationships. Yep, you can still get the cake and eat it too.  The fourth step is a bonus for those entrepreneurs that have always wanted to create a huge passive income while not being a wet fingered dentist.

Let’s begin with the end in mind while we combine it with the facts mentioned in the second paragraph above.

  1. A Successful Solo Practice: This is the start and finish for most dentists. 90% of the doctors “settle” for no growth or limited growth and limited financial success. 35-40 years of solo practice with the weight of your practice carried squarely on your shoulders. Don’t delude yourself into believing that this is enough. If the average practice gets about 25-30 new patients per month, wouldn’t it make sense that, if we did a good job, we would have at least a couple more next month from direct referrals? Obviously not, because most solo practices struggle to maintain a healthy new patient number and/or any growth at all when we consider inflation. These are the practices that will struggle most over the next 5-7 years. They are committed to a now dead strategy that worked two decades ago, but won’t even help you coast to the finish line now. Most of them will fail as competition and corporations erode their patient base. This is the epitome of being done with change, and we all know that when you are done with change you are done. I think the challenge here is that most dentists think they have “arrived” upon graduation from dental school. Sure, they know they need to learn the business of dentistry and improve their speed, but basically they see graduation as the onset of guaranteed financial security bestowed on those with the title of “doctor”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The first 3-5 years of solo practice should have been a whatever it takes, nose to the grindstone, all hands-on deck, marathon to blow through solo practice and move towards multiple hygiene and multiple doctors. The take away here is that if you have a great practice and you are inspiring your patients, there is no way that you could plateau in solo practice. Demand would force you to expand your facility, staff, and knowledge of the business of dentistry. Please go to and get your free copy of my book by that name. You will need to have read it before we get too far into this series of articles. I will assume that you have read it and have the basic understanding what it will take to make a solo practice soar.
  2. A successful Multi-Doctor Practice: This is the natural progression of any good dental practice. You grow to the point of not being able to service the demand that should have come naturally if you are doing the right things. This is a necessary precursor for learning the leadership skills and having the business acumen that will guarantee unlimited growth and profit. This will be the end game for the top 30% of practices that follow my suggestions and blue-print. Again, this is a point of re-engaging with your practice with a focused dedication to growth and learning. All of these strategies can be learned and if applied with very little tweaking will make your future take off. The doctors who survive and thrive are taking 3 times the number of continuing education hours as their peers, investing excess capital in their practice, and have eliminated all debt.
  3. The Successful Multi-Location Group: This is the final step in a great practice’s success formula. You have perfected the model, strategies, protocols, overhead control, marketing skills for unlimited new patients, consumerism and long-term staff retention and are ready to duplicate your success in another location. Succeed at this and you can take this to the bonus step of multiple locations and become the CEO of your own DSO with 12-15% passive income moving back into your pocket without having to practice dentistry yourself.
  4. The Privately Held DSO Management Company and Franchising: I won’t say too much here, but this would be the top 5-10% of the doctors that succeed at step number 3. This is the doctor with the entrepreneurial bent. This is not a burnout strategy of tired doctors with poor practices. You are kidding yourself if you think that you can arrive at retirement age and then try to just ride your poorly managed office to the end of your career. If you had that skill, you would never have found yourself stalled in solo practice. It is with this level in mind that we are now putting together a seminar so that you can come to me and spend time setting up your goals, time tables, protocols and begin the process of establishing your own DSO with an independent dental practice culture. This can be the future of dentistry. If you think about it, you will have unlimited access to doctors: Over 6,000 graduates every year plus all those doctors stuck in solo practice who will fail to be able to compete over the next few years.

I was speaking to a very large group in Portland when asked: “How many new patients do you get each month”? I acquiesced by saying: “The number isn’t important. The quality of your dentistry and the ability to inspire a loyal following of patients is”. This guy wouldn’t let me get away with that answer, so I told him I got 250-300 new patients a month. He immediately stood and said, “Dr. Abernathy, we keep our practice small so we can control the quality of dentistry we do.” I just couldn’t help myself. After all, he had thrown down the gauntlet. So I repeated his statement and closed with this: “If you actually knew what quality was in the eyes of your patients, you couldn’t help but grow”.   We live in a world of educated consumers that vote with their feet. If you are not growing, you are not meeting you potential patient’s needs.
This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]
PS. If you’d like to get a copy of my book, The Super General Dental Practice, you can download it for free here. Also you can purchase a hard copy of the book by clicking here. You’ll find a lot more about practice growth in it’s pages.