This is a continuation of last week’s article on the nine things that hold doctors back from taking their practice to the next level. This is almost like the dirty little truths about practices that just fail to take off. Tip the mirror up and take a hard look at where you are and where you would like to be. Great practices don’t just happen, they are created. It is this process that requires intentional action and gifted vision to constantly adapt to this new dental economy.
Poor location: It is actually possible to become invisible to the normal patient you want attract. Three decades or more ago, most dentists thought that being in a high-rise commercial building populated with various other healthcare professionals was great. Not so today! We all know that 92% of all appointments are made by women. Knowing this, you want your office to be where women are near a school, Starbucks, dry cleaners, grocery stores, Chick-fil-A, nail salon, etc. We need the visibility and traffic counts to make our practice take off. We need interesting logos and LED signage to attract the distracted drivers, so they see us. I want to be next door to a Whole Foods grocery store on one side, with a Starbucks, jewelry store, dry cleaner, Ace Hardware, and a few restaurants kicked in for good measure. We absolutely must have incredible visibility. Find the perfect location and marketing becomes a given. Figure out how to have an LED sign and it is even better. Paying more is actually inexpensive – if you have the perfect location. It just takes advantage of the natural marketing that visibility and convenience garner the smart doctor. Poor location could be an area already rife with other dentists where it is impossible to have a decent 1 dentist to 2,000 people ratio. Over and over, I see doctors locate in a poor location only to lament their choice and relegate their practice to poor performance and low profit. Poor location could also be an area with too low an income to be able to afford dentistry or too high an income where they don’t need any dentistry because that have always gone to the dentist, brushed and flossed, and really value a healthy mouth and attractive smile.
Poor Demographics: Demographics are the characteristics of human populations and population segments, especially when used to identify consumer segments. They include the statistics of a given population’s ages, sex, education, income levels, race, and other factors. There is a sweet spot for every type of business and dentistry is no different. Competition or saturation of dentist to population is the most important. You need at least 2000 potential clients per dentist to do well. Go below this, and you find yourself in a dog-eat-dog battle for scraps. This is the number one reason that practices struggle and ultimately fail. Understanding who your ideal audience is will add momentum to your growth. Once you know the ages, race, sex, income, employment, and education levels you should be about ready to design marketing and offer specific services and hours to take advantage of your location and demographics.
Doctor and staff fail to embrace change and implement information: I think most of us have taken courses, purchased DVDs, downloaded lectures, and read about practice management and leadership, yet still fail to improve. There is no learning without application. It does not matter what you have studied if you can’t put it in play. Change has, and will always be, a constant in healthcare. Far too many doctors have simply decided to plateau and just coast for the rest of their career. They are pushed by the current of mediocrity and herd mentality. They never become remarkable to the consumer. Almost as bad are those who think that they can just postpone the changes they need to make, only to wake up and find that the opportunities of yesterday have passed them by. Playing catch up is way over rated. The most frustrating thing we see as coaches are doctors who know they need to change, but when given the answer they procrastinate on implementing the strategy that would literally turn their practice around.
Financial Captivity: This really just means that you have spent too much with too little to show for it. You are the doctor that goes out and buys a 3D Cone Beam or Cerec milling machine when the numbers just don’t work. It’s as if these doctors believe that buying one newer, shinier object will propel them over the top. This inability to spend money when you need to on the right strategy handicaps you and your ability to move to the next level. We see doctors who have added on to their facility only to realize that they raised their overhead 10% with no ability to afford the marketing they will need to fill the chairs. Each of us needs to improve our financial acumen and strategically invest our funds in systems and equipment that show a huge ROI in the shortest possible time.
Poor clinical results and skills: Clinical speed, consistency, services, and success as judged by their patients is a recurring theme. A lot of doctors are practicing decade’s old dentistry even when designs, crown preps, materials, and systems have changed. In a consumer driven business, patients vote with their feet. Keep in mind that, clinically, everything is changing so rapidly that you need to spend at least 4-5 hours a month in concentrated clinical improvement along with adding services to your office. The age of referring out everything died ten years ago. We all need to learn to place implants, do oral surgery, cosmetic dentistry, ortho and treat kids. The best, most profitable, most stress-free practices, with unlimited growth potential are those that embrace both bread and butter dentistry for all ages and pseudo-specialty services. It is a balance of what patients want along with what you have to offer them. Your “average patients” have voted, and they want a one stop shop with consumer friendly hours and a wide range of services for a wider range of ages.
Take each of these nine areas and work on minimizing their impact by changing how you look at the relationship you have with patients while embracing the change that will be necessary for you to compete in the future. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS