Does your dental practice suffer from this one critical weakness? The lack of awareness that you, as a small business owner, are far more than just a dentist?
Think of the tremendous positive impact that your dental practice has on the lives of your family, your dental team and their loved ones, the health and happiness of your patients, and your community.
To all of these people, you are viewed as the CEO of a business that is helping their community prosper and grow. And so, going forward, that is how you and every other small business owner should view yourselves — as a CEO who is a vital contributor to the lives of so many others.
Reframe Your Thinking
When I speak to your dental colleagues around the country, I challenge them to reframe their thinking. From this day forward, your title is that of CEO, so update those business cards!
Reframing your role and title helps you think about running your dental practice like a true business. It can help you be more open to utilizing benchmarks and setting goals, incorporating best practices and new technologies, and partnering with dental industry specialists to provide skills that you may not have (e.g. financial, legal, marketing).
It will also make you more open to learning to become a great leader. How many of you have taken a leadership course and focused on how you can become a dynamic leader? Don’t you owe it to your dental team to make your work environment one in which your team grows and thrives?
These are the approaches that are taken by outstanding business leaders. Why should your dental practice be run any differently?
Planting the CEO Seeds
When I speak to third and fourth-year dental school students, it becomes quickly apparent that the seeds of thinking like a CEO are not planted early on. Most dental students are understandably focused on the immediate task at hand, which is to graduate and get their dental license. Everything else takes a back seat.
Consequently, the dental students graduate with little to no training on the business side of dentistry. This lack of knowledge leads many dental practice owners to neglect the business aspects of being a CEO. What’s the solution? The same as it is for every entrepreneur – surround yourself with industry experts. Do these experts charge a fee? Of course, but if they are not bringing in more value than their cost, you are working with the wrong experts!
Consider surrounding yourself with expertise in the various areas of your business, like finance, legal and marketing. Not only will you be running your practice like a CEO, your personal life will thank you for not trying to take on the roles of CFO, director of marketing, legal advisor, and more!
Using a SWOT Analysis to Improve Your Dental Practice
Have you ever heard of or conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your practice? The process is simple and helps you shift your thinking to that of a CEO. Going through the SWOT process often helps you come up with a strategy to improve your practice.
To illustrate how to leverage the SWOT analysis, let’s take a look at Dr. Craig Derrick’s dental practice.
Dr. Craig Derrick has a well-established practice located in a stand-alone house which he owns. He expects to retire in 10 years and would like to add an associate and a few more operatories. Most of the team have been with the office long-term and are at the top of their pay scale. Fees are updated every few years, as he doesn’t want to upset their aging patient population.
He has just updated their digital imaging system and is considering adding technology to begin placing dental implants. The office has intra-oral cameras of good quality, but they aren’t used very often. There is a steady flow of 12 new patients per month; these mostly come from word-of-mouth and children of current patients who have their own school-aged children.
They have a very simple website but no social media presence.
Their front office person, Kathy, knows all the patients and is very engaging with them. She works on scheduling unscheduled patients when she can, but they are booked out several months. The hygienist, Judy, is close to retirement and socializes with patients more than she talks dentistry. The lead dental assistant, Peggy, orders supplies from several vendors and also shops online.
- It is a well-established practice
- Dr. Craig owns the building
- Mature patient population with a good number of new patients
- The practice has updated technology
- Inconsistent hygiene schedule follow-up
- Limited operatories for additional providers
- Lack of reserved appointment blocks for large procedures and new patients
- The dental assistant paid for time spent shopping for supplies
- Additional operatories
- Additional technology for implant placement
- Team communication skills to increase appointment scheduling, including training for both hygienists and doctor
- Fee updates
- Technology training to help increase treatment plan acceptance
- The fee schedule is not updated every 6-12 months, but team members have had consistent raises.
- Outdated website and no social media presence
- Lack of retirement plan
- Utilizing the SWOT Results
Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis (which I recommend working on with your team and your dental rep – their perspectives are very valuable), you can go through the quadrants and determine your action items. These action items should include deadlines and who will be responsible for implementation. I recommend rating action items from the most impactful to the least impactful. This will help you prioritize where you should begin your efforts to strengthen your practice.
Make sure to review and update the SWOT on an annual basis; you’ll be surprised at how things can change. Making the document an evolving tool will help you continue to maximize the value of your dental practice.
Becoming the CEO
My challenge to you? From this moment forward, commit to thinking like and becoming a true leader and dynamic CEO. Your practice, team and family will thank you. Most importantly, you will inspire yourself and find true joy in the impact you are making in the world.
Meet the Author
Dental Business Advisor
Doug Fettig, CPA, MBA
Doug has over two decades of experience as a CPA and finance professional. He has the unique ability to understand dentists’ needs and help them lead their practices using strong business principles. His insight as a dental CPA allows him to effectively communicate business concepts to dental practices while strategically addressing tax, investment, and retirement planning…
- Dental business planning
- Talent acquisition
- Business leadership
- Retirement planning
- Master of Business Administration
- Certified Public Accountant