All dental practice owners wear two “hats.” One is the clinician hat and the other is the business owner hat.

And once you open your own practice, you quickly learn that the vast majority of the stress and problems come from the business owner side!

So, in this post, I want to cover why that is and some of the common mistakes most practice owners make.

Common Mistakes:

1. Not taking your business owner role as seriously as your clinician role

When you ask a dentist, “Why did you go to dental school?”, you’d think the answer would be to “become a dentist,” right?

While yes, they wanted to be a dentist, the real reason they went to dental school is because they needed to in order to become qualified. There are laws requiring qualifications to acquire a dental license because otherwise, people would get hurt.

And so, dentists spend anywhere from 8 to 14 years learning their skills and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get taught the knowledge to ensure they don’t hurt people when performing dentistry.

Conversely, though, there are no similar requirements in order to open a business. You don’t need business qualifications to open a dental practice—because if you fail at that, nobody else gets hurt but yourself. And there are no laws against hurting yourself financially or causing yourself a ton of stress.

So naturally, most dentists don’t take the business side quite as seriously as the clinical side. Typically, most dentists’ business education is limited to reading a few articles in Dental Economics, online forums, chatting with other dentists, or getting feedback from their CPA or banker.

That’s not enough!

Reading articles is great (hey, I’m glad you’re reading this one!), but you need an actual organizational structure, front office systems, and the ability to troubleshoot and fix things when something goes wrong. There’s a lot that goes into doing that successfully, including finances, HR, billing, case acceptance, marketing, etc, and it’s just about impossible to pick that up from reading articles or having some casual conversation.

And this is the reason why so many dentists run into difficulty with their practice: they are not approaching the business side of their practice with the same level of professionalism as the clinical side.

The truth is, operating a business is NOT any easier than practicing dentistry. It’s often harder.

In fact, I have received an excessive amount of business education myself—I got a bachelor’s in economics, worked on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve, and went back to grad school to study further on business and economics—and one of my main takeaways is that opening a business is hard! Roughly 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years. And after 10 years, 70% have failed. Those aren’t good odds!

So, if you are having a hard time achieving your vision in your dental practice—and maintaining a healthy profit margin—then you need to do some serious learning and implement a cohesive management system. You don’t necessarily have to do that with us here at MGE, but you do need to do it. And of course, (shameless plug here…) I do think MGE is the best at it and the results speak for themselves. So if you’d like help, click here to request a free consultation.

2. Expecting clinical solutions to solve management problems

By not being educated in business, as I described above, dentists have a blind spot in the business of dentistry and that leads them to fall back on things they’re comfortable with. And what are they comfortable with? Dentistry.

So, they tend to think that they need to take implant courses or buy a new CEREC machine or start offering sleep apnea treatment or Invisalign or Botox. They expand their delivery skillset in an effort to increase production and profitability.

And look, expanding your clinical skillset is great and all of those additional procedures can be fantastic. But they don’t sell themselves. You won’t magically start seeing more new patients or be able to get these larger cases accepted simply because you are capable of delivering them.

If you already have a highly efficient, profitable practice with great patient flow and case acceptance—then adding additional services can be a great boon.

But if you’re not productive enough or are having problems, no newfangled service will fix that. You need a strong foundation before you start adding bells and whistles onto it.

3. Neglecting proper organizational structure

Similar to point #2 above, I often see dentists trying to increase production by adding more producers in the back. I’ll see a dentist with a full-time associate, two hygienists, multiple assistants…but only a couple of people up front.

Not to mention, these staff at the front desk usually don’t have clearly defined duties. They’re just doing “front desk” work—a bit of scheduling, a bit of insurance billing, a bit of answering the phones, a bit of recall, etc.

It’s no wonder that production isn’t increasing enough despite the fact that they feel “too busy” all the time. They are understaffed up front, they need structure, and they need clearly defined roles for the staff so they can focus on what they need to be doing instead of constantly scrambling to catch up.

4. Looking at “the numbers” too late

The Art of Scheduling Productively Seminar by MGE Management ExpertsWhich numbers (or “key performance indicators”) are you tracking? And how often do you look at them?

For many doctors, they just get a quarterly Profit & Loss statement from their CPA that might not even arrive until the end of the following quarter! By the time they reach July, they realize they were screwed in February.

Keeping track of the important numbers and reviewing them on a weekly basis is vital. It shows you when something is wrong before it becomes a disaster, and allows you to actually ensure you reach your monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals in real-time.

For more on which numbers you should track, see our blog post 12 “Key Performance Indicators” for a Dental Practice or request a free practice analysis here.

5. Not providing sufficient staff training

Your staff are what make your business run. It’s important that they are competent at what they do and know exactly how the practice should operate.

It’s tough to train your staff when you don’t have materials to train them on and you don’t know how things should be done properly yourself (see point #1 above). How can you teach someone to answer the phones effectively to schedule new patients if you can’t do it yourself? Same for designing the schedule or getting treatment accepted.

So again, the first step is taking that business owner role seriously and getting the education you need. This is what we teach on the MGE Power Program. Just like you were given tools in dentistry to perform a perfect crown, we give you the tools to have a successful practice.

And for staff training, we’ve made that easy for you, too, with our on-demand team training platform, DDS Success. It provides training for every team member in your practice, including complete front office systems with forms and policies you can implement immediately. Request a free demo here.

Feel free to call us if you have any questions at (800) 640-1140 or you can request a free practice analysis here.


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