We were both very confident when it came time to open our first practice in 2003. Since graduating from the University of Maryland Dental School in 1999, Tony had been associating, and was ready to have an office of his own. And, we figured that Laura, with her business background and education (Bachelors Degree in Human Resources and a Masters in Organizational Development from Johns Hopkins University), was ideal to handle the administrative end of the practice.
With a keen eye for detail, we built a beautiful, high-tech, 2400 square foot office with two operatories (plumbed for three more). To cover our bases administratively, Laura attended a number of practice management seminars in the six months leading up to our opening. The set-up seemed perfect: we’d work together to build our own financially successful business and have plenty of time with our two small children.
Opening in January of 2003, things started off slowly, which was to some degree expected. We became concerned when four months into it (with Tony having left his part-time associate job), things were still very slow. Running our own office was quite a dose of reality. Dealing with patients, especially in financial and scheduling matters, was nothing like we imagined. Patients would dictate the schedule and we’d work whenever they showed up. Making matters worse, our marketing efforts just weren’t paying off and we had no idea what to do about it. Our situation became very stressful (personally and financially) very fast.
In May of 2003, we attended a seminar given by Dr. Greg Winteregg, a partner at MGE: Management Experts, Inc. We met with him afterwards and discussed our practice (and what to do about it). We realized after crunching the numbers with Greg that we were in the red by at least $10,000 a month and if nothing changed, we’d be bankrupt before the end of the year! It was painfully obvious we needed to do something. As a new practice, we needed to turn our focus to a) getting more new patients and b) having patients accept and pay for the treatment they needed. To address these issues, Greg started off by enrolling us in the MGE New Patient Workshop and the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.
Beginning with the New Patient Workshop was great. We loved it and implementation was fast. As a matter of fact, MGE tells us that Laura still holds the record for fastest time from the course to complete implementation. We appreciated that the seminar had a step by step action plan to come back and do when we got home. We knew what to do.
That same month (June of 2003), after applying the MGE New Patient Workshop materials our new patients jumped from 12 to 55! For the remainder of the year we averaged over 62 new patients per month, with the lowest month coming in at 51 and our highest month of 82 in December of 2003. Concurrently, we began to attend the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars, with our first seminar in early June. For the rest of 2003 our monthly average was up by 350%!
With success coming so fast, we knew we were onto something, so in July of 2003 we enrolled in the MGE Power Program.
Our success continued on the MGE Power Program. It always seemed that whatever we’d learned from our most recent trip to MGE would be immediately applicable in the office. And, we learned so much: how to organize the office, become more efficient, manage by statistics, financial planning, and how to find, hire and train great employees. As we went through our MGE Power Program training (and even after we finished it) the practice continued to grow.
By 2006 our average collections were up by over 1,000%.
Applying the management tools from the MGE program took the stress out of the business end of the practice. The communication and sales training taught us how to really connect with our patients and help them to understand (and accept) their treatment plans. We weren’t working crazy hours and had time to spend with our kids. Tony could focus fully on what he loved most about the office – dentistry and patients. The “plan” we had from the beginning was now a reality.
In late 2006, Tony was scheduled to attend a clinical CE course in Southern California (San Diego area). We decided to make a trip of it and bring the family. During this trip we fell in love with the area.
We got home and thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to live and practice there?”
We went back and forth on this one. Looking back, we could see how people would think we were crazy for doing it. We had a successful practice in Maryland and we heard from many different people how tough it was to practice in Southern California. We heard it all: “California would be different,” “people don’t show up for appointments,” “there’s lots of managed care and patients are insurance driven” and “the market is saturated with tons of dentists” (just to name a few).
Regardless, we knew what we wanted to do and knew we would succeed. Tony was confident in his clinical skills and the MGE training (and our success applying it) gave us confidence in our ability to build and manage a practice (or just about any business for that matter).
So, by June of 2008, we’d sold our practice back East, were living in the San Diego area, and just opening our new office. We started from scratch with a 1700 sq. ft office, two chairs and no patients.
Prior to starting out, we made a few decisions: we wouldn’t take any managed care, we would only work 3 ½ days a week and run our schedule on our full days from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Within eight months we added a third operatory. Now, we see 40 new patients each month and collections are higher than they ever were before. And, we stuck to our original intention: We don’t take any managed care, Tony works 3 ½ days a week and our schedule runs from 8 AM to 5 PM. We have an incredible staff of one hygienist, a junior manager (also training at MGE) who works up front with Laura, two assistants and we just hired a part time associate. We’re also in the process of adding a fourth chair to accommodate our expansion.
If someone were to ask us about MGE or the MGE Program, our answer would be pretty simple. MGE is like a masters program for dentists, it’s what they didn’t teach you about business at dental school. MGE never taught us a thing about the clinical aspect of dentistry. They taught us how to build a successful business, which makes it possible for us to do the dentistry. Having built two practices (in pretty short order), we have no doubt that the MGE program works. Find out for yourself – start like we did with the MGE New Patient Workshop!