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Scaling your dental practice is not just about creating new and more locations; it’s also about enhancing your operations, patient experience, online presence and community impact. In this comprehensive guide, let’s delve into various strategies to help you scale your dental practice organization effectively. 

The Need for Scaling your Dental Practice  

But first, let’s talk about why scaling is crucial for any business looking to survive. The Covid-19 Pandemic and its ensuing upheaval brought with it massive disruption, confusion and chaos into every aspect of economic life and especially small businesses and the medical industry writ large. At the intersection of small business and the medical industry is where dentists and dental practices live and die.  

This disruption and upheaval brought devastation to many and opportunity to a few. The last few years have been banner years for private equity as opportunists for the weak and slow-moving. But another group has emerged and begun to flourish as well during the chaos and confusion…the dental entrepreneur.  

Your Dental Practice through the Eyes of an Entrepreneur  

The businesses and entrepreneurs who stayed afloat during and after the pandemic are the ones who learned to pivot, stay nimble, be curious and cultivate risk to discover opportunity. And dental practice owners were no exception to this new behavior. No longer was the status quo acceptable.  

Dentists and dental practice owners needed to learn many new skills, study new landscapes and be willing to take their teams into uncharted territory to stay in business, much less thrive. And the ones who succeeded were often the ones who figured out that scaling their practice model was going to save them from the jaws of the PE sharks in the water or even the last gasps that comes with a dying practice.  

These hard-working dentists and dental practice owners are true heroes in my book, having survived some of the most difficult economic times in recent memory only to enter the even more uncertain times that we are all now experiencing. To face certain extinction with grace, curiosity and energy and decide that you will succeed in such turbulent waters is a testament to the character, selflessness and perseverance of dentists that I have seen from the very beginning of my career starting with my first volunteer mission trip to Mexico as a young dentist. 

Scaling your business model is essential if you don’t want to become chum for the sharks or fade into obscurity with no legacy. It is an absolute must for a practice owner to remain successful in these times.

So, what are the elements of scaling your dental practice successfully?  Let’s review these elements so you can create your own comprehensive blueprint for success. You want to get to point B. First, let’s put in some coordinates, some steps to help you get there.  

Embrace Technology in your Dental Practice  

As the dental industry continues to evolve, new technologies are constantly being developed to improve patient care, enhance diagnosis and treatment, and streamline dental practice management. 

Integrating these new technologies and modalities can significantly enhance the efficiency of your dental practice. Improve and refine your diagnostic tools and skills; stay in better touch with patients; see and study long-term trends in your patient activity; create tailor-made recall and reactivation campaigns and outreach; and reduce the time your team spends on repetitive record-keeping.  

There is no better time to research new and emerging technologies than when you are about to embark on a scaling program in your dental organization. Take some time to get out there, visit conventions, conferences and webinars and get an expert understanding of game-changing technologies.  

Optimize your Online Presence and Marketing Strategies  

Your practice’s online presence is often the first point of contact for potential patients. Ensure your website is user-friendly, informative, and optimized for search engines. Dive into the world of dental SEO to improve your visibility online. As stated in the previous paragraphs, new technologies are emerging to assist your practice in SEO, patient management and outreach and building websites that provide the best online experience you can give your prospective and existing patients.  

Don’t forget the power of social media – engage with your audience, share valuable content, and humanize your practice. Introduce your team to the world. Craft targeted marketing campaigns and ads to reach your desired audience. Utilize a mix of online and offline channels as well as paid and organic content to maximize your reach. Measure the ROI and effectiveness of your marketing efforts weekly to refine your strategies over time. 

Enhance the Patient Experience in your Dental Practice  

Creating a positive and welcoming environment is key to retaining patients and attracting new ones. And that starts well before a prospective patient enters your practice. As stated previously, having a robust online presence gives patients a lot of information to digest. It also gives them an initial impression of your practice, your team, your associates and you.  

After creating a comprehensive online patient experience, it’s essential to implement mechanisms for gathering patient feedback to continuously improve your services. Along with feedback portals, research and create a robust plan for patient recall and recare. Exceptional customer service goes a long way in building lasting relationships with your patients. 

And patient satisfaction can become an incredibly rewarding experience that includes long-term loyalty and feeds a strong referral system.  

Collaborate with Specialists 

In addition to a healthy loyalty and referral system for your patients, consider building partnerships and referral programs with other healthcare professionals to offer outside care and services to your patients. Establishing referral networks not only improves patient outcomes but also expands your practice’s reach within the medical community. This kind of outreach and referral builds your reputation and establishes strong ties to your community and the medical community in your locations’ areas generally.

Establishing relationships with orthodontists, dental surgeons and cosmetic specialists can become a strong feedback loop for your practice as you build your organization and your reputation.  

Staff Hiring, Training and Development 

When I built my first practice, I became curious about hiring and retention. Early on, I had a terrible experience watching my first office manager quit and take all her knowledge of our bookkeeping, patient recall and insurance reimbursements with her. I was stranded. The reason she gave for leaving was she felt the culture I was building within our practice was simply not for her. So, she left.  

That was an extremely painful and costly lesson for me. I ended up losing quite a bit of money from lapsed reimbursement invoices, etc. But it also left me questioning how to build an organization that people loved and didn’t want to leave. I spent a long time investigating and researching psychology and culture, a process I detail in my book, Extraction. Check it out for a comprehensive understanding of team building and cohesion.  

From that experience, I created and invested in programs and processes that allowed me to have clear lines of communication with my team; set guidelines for expectations; and set team members up for success. We started a book group, created and tracked personal and professional goal development and invested in ongoing education and development. I also made it a priority to set a tone of inclusion, diversity and camaraderie amongst team members, so everyone felt like a part of the team.   

This kind of effort, though extraordinary for some practices to undertake, became a cornerstone of our culture across 8 dental practices. Our retention rate was extremely high, in fact, it was something that I didn’t have to give much thought to because my focus was on making sure my team was happy, fulfilled and capable. Jim Collins is a wonderful resource for learning to understand what you need in team members and making sure they are the right fit for your organization. Read more about my experience here and read about Jim Collins’ work with teams here.   

Community Involvement and Investment

Making sure you have happy patients and happy team members is an imperative to scaling a successful operation. But one other area to think about is the community you’re setting up your first, second or third dental practice in.  

Engaging with your local community to build a positive reputation through hosting events, sponsoring local activities, and partnering with other businesses can elevate your practice’s standing within the community. In this digital age, it is so easy to forget and neglect your community IRL. Amiright? 😉  

Create Community around your dental practice
A Perch of Birds, Hector Giacomelli

Incorporating community-outreach programs into your strategic scaling plan may seem like overkill or extra work, but it is truly that extra mile you go that people notice. It may take a little bit of time to make the connection but when people see your organization’s name around the community and see how you’re investing in the environment that allowed you to set up shop, their recognition and commitment to you will become one of the linchpins of your success and longevity. People can’t help but want to give back to the ones that gave to them.  

The Path to Long-Term Growth for your Dental Practice  

Scaling your dental practice requires a holistic approach that combines technology adoption, patient-centric practices, and strategic partnerships. By following these comprehensive strategies, you’ll not only expand your business physically but also solidify its position in the community for long-term growth. 

However, there’s one more crucial step in scaling your dental practice: creating your strategic plan. You gotta have a plan.  

A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry  

 There are some wonderful resources that exist for you to create a comprehensive strategic plan that will become the roadmap for your scaling success. If you want to get from point A to point B, you need a map. That map is your strategic plan. One of my greatest resources in developing a strategic plan for Optimize Practice Services was my involvement with Strategic Coach. SC is a membership for entrepreneurs. We come together, share resources, solve our problems and create community while building and scaling our businesses and long-term success.  

Joining a mastermind, in my view, is just as essential as the previous seven steps we covered. A mastermind is an effective tool in creating community and momentum around your strategic planning. It gives you the opportunity to brainstorm, offer up real-time issues and obstacles to get tried and immediate solutions from the group and create a community that will support you, encourage you and hold momentum for you as you climb the scaling cliffs of success.

And we’ve got just the ticket. My partner and CEO of Optimize Practice Services, Josh Gwinn, runs a free mastermind exclusively for dentists. Please consider joining and adding your voice to our movement. We at OPS are in the business of keeping dentistry in the hands of dentists and this free, online, live event is one of the ways we do that. Register today for our next mastermind. We’ll see you there!