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Starting a Dental Practice?

7 Absolutely Essential First Steps You MUST Do to Be Successful

Oct 2020
web chat for dentists delmain
Thinking of venturing into the world of dental entrepreneurship and wondering how to open a dental practice? The odds are in your favor! Only 2.1% of new dentists fail during their first 5 years of practice ownership.

These stats don’t make the process any easier though — starting a dental practice still takes a lot of time, sweat, and tears. And doing it right will mean the difference between running a dental practice that struggles to keep patients flowing, or one that leads the pack and stands above the competition.

Don’t struggle! We’ve worked with start-up dental practices and this is what we’ve learned.

Build a network of trusted business partners

You probably didn’t go to dental school to become a business expert, but if you want your practice to succeed, expertise is essential. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with really good “friends.”

This is what we like to call working smarter, not harder. Don’t waste your time scraping together a hodgepodge of business knowledge you find on the internet and hope everything works out. Keep your focus on what you do best — providing high-quality dental patient care — and look to the experts to guide you through this process.

Start building a network of advisors now. Your arsenal should include:

  • Financial experts (advisors, lenders, accountants)
  • Business attorney and/or HR professional
  • Building contractors with dental office experience 
  • Dental practice management consultant
  • Marketing and advertising professionals
  • Successful dental peers and influencers

You’ll be surrounded by some incredible people during this process of opening up a dental practice — don’t be surprised if you walk away with a strong understanding of the business side of dentistry. Pretty soon, it’s you who peers will be looking to as inspiration for starting their own practice.

Who can help: Your network of business attorneys, financial advisors, and dental peers.
Right now, you have an idea — opening a successful dental practice. To make it happen, you need an actionable, achievable plan. That’s where a business plan comes in.
What is a business plan? A written document that:

  • Describes your dental practice business
  • Outlines goals & objectives (long and short term)
  • Defines your patient base
  • Addresses financials

A business plan will be your north star during this entire process, so make sure you get this step right. It will be imperative for things like securing loans, pinpointing any red flags early in the process, and helping you make informed decisions along the way.

Get financials squared away

Who can help: Your network of financial experts (advisors, lenders, accountants)

The most commonly asked question when starting a new practice venture is coincidentally also the most important — “Can I afford it?”

The average new practice requires $500,000 cash for construction and design, equipment, and supplies — naturally, this will vary quite a bit depending on what part of the country you live. A start-up practice also has no patients, so your marketing budget will need to be much greater for a longer period of time than if you were purchasing an existing practice. Then there are operational expenses to consider, like payroll, building maintenance… the list goes on.

Starting a dental practice, just like any business, is an investment. Don’t let the financials scare you away. There is no shortage of banks wanting to lend to dentists, and you never know what’s possible until you explore options with your financial advisors.

Who can help: Your network of building contractors, dental peers, and marketing experts
If you have some flexibility in where you’ll open your practice, take advantage of the opportunity to do competitor research and identify an area that meets at least a few of these criteria:

  • Isn’t oversaturated with other practices within a few blocks
  • Has visibility — whether in a highly foot-trafficked area, next to a popular landmark, or easily spotted from the road
  • Is in an area where you can easily target your ideal demographic. For example, if you want to push dental implant services, choose an area that’s convenient and accessible for an older patient base
  • The address is in the city you want to target — if you dream of being a top Phoenix dentist, but your office is on the outskirts of town and doesn’t have a Phoenix address, you’ll have a hard time ranking in local searches

Create an operations strategy

Who can help: Your network of business attorneys, HR professionals, dental practice consultants, and dental peers

Don’t wait until the month of your grand opening to consider what your day-to-day operations will look like. There’s a lot to iron out. Here are the most important details to address, first.

 

Licensing & legal documents

Make sure you’re properly licensed in your state, have a national provider identifier number, and comply with all local regulations. If you haven’t already, work with your lawyer to choose a legal structure for your business and register for state and local taxes. 

 

Staffing

Give yourself time to properly screen candidates and hire the right people for your practice. You’ll need to figure out salary, health insurance, time off, and other benefits. 

 

Insurance & payment details

Will you accept insurance? It can take months to earn credentials for your practice to accept private and government insurance. 

 

Software & equipment

What scheduling software will you use? Will you use paper or electronic records? How will you communicate with patients? Consider what tools are necessary to run smoothly starting on day one. Plus, make sure you’re equipped with the dental technology to provide the level of care that fits your goals

Have some extra time? Consider attending a dental conference (many virtual conferences are available!) or other networking events. This is a great place to talk with dentists who already run a practice. Pick their brains for tips and advice on handling day-to-day operations.

Who can help: Your network of dental practice consultants, marketing and advertising experts, and dental peers
What will make your practice unique from any other dentist in your city? The way you answer this question and communicate what sets you apart is incredibly important. Marketers call it “your brand,” and it’s a concept that’s vital for standing out from the crowd and opening a successful dental practice.
Start by defining your mission statement. Then consider your target demographic and ideal patient while you outline the following:

  • What is your unique selling proposition? (What makes you special?)
  • What patient experience do you offer?
  • What problem will you solve?

Many dentists find it helpful to use the StoryBrand concept to clarify the value they bring to patients. If you’re having trouble answering the questions above, we recommend learning more about this concept and applying it to your practice.

Who can help: Your network of marketing and advertising experts

Once you have a firm grasp on your brand, it’s time for the fun to begin — creating a website, developing a marketing strategy, and getting your name out into the world!

Your marketing agency can guide you on what specifics to include in your strategy, but it often includes:

  • Dental website design
  • Onsite optimization and ongoing website maintenance
  • Compelling SEO copywriting
  • Local search and Google Maps optimizations
  • Strategically targeted paid advertising campaigns
  • Online reviews and reputation management

There are a lot of great marketing ideas out there — make sure you’re focusing on the ones that will make the biggest impact on your practice.

A note on your website: Your website will be the backbone of your marketing strategy and has the potential to be your #1 source of new patients — but it must be done right. Without a high-quality website designed and developed by professionals who understand the dental industry, you risk poor results, a low return on your investment, and worst of all, a failing dental practice.

15 of the best dental websites of the year!

Focus on what you do best — delivering great dental care

Who can help: You’re the expert, this is all you!

Running a successful practice will always involve your valuable input and collaboration. But when you partner with a trusted dental marketing agency, you can focus your attention on delivering great patient care and being the best at what you do — not worrying about where your new patients will come from.

We’re here to help

:Delmain has experience working with start-up dental practices, but we only partner with dentists if we’re confident we can create and implement an effective strategy and deliver high-value patient results. On average, our dental clients see 57 new patients per month!

Learn more about our approach to marketing for start-up dentists — or schedule a 30-min no-obligation call with us and let’s chat.