How soon do I make changes?
Implementing a good intentioned system too soon can backfire if existing support staff feels overwhelmed and unhappy. Employees may already be unsettled about the perceived uncertainty following a dental practice sale. Until they are fully acclimated, the support staff may not share the same level of enthusiasm and motivation of the new dentist-owner. While new systems can improve your efficiency and profit margins in the long run, the immediate impacts must be considered. While key personnel changes may be necessary after purchasing a dental practice, it is advisable not to make sudden changes too soon.
Why does having a good "team" matter?
One advantage in purchasing an existing dental practice is having an experienced staff in place. In a busy practice, the bulk of the patient's time may actually be spent with other members of the staff. Team members, such as front office staff, assistants and hygienists can have frequent patient interaction and likely develop personal rapport. Positive interactions with an upbeat and caring team can go a long way to building a loyal patient base and practice. Patiently getting to know individuals and considering their strengths and weaknesses will help you to assess the value of their contribution. For a smooth transition, having a capable and enthusiastic support staff is absolutely critical.
Implementing your ideas
As imperfect as the previous owner's system may have been, it was still sufficient to build up the practice to a marketable level. As a motivated new owner, you may want to increase hours or trim salaries that seem higher than average, but be methodical about these changes in the beginning. The last thing that the new dentist-owner should have to do is scramble to fill staffing shortages. Be sure to set clear expectations and evaluate your staff for a few months before making any major changes. This is for your benefit as the new owner-dentist.
Managing the dental practice as a business
A crucial component, where most dentists lack experience, is the ability to manage a small business. Managing overhead is typically a new experience for the first time owner. In addition to debt services, the new owner will be paying rent, salaries, supplies, and other expenses of operating a dental practice. Therefore, it is extremely helpful to evaluate where you need to spend money now to increase production, versus areas that may not show immediate "return on investment."Prioritizing your budget and marketing is critical. The new owner may have their own practice improvement ideas, such as updating operatories and equipment, renovating the office, or converting the practice to a digital paperless system. However, in the beginning, it may be wise to invest in marketing and actually increase the cash flow of the business. In time, there will be a need to update equipment or make some aesthetic changes to the office as needed. Be sure to initially focus on components of the practice that will increase your cash-flow. Having the latest equipment and a beautiful lobby can be beneficial, but the financial health of your practice should be your primary concern.
Setting goals for dental practice growth
In order to get off to a good start and "hit the ground running," it is important to set clear and realistic goals. Establishing rewards and incentives for your staff can boost productivity and team-building. The dentist and support staff can work together to be more accountable in achieving the goals. With these goals in place, staff evaluation and overhead reduction is measurable and easier to manage. Maintaining a stable staff and implementing clearly defined, achievable goals is critical to getting off to a good start.
Charles Kim, is a dental practice broker at Transition Consultants, a practice merger and acquisition firm. Mr. Kim provides transaction advisory and dental practice valuation services to dentists and dental groups nationwide. He can be contacted at 800-416-2055.