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Getting Your Practice Started

Dr. Chip FaulDr. Chip Faul, veteran dentist from Merritt Island, Florida, offers his lived-and-learned advice for Getting Started.

New Graduate Dentists - In my humble opinion, a new graduate starting a practice from scratch, these days, is ill advised. I did it thirty years ago when the latest and greatest technology was enamel bonding and failure was not even in our banker’s vocabulary. But today’s dentistry is in a whole different universe. One bad decision can turn a good idea upside down and result in catastrophe.

Veteran Dentists - Everyone other than a new graduate dentist qualifies as a veteran. As mentioned previously, you probably fit into one of three categories of veteran dentists: successful practice and outdated facility, modern facility and mismanaged practice, or an associate leaving a practice to go it alone.

Associates going into solo practice should probably follow one of the paths suggested for the new graduate, including buying a practice from a retiring dentist, but with a lot more confidence in their needs and wants list due to experience.

If you have a great practice but need a new or renovated facility, you are probably going to have the least stress in your endeavor. You know that the cash flow will be there to finance your project and things will only get better once you are done. Finding someone suitable to plan and oversee a remodel, or a new office, is much more fun than finding someone to help you revamp your practice’s management style.

On a related note, I have remodeled my first practice several times and have moved a subsequent practice into an existing dental office twice in my career. Without a doubt, I found that upgrading my equipment with refurbished saved a lot of money over time. Refurbished equipment looks like new and works like new. However, once again, the demographics of your location might dictate what makes sense for you. A successful family practice on Merritt Island, where I live, would be well served with all refurbished equipment while a cosmetic and spa practice in Aspen would demand a combination of high-quality refurbished and ultra high-tech equipment with all the bells and whistles.

There is not wrong or right, just what’s right for YOU. Many of the equipment companies out there, both new and refurbished, offer design and decorating services to compliment their equipment. Once again, keep an open mind and check with more than just your current supply salesman. Once you start shopping, you will find that competition will drive prices down and service up.

You veterans who have a great facility but need management help have a lot of tough and heart wrenching work ahead of you. The good news is that there are excellent practice management companies out there who are worth their weight in gold. I worked with a lot of different consultants early in my career. I took some ideas from each one and developed my own brand of practice management. It works. However, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would search for someone who could do everything, and I would get on that person’s bandwagon and stay there. The way I did it took a long time and a lot of money.

I believe that you should look for a consultant who can help you transform a staff into a team, perfect your systems (scheduling, billing, collections, insurance, etc), and coach everyone in the office on what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to sell and produce more and better dentistry. You should commit to doing it.

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