I RECENTLY SAT DOWN to talk with Timothy Elloway, DDS, who is a veteran dentist nearing retirement. Dr. Elloway is the owner of Timothy Elloway DDS in Paradise, California, and has seen many changes in the dental industry, which give him interesting insight into growing a dental practice. Let's get right into the interview, which provides some advice that is the first of its kind!
Interview with Timothy Elloway, DDS
Dr. Elloway, can you give us a little bit of your background?
I graduated from dental school in 1989 and purchased my practice that same year. This practice was what many would categorize as a dying practice. Our patients were all "mature," as was the dentist I was purchasing from. The patient base was very small, so I initially only practiced three days per week in my office and was an associate in another office in the next town over.
I knew I needed to bring new patients into the practice because it was in a state of decline, and since I was young, I started brainstorming ways to bring younger families into my office.
So this is 1989 that this is happening. How did you decide to target young families, and do you think it would still work in 2017?
I started out by meeting with a bunch of the larger businesses in town to introduce myself and get to know their employees. I also met with the retail clerk's union in town and got to know them a little bit. Slowly these people started coming in and bringing their families in. As I provided quality dentistry to them, they started talking to their friends.
The great part about the retail clerk's union is that they got a lot of face time with people in town on a daily basis.
When people referred other patients, I was always sure to send a personalized thank you gift to them and a welcome gift to the new patient. That seemed to keep the process going to the point that I still get a majority of my new patients from patient referrals.
I think this would still work, but I don't think you would be the only person doing it like I was back then, so you would probably have to work even harder than I did to persuade them to start coming to your practice.
So you are still getting a lot of patient referrals which stemmed from your initial efforts to get involved in the community?
Yes. I even get kids of these patients that I gained back then, who moved away and have now moved back with their families. Since many of their families still come to my office, I still get good referrals from them.
That is a great suggestion for dentists who are looking to get some new patients and get involved in the community. Have you done anything else that has provided you good new patient flow?
Over the years, we have tried a lot of things as they grow in popularity and then fade out. Newspapers and phone books worked for quite a while, though I probably wouldn't suggest that anymore.
One thing that has worked well for me and is still working well for me are the local business networking groups. I am a member of Le Tip and Business Network International (BNI). I meet on a regular basis with other business owners and business professionals in town. We refer business to each other when our clients and patients need services. This has proven to be a source of about 5–10 new patients each month, although that is not astronomically high, these have been very high quality patients for the most part.
That is a great tip! Now, to finish things off I want to ask you one of my favorite questions. If you had to start over tomorrow, how would you grow your dental practice?
If I had to start again I would probably put more effort into finding a practice that was already moving in the right direction. I would look for a younger patient base and the reputation of the office that I was purchasing.
I would find a few awesome mentors who were willing to brainstorm with me and help me get my practice going in the right direction. Hopefully that would speed up my learning curve. I would still put the emphasis on being active in the community and growing through referrals and reputation.
Dr. Elloway, thank you so much for your time and your valuable insight!
Adam Smith is co-owner of Oxford Dental Care and has personally consulted with more than 70 dental practices across the United States and Canada. He worked as a consultant and a data analyst with Dental Intel, where he fell in love with the statistics and business aspect of dentistry. Adam has a background in online marketing and website development, and works with a few select practices on their marketing on a referral basis only. He also runs a dental marketing Facebook group where he provides tips to dentists to improve their online marketing. If you have any questions, he can be reached at [email protected].
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Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions.
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