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Most of your business plans are terrible

June 7, 2019
Face it. Dentists have a tendency to simply hope that their businesses will run well even though they don't invest enough time and effort into business plans. How about actually making a plan?
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Pardon the sensationalist title, but it’s true: most dentists’ business plans are terrible. We want more new patients, higher gross revenue, and lower overhead but there is no plan in place to get us there. None whatsoever. Our practices operate the same way they did yesterday and we hope the improvements will just fall from the sky.

Or perhaps we do spend time and money to make some positive changes to our businesses. We drop some bucks on new-patient marketing or change our recall systems. Those changes can certainly be beneficial, but they’re not part of an overall strategic plan. So, there you have it—most of our business plans are terrible because they don’t really exist.

Here’s an example of a real business plan. After careful analysis of your income statements and practice software reports, you determine your profitability and overhead is in check; you just need more new patients. Let’s say you’re averaging only five new patients a month. The general consensus is that a typical practice should have around 20 new patients a month, so you make this your target. Now, what’s your plan for getting there? You do some research and find that no other dentists in your area offer sleep apnea services. You’ve dabbled in a few cases and you’ve been meaning to get more serious about offering sleep apnea services.

First, you decide to better educate yourself and take some proper dental sleep medicine courses. Then you work with your team to develop systems for patient screening and education, medical billing, and protocols for each visit. Your goal is for new patients coming to your office for sleep appliances to feel that your team is confident in handling their care.

Now that you’re ready to receive new sleep patients, you determine a marketing budget and plan. You decide to partner with a direct mail company to help make this process turnkey. You identify your target markets as people who suffer from a sleep-related breathing disorder and their spouses. Under your direction, your direct mail partner creates the mailers and sends them to the appropriate segments of your local market. You give this program six months and then evaluate how many new patients you’ve added per month.

This is a business plan. Yes, I touched on it at a more macroscopic level and I glossed over many of the finer details, but the point is that this follows a plan. I don’t think we do this often enough. Instead, we make changes blindly to our practices and hope for the best.

If you’re ready to start making some strategic changes to your business but you don’t know where to start, I strongly recommend that you attend the upcoming Dental Economics conference, The Principles of Practice Management.




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About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Editor, Dental Economics

Chris Salierno, DDS, is the chief editor of Dental Economics and the editorial director of the Principles of Practice Management and Group Practice and DSO Digest e-newsletters. He is also a contributing author for DentistryIQ and Perio-Implant Advisory. He lectures and writes about practice management and clinical dentistry. He maintains a blog to answer patient questions at ToothQuest. Dr. Salierno maintains a private general practice in Melville, New York. You may contact him at [email protected].

Updated Dec. 4, 2020