The emergence of small group practices
More dentists are creating small group practices. Some of these groups are not making it because the dentists/owners are unprepared for taking on much more responsibility.
Dental practices have traditionally operated as a one-man or one-woman show. However, recent statistics indicate that there is now an average of two dentists per practice, and that number is expected to grow.
More dentists are discovering the benefits and economies of scale associated with “grouping up.” If you have an interest in developing a small group practice, it helps to know up front that you’ll be dealing with many challenges that smaller private practices do not face.
Your first challenge will be taking on the high debt that comes with creating a small group practice. Plus, there are numerous financial, management, and logistical factors that must be carefully considered. Still, if managed correctly, the small group practice can be very satisfying and lucrative.
Managing a small group practice
Unlike traditional private practices, most small group practices don’t have a business development plan or clear direction for growth. For example, a client who my firm worked with has nine practices. He purchased one practice from a dentist who passed away, acquired the patients of a retiring dentist, merged with another dentist, opened another practice at a new shopping center, and so on.
Unfortunately, he was in significant debt and five of the practices were losing money. Given the way he cobbled together the different offices without a business background, proper set of advisors, or business plan, this was no surprise.
There is a long held belief that all dental practices make money, and if you have enough of them you’ll make even more money. However, in acquiring a small group practice, management skills and oversight have to be at a much higher level than those of a private practice. For maximum success in your small group practice, follow these three steps.
1. Create a business plan
All opportunities for acquiring practices should be considered. But keep in mind that you must have a specific business approach in order to ensure success. There needs to be one person who has complete oversight over all offices and office managers so that he or she can monitor performance on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.
2. Develop uniform practice operations
Creating systems for small group practices is no different than for any other type of franchise. To maximize productivity, operations should be uniform. If each office operates radically different, then the performance of all offices will be erratic and overall profitability will suffer.
3. Design a desirable compensation plan
Compensation packages that have been created in the past can come back to haunt a small group practice as it becomes bigger and those packages no longer apply. You must have a well-thought-out compensation plan for associates that addresses whether they transition into partnership, and that will be sustainable as the small group practice grows.
As the number of small group practices rises, we’re seeing higher levels of stress and lower levels of profitability as most dentists are unfamiliar with how to manage this type of practice. Practice leaders must acquire the necessary skills and education or ensure that they have the right management team to help them. Follow these three steps and you will create a small group practice that is enjoyable, fulfilling, and profitable.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a dental management consulting firm that has worked with over 26,000 dentists. Dr. Levin, an internationally known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs, dentistry’s only all-business study clubs and the next generation of dental business education.