Your dental practice and retirement: Is your practice headed down the same paths as some retail giants? Part 2

It's not hard to plan for retirement, but it doing it right does call for some planning. What can today’s established dentists do to roll with the changes and remain viable as retirement looms?

Sep 6th, 2018
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In my last article “Your dental practice and your retirement: Is your practice headed down the same paths as some of these retail giants?” I discussed the similarities with retail giants, such as K-Mart and its inability to change with the times, and how this is putting some of these giants out of business.

What can today’s established dentists do to roll with the changes and remain viable as retirement looms? Here are some ideas.

Millennials

Why is this generation important? They’re important not only because they are one key to the future viability of any practice, but also because they don’t seem to be keeping up with their dental health. About 30% of millennials (ADA Study) have tooth decay or gum disease. What an opportunity!

To reach millennials, you must be online with more than a website. Meaningful engagement and interactions on social media include Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Twitter, and having a well-written blog . Look at this as part of a plan to build your image while engaging current patients and attracting new patients. Look to your staff, or hire a social media representative to handle this for you.

Social media tip: Do not feature clinical photos on any social media! This is not due to HIPAA, but because patients generally consider that stuff to be gross. I know you’re proud of that implant and how much gum tissue you were able to save, but leave the information for your study group.

Corporate dentistry

There will always be a market for dental franchises, and instead of fighting that energy or being disgruntled about their presence, use that energy for your own benefit. How? Create a patient persona that describes the very person that does not want the corporate experience, and market to those people.

Do they want the lowest price and a flashy location, or a personal touch and a caring experience? Do they want to have every service their insurance covers right now, or do they prefer being seen as individuals who can prioritize certain procedures over time? Are they simply afraid of the dentist and want a doctor who understands and has an excellent chairside manner?

Patients who avoid corporate practices are likely patients who want to see you. Describe them to yourself and figure out how to get them through your door.

Marketing tip: Consider hiring an experienced marketing consultant to focus on one or two specific items in your practice. Simply getting new patients in the door with short-term offers generally isn’t a great strategy. Creating a patient persona and engaging a marketing pro to help you attract patients for the long-term might be a winner.

Multi-office practices

This strategy has become more popular, and in many cases it improves the overall corporate dentistry model by maintaining more of a local practice feel. Instead of fighting a multi-office practice, again, use that energy to your benefit.

Consider subletting additional space near one of the large employers in your area that feeds your practice and go there one day a week. Reach people where they are, at work, school, out to eat—even if they’re not in their neighborhood, they may frequent the area near your office, which makes you a more convenient option than another dentist.

Millennial dentists who “get it”

Young dentists graduate with a great deal of technology and marketing savvy. They understand their constituents, and they share many of their attitudes and philosophies in general. Millennial dentists speak the same language as those their age, so they know how to reach them effectively.

The millennial generation is an important demographic to tap into for the future of your practice growth. Reaching these people could also help maintain the value of your practice at transition if a purchasing doctor sees that there is a marketing plan in place to cultivate a future patient base.

One way to tap into this market without having to necessarily understand it is to recruit associates who are part of the millennial generation. This not only keeps production up—potentially freeing up some time for a senior doctor—but helps ensure lines of communication with a large market remain open.

Statistics

You can’t change the time in which you were born, but you can understand how that time period and some other key statistics impact your practice’s future. For example, if you started practicing between 1975 and 1985, your were part of a large graduating class of dentists coming into the profession when there were few dentists retiring. This meant there were fewer patient bases to purchase to launch a practice, so many dentists either had to pay a higher premium to buy them or start a practice from scratch. Today, there are fewer dentist coming in than those who want to retire, so the opposite is now true—there are fewer buyers for more practices.

What can a dentist do? First, keep up production. Second, know your patient base and offer relevant services. Third, make sure your procedures are priced right for your market (charge enough). Fourth, aggressively save into your retirement account. Finally, start working with a broker years in advance to groom your practice for transition.

Notice I did not recommend spend thousands on a practice facelift or marketing plan or rebranding. Those items might become good options for you at some point, but there is a lot that dentists can do before they take those steps.

Will Parrish is a founding partner of Slate, Disharoon, Parrish & Associates LLC in Knoxville, Tennessee. Feel free to contact Will with questions at will@sdp-planning.com or (865) 357-7373. Visit sdp-planning.com or connect with Will on LinkedIn.

Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisers, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Slate, Disharoon, Parrish & Associates, LLC and Cambridge are not affiliated. Cambridge does not provide tax advice.


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