Piloting the financial success of your practice

I recently spoke at a seminar for new dental practice owners and those seeking to own or buy into a practice. I was surprised to find out that many of the dentists in attendance who were aspiring to achieve a financially successful career in dentistry were unaware of some key measurements of practice success.

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David J. Goodman, CPA, MST

I recently spoke at a seminar for new dental practice owners and those seeking to own or buy into a practice. I was surprised to find out that many of the dentists in attendance who were aspiring to achieve a financially successful career in dentistry were unaware of some key measurements of practice success.

I have been told by reliable sources that the dentist practice failure rate in the US is less than 1% per year. That is an amazing success rate. But if a practice does not fail, is it indeed providing the income and quality of life the owners desire? Some practices fail, some just survive, and still others thrive. I believe that in order to achieve a thriving, financially successful practice, progress toward that goal needs to be measured.

Imagine you are the pilot of an airplane. You have set the course for your destination. You have run through the checklist of procedures to follow, including making sure you have enough fuel to get to your destination. Think of the airplane as your practice. The checklist is your education. The fuel is all the skills you have mastered through your dental education. Finally, your destination is how you will look back on your career and measure your success.

An airplane pilot has a cockpit dashboard that is filled with many dials. These dials help the pilot measure the plane's progress and steer it toward its destination. Some dials need to be observed more frequently than others, but all of them are important to the overall success of the flight. A pilot's failure to look at a particular dial on the dashboard might result in the plane not reaching its destination. Catastrophic results can happen and, sometimes by luck, the plane arrives safely.

As a dentist, you should have your own dials on your dashboard to measure your practice's progress. Most dentists I meet for the first time measure their practice by comparing production or collections to the prior year or month. Some measure how much money is in the bank account. These are all valid measurements, but used alone they do not provide a complete picture of the practice's progress.

There are dozens of statistics that can be used to measure practice performance. Here are some key performance indicators and recommendations on the frequency of measurement.

There are many dials that make up your practice's dashboard. Some are checked more frequently than others. Maybe you are checking some but not all of the dials on your practice dashboard. Maybe you are headed to your destination, or maybe you are leaving it up to luck. If you use all of the financial information available, you have a much better chance of arriving safely at your destination.

Twice a year:

• Speaking with a dental CPA for insight and recommendations on practice metrics

• Tax planning with your tax preparer

On a daily basis:

• Production and collections

• Treatment plans presented and accepted

• New-patient inquiries and how these people learned of your practice

• Comparing daily production to projected production

• Appointment cancelations and no-shows

On a monthly basis:

• New patient visits as a percentage of new-patient inquiries

• Treatment plans accepted as a percentage of treatment plans presented

• Collections as a percentage of production

• Hygiene production as a percentage of total production

• Total production as a percentage of projected production

On a quarterly basis:

• Hygiene salaries as a percentage of hygiene production

• Comparing overhead to average dental practice percentages

• Comparing overhead to previous quarter

Annually:

• Projecting production goals for the following year

• Allocating those goals into daily production goals


David J Goodman, CPA, MST, is managing director of Lawrence B. Goodman & Co., PA (www.LBGCPAS.com), located in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. As a member of the Academy of Dental CPAs, Mr. Goodman provides a unique perspective on dental practices. He can be reached at David@LBGCPAS.com or (201) 791-8300.

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