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Seven proven steps to grow your dental practice

July 1, 2021
Nothing draws people to your business quite like high-quality staff and word-of-mouth from happy patients. Jay Geier outlines how to achieve just that.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

Last month I pointed out that if you’re struggling to grow your practice, you may be the biggest obstacle in your own path. If your mindset is that all kinds of external circumstances are holding you back—competition, location, building, labor pool, patient demographics, geography, economics—then you’re giving yourself an excuse not to change the internal circumstances over which you have total control. And if you mistakenly believe that the controllable aspect of accepting versus not accepting insurance is the biggest barrier to your success, I cautioned you to carefully evaluate the unintended consequences of making changes, because you may do your business more harm than good.

Push all of the excuses aside and put your focus back where it belongs: on your patients. They are, after all, what ultimately determines whether your practice grows or stagnates. As important, your people are what ultimately determine whether your practice consistently delivers the kind of experience that attracts new patients and keeps them coming back, agreeing to treatment plans, and referring family and friends.

Seven steps

Taking these seven proven steps will put you on a path to growth and help you realize you are much more in control of your circumstances than you think.

1. Set growth goals.

Shift your focus from what is to what could be by setting growth goals for key metrics such as production, revenue, collections, referrals, new patients, and net profit. Doing so will instantly give you a more optimistic mindset. Involve team members in the goal-setting process to help solidify understanding and buy-in. These are called “growth goals” because they are designed to propel you and your team forward. No tiny incremental goals allowed.

2. Execute action plans. 

Goals without action plans are pointless, so work with your team to map out strategies and assign responsibilities. Doing so signals that you know you can’t succeed without them. Make it a positive experience that builds excitement and motivates everyone to change the status quo. After all, if you’re not that happy with the state of your business, neither are your team members.

3. Track progress.

Implement simple tracking systems that establish clear priorities so everyone will know how you’re doing against agreed-upon goals. Regularly review what’s working that you can build upon, and where course corrections are needed. Celebrate successes along the way. Even if you miss a goal, your results will be better than if you hadn’t tried. The main reason for failing to achieve a goal is often the time frame, so don’t be afraid to give an extension if necessary.

4. Invest in team training. 

It’s unfair to set higher goals and performance expectations without training your people accordingly. Without adequate training, it’s highly likely that you’ll see the results you want. Your team members are already doing the best they can with what they know how to do, so give them the benefit of learning how to be more engaged and accountable as individuals, how to work more effectively as a team to achieve goals, and how to deliver an excellent patient experience.

5. Become a patient-centric practice.

Every practice thinks they are patient centric, but when you apply the patient screen to every decision, action, and element of your practice, you’ll probably realize that much of what you do is centered more around convenience for the doctor and other team members than the needs of your patients. Here are some key examples: Are your phones answered whenever patients want to call? Do you have extended hours? Do you see patients five or six days a week? Do you accommodate same-day appointments? Only through training can you learn what it looks and feels like to be truly patient centric (or else you already would be). And for the solo practitioners out there, no, we do not expect you to work five or six days a week, all hours of the day. Part of being patient centric is creating a practice and a team that can support your patients at their convenience, even if you aren’t there personally.

6. Market your practice. 

People come to your practice to look and feel better; they need and want what you have to offer. You should be proud to tell people how you can help them. Broader than just advertising, you should be communicating about your services and about all that you do and stand for in the community. Your reputation is built around whether existing patients are proud to refer you and whether potential patients are attracted to your practice.

7. Give back to the community. 

It’s impossible to maintain a woe-is-me attitude when you’re busy giving of your time, talents, and resources in ways that help improve others’ lives. Worthy causes give team members a greater sense of purpose and foster teamwork. Patients will appreciate that you share your good fortune, and they will be proud to recommend you to others. In addition, new patients will be attracted to your practice because of your reputation for helping others outside the office as well as inside.

Take charge

Making excuses for lack of practice growth is crippling. It makes you a helpless victim of your circumstances, but the business owner—not the circumstances—determines success. It’s up to you to take charge and take control of your attitude and actions within those circumstances. Instead of allowing perceived barriers to justify stagnation, focus on what you can control. Doing so will grow your business, your patients, and your people. You’d be amazed at how often our clients whose practices had plateaued or had been declining for years turned things around once they invested in themselves and their teams. Once those practices realized their mindset was holding them back, they changed a few key factors, and those changes revitalized their practices.  

Editor's note: This article appeared in the July 2021 print edition of Dental Economics.

Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or to sell for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training and doctor coaching to help people live up to their full potential by uncovering blind spots that are holding them back. To find out if your practice suffers from these blind spots, go to schedulinginstitute.com/de to request your complimentary analysis. To hear more from Jay, subscribe to his podcast at podcastfordoctors.com/de.
About the Author

Jay Geier | Founder, Scheduling Institute

Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in training and development and coaching doctors on how to transform their private practices into thriving businesses they can keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum dollar. To hear more, subscribe to Jay’s Private Practice Playbook podcast at podcastfordoctors.com/dentec.

Updated February 15, 2023

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