Blessing in disguise

This dentist is not happy about having to relocate. But it can be a positive experience and one that ultimately benefits the practice.

Aug 1st, 2018

Dear Dianne,

I received word from my landlord recently that he has sold the building where my practice is located. The new owner informed me that I have to move because he’s planning to turn the building over to a developer for private family dwellings. I’ve been at this location for 15 years, and I’m very upset that I have to relocate. As I begin my search for a new location, can you give me any tips from your experience on optimal locations? — Dr. Tom

Dear Dr. Tom,

Moving, whether a home or business, is never fun and can be downright traumatic. However, once you get past the shock that you have to move, you can view this as one of those blessings in disguise because relocation can breathe new life into your practice. During my years in consulting, I’ve recommended relocation for some clients. It is extremely difficult for a dental practice to project a professional image and draw high-quality clientele in an area suffering from urban decay or blight. The location of a dental office is one of the most important determinants of practice success or failure.

Since I do not know anything about your current location, I’ll stick to the basics. The two most important aspects of location are demographics and dentist-patient ratio. First, it would be helpful if you could obtain a demographic profile of the area. Is it a growing area with new businesses and homes? What is the average income level of residents within a three- to five-mile area? How many other dentists are in the area? Is the dentist-patient ratio high or low?

Also consider the traffic volume. It is best to be in a high-traffic area where many people see your signage. Is there adequate space for parking? If your practice does well, is there any opportunity for expansion?

Since you have an existing patient base, it makes sense to minimize patient attrition. Staying as close as possible to your current location could be positive to prevent attrition, but if the area is not optimal, you may need to choose a better site where your practice can grow. Once you know your moving date, plan a notification strategy to alert your patients. I suggest a tasteful “We’re moving” banner to begin the process. Another piece is a mass letter to all of your patients that details the new address, date of opening, and advantages of your new location. The tone should be very upbeat and inviting, and the letter should outline how patient care will be even better at your new site.

If you plan to rent as opposed to purchasing your own site, make sure the lessor does not have the right to force you out by having a relocation clause written into the agreement. Such clauses are a huge risk to the lessee, and I would advise against signing any such agreement.

I have walked several clients through relocations, and a particularly good location is beside or near a grocery store, particularly a new grocery store. A fresh, new office complex can also offer a good option for a dental practice site.

I urge you to write down the specifics that you would like to see in your future site that you don’t have in your existing location. Most of all, keep a positive attitude. If you’re like most dentists who have had to relocate, you’ll look back 10 years from now and say that relocating was “the best thing that ever happened to me and my practice!”

All the best,

Dianne Glasscoe

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, RDH, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Please visit Dianne’s website at wattersonspeaks.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at diannemba@gmail.com or call her at (336) 472-3515.

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