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owning multiple dental practices is more attainable that dentists may thing.

Owning multiple practice locations: It’s more attainable than you may think

June 16, 2024
Even when business is thriving, it can be daunting to consider the logical next step—expanding your practice to multiple locations. At one point, this dentist was in those shoes.

When I started out as a young dentist, the idea of owning multiple practices wasn’t on my radar. At 23 years old, owning just one practice felt like a massive undertaking, marked by the trial and error that often accompanies new practitioners’ experiences. 

Six months into opening the practice, I became pregnant. Due to complications with the pregnancy, I was placed on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. I had to make the difficult decision to hand off my practice to an associate so the business could keep running.

At the time, I had no idea I was building a skillset that would serve me later in my career. Through hiring a capable associate, delegating my responsibilities, and communicating my vision, I embarked on a path that would lead me to ownership of four private practice locations across two states.

One thing I wish I knew before I got started: owning multiple practices decreases your workload. Although it comes with its own challenges, being able to rely on others can contribute to a much better work/life balance. So, if you’re thinking about expanding your practice to multiple locations, what are some steps you should take?

Remind yourself why your practice matters

For me, expanding my practice happened out of necessity. I had so many patients and a limited staff. If I wanted to keep growing, I needed to open another location.

As I pondered the best course of action, I reminded myself of the intrinsic value of my practice. Maintaining the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship has always motivated me to remain independent. Plus, I was making a difference in my community by providing a high level of compassionate care.

Since reputation is everything in the dental field, I knew I needed to replicate my core values as well as my operational success across locations. My brand needed to reflect everything that was good about my first practice.  

If you’re considering opening another location, you should take the time to reflect on the merits of your current practice. Ask yourself what sets you apart and how these things contribute to your purpose. This will help you refine your vision as you lean into the entrepreneurial spirit.   

Start documenting your SOPs  

We all have certain styles of running our practices. Intuitively, you probably know the ins and outs, but a new manager may not identify those same nuances. When handing off your practice, it’s important to have a handle on the systems that work for you. Start by making a list of your daily tasks, large and small.

It may be helpful to record your systems in a document or talk through your processes with a trusted colleague. Whatever your approach, make sure you can clearly explain your protocols.

Hire team members who fit your culture

I’m proud to say that I’m very hands-on with the hiring process at all my practices. To execute my brand, I place a lot of trust in the day-to-day operators. One of the hardest things I let go of was my inability to be in two places at once. Instead, I had to cultivate confidence in my managers and staff, which starts with hiring the right people.

It is a priority for me to know every single person who works for my locations. The number one thing I look for when hiring new staff is their personality fit. I want to know if they are going to mesh well with my existing team, because the team makes or breaks the practice.  

My culture has a lot to do with flexibility and understanding. For example, I am willing to give a new mother the day off when she needs it. Or, if I notice a team member is on the verge of burning out, I make them take a mental health day for self-care. My expectation is that when it’s someone’s turn to step up, they do so with a positive attitude, because they know the rest of the team would do the same for them.

Plus, I never really worry about being short-staffed because I can pull from my other locations if needed. All of this is possible because I hired managers who see eye-to-eye with me and staff who are team players.

Develop a strong retention strategy

Once you hire the right people, it’s your responsibility to keep them around. With the shortage of dental hygienists, that’s easier said than done. Nevertheless, I have developed a retention strategy that has consistently produced great results.

  • Fair compensation: This seems like a no-brainer, but some dentists view low wages as a method to save money. I find the more you invest in your team, the more likely they are to stay with you, saving you time and money in the long run when you don’t have to keep hiring. Merit raises and cost-of-living adjustments go a long way.
  • Benefits: When I was first starting out as a private practice owner, I couldn’t afford to provide insurance. As soon as I could, I added a 401K, and that made a big difference. The more benefits I’ve added, the better retention I’ve had.
  • Training: I educate team members who may lack the necessary experience for certain roles. If someone demonstrates that they are teachable, I don’t need them to meet every single requirement on a job posting. Though it can feel risky to train someone who isn’t guaranteed to stay, my experience is that these team members tend to be extremely loyal and grateful for the opportunity.
  • Reasonable accommodation: Part of my retention strategy is my interest in accommodating team members’ needs. I understand that we’re all adults with demanding personal lives. When people feel cared for in their workplace, they are less likely to look elsewhere.

I can empathize with any fears that arise at the prospect of owning multiple practice locations. Still, I believe many dentists underestimate their capabilities. Once you take the leap, you will probably wish you had expanded years ago. Owning multiple locations is extremely rewarding and has immeasurably improved my experience as a dentist.


Editor's note: This article appeared in the June 2024 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

 

About the Author

Kaveeta Channamsetty, DDS

Kaveeta Channamsetty, DDS, is the owner of Pearl Dental, which offers four practice locations in New York and Connecticut. She graduated from Stony Brook Dental School in 1998 and was recognized by the Pierre Fauchard Academy for outstanding leadership the same year. She served as a clinical faculty member at Harvard University for Advanced Education in General Dentistry from 2000 to 2006. She graduated from Glidewell’s Guiding Leaders program in 2022.

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