© Richard Nazaretyan | Dreamstime.com
2108 De Cgei P01

The ‘F’ word that keeps your practice from growing

Aug. 17, 2021
Are you ready for a slew of new patients? Probably not. But don't let the "f" word stop you from welcoming new patients. You can tackle problems when they occur, and learn in the process.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

There are only three ways to grow your practice: (1) increase new patients, (2) increase frequency of purchases, and (3) increase size of average purchase. I’m a huge fan of the first one because no matter how well you handle the other two, if you don’t have a steady stream of new patients, your growth is destined to plateau.

You’ll reach a maximum of how many new patients you can physically handle, but this is when your growth can really skyrocket by investing in more providers and more space. But before you get to that enviable point, let’s talk about what happens when you increase your new-patient numbers, and why so many doctors undermine the success of their practice because they’re afraid to do it. That means that the “f” word is fear, and it’s what keeps many dentists from growing.

Force the flow

Let me share an example. You might have turned on a garden hose and found out the hard way that the nozzle was not attached or was in the “on” position. Suddenly you’re scrambling to deal with the flow while you spray open windows, damage plants and pots, and douse pets before you get the hose under control.

That’s what it can feel like when the flow of new patients ramps up. Every system and process throughout the office is tested: your ability to schedule; to speed up the work while still delivering quality service; to present treatment plans succinctly yet effectively; and to check patients in and out efficiently without adversely impacting the patient experience, to name just a few.

Everything and everyone will be tested. That’s a good thing because it uncovers inefficient and ineffective processes as well as people issues that limit your capacity to grow. Once you know about these, you can go about removing barriers, fixing problems, and making improvements and investments that will change the status quo to a much more lucrative one. We often receive panicked calls from clients, but then we realize after we talk a few minutes that they’re simply in the middle of their best month ever. Great results and great growth mean you’re entering unknown territory, but rest assured the growth is the best problem to have.

We strongly encourage our clients to essentially force more new patients into their practices. Then we work with them to fix any problems that surface, ultimately transforming the patient experience, the bottom line, and the long-term growth potential of the business.

Seven proven steps to grow your dental practice

When doctors say they don’t want more new patients, it’s usually because they’re afraid of what will happen. They expect there will be problems and they don’t trust themselves or their team to be able to solve them. They also expect at least some team members to balk, and they’d rather not have to deal with the push-back. But that’s abdicating leadership responsibility. Accepting low performance and profitability because “it’s too much trouble” is absurd. Instead, invest in training and coaching to gain confidence in your ability to take control of change and drive results.

You can’t do it alone

Even the most competent, self-confident doctors need help to deliver great experiences to a slew of new patients. You need good people, and ideally a strong leadership team, upon whom you can rely to share in your commitment to do what it takes to grow the business. Along with your own training and development, invest in the team’s so your people know how to work better together, solve problems, and accept accountability for achieving goals.

If you’re nervous about their capabilities, the best way to uncover hidden talents and potential is to put the team through training that pushes them to learn and grow and do more as a team and as individuals. Today’s workforce expects a boss who’s willing to invest in their growth opportunities. Not training your people implies you don’t believe they’re capable of doing more. Find out just how much more potential you have to tap into, for your benefit and theirs.

An added benefit of training is that you find out who on the team is holding back your business. Those unwilling or unable to accept change cause problems instead of solving them, drain energy from the team, and adversely affect the attitude and mood in the office. They are probably long overdue to be cut loose. Now’s the perfect time to bring in someone new who’s eager to learn how to impress all those new patients coming in.

Learn from experience

The experience of measurably increasing new patients will reveal a chain of operational problems you never knew you had, or that you were willing to overlook. Once you accept the importance of a steady flow of new patients as the number one priority for the long-term growth and viability of your practice, you’ll have two choices: (1) continue to ignore the impact of mediocre new-patient numbers, and remain in denial about why your practice isn’t growing, or (2) learn how you and your people can work as a team to solve the problems so you can operationally handle more profit-generating new patients.

Based on the learning experience, you’ll all gain the confidence to be able to do it again and again and again. In other words, you’ll be motivated to set higher new-patient goals, confident that you can achieve them through continuous improvement.

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

JAY GEIER is an 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 that could be keeping you from growth, go to schedulinginstitute.com/de to request your complimentary analysis. Or to hear more from Geier, subscribe to his podcast at podcastfordoctors.com/de.

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Enhancing Your Practice Growth with Chairside Milling

When practice growth and predictability matter...Get more output with less input discover chairside milling.