Beware of middlemen

April 1, 2000
In your article "Is management a science?" (January issue of Dental Economics), Dr. James Pride asked why dentists distrust practice management. My own experience has given me cause to be wary.

Rebecca Schmoor, DDS

Raleigh, N.C.

In your article "Is management a science?" (January issue of Dental Economics), Dr. James Pride asked why dentists distrust practice management. My own experience has given me cause to be wary.

In April 1997, I opened my practice in a rapidly growing area of North Carolina. Early in 1998 things were moving slowly, so I chose to sign up with the local franchise of a very well-known national practice-management group. What I needed was advice on how best to market my practice and how to avoid the common dental practice-management mistakes. The proprietors of the local franchise suggested I was indeed "fortunate" to be accepted by them.

At first, our practice benefitted from the prepackaged videos and texts forwarded to us by the local franchise owners; however, business continued to grow slowly. The heads of the local franchise insisted that my location was wrong. I soon discovered they were trying to gather dentists to work in their own mega-dental clinic in another part of town, and that this was taking the better part of their time. As the information from the franchise decreased, the "guidance" I received from the franchise owners also decreased. Clearly these people were middlemen who had little expertise of their own to offer. When I asked about ways to market my new practice, I was given a list of books to refer to. In the five months I was with this group, my production actually decreased, and I was paying for consultation that hinted I should close my practice and consider being "chosen" to become a partner in their new office.

Finally, I wised up and quit the management group. I found a small marketing group that devised some fabulous ads that we continue to run in the local newspapers. I bought a $150 SOP Manual for Dentists which has helped to organize the office and staff. Last year`s P&L statement for years 2.5 to 3.5 showed that, with one hygienist and one-and-a-half assistants, I grossed well over $500,000, all of which was fee-for-service dentistry.

Much of what I learned from the practice-management group materials was helpful; however, dentists should be aware that individual franchisees can and do vary widely in experience and, yes, even in integrity.

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