Rebecca Schmoor, DDS
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.