Hanna Kinsella gives her five top tips for business success.

As many of you know running a successful dental practice is no easy task. Dentistry is a unique business, very different and almost incomparable to many other healthcare professions. As skilled clinicians we actually receive very little training on business and management at university. When I graduated, I felt rather unequipped with business and managerial skills. When I took the plunge and bought my practice, I assumed I would just learn on the job.

However, during my time as an associate and as a practice owner I have come across a few essential tips that I feel are key to running a successful business in dentistry.

1. Delegation

Leadership and delegation do in fact go hand in hand. For some of us delegation is easy but for others assigning even the most trivial tasks to others can be near impossible.

It can often be tempting and feel more efficient to do everything ourselves. Sometimes the fear of leaving tasks in the hands of others can be a barrier. Accepting that we simply cannot do everything ourselves is the first step towards delegating effectively.

I found in my practice that once I delegated tasks, I became free to focus my energy on higher value activities and used my time more effectively.

Assigning clear roles and tasks to staff members not only gave me more time for strategic thinking but also improved trust and the feeling of being valued within my team. As a busy clinician myself partnered with my other media commitments it would be almost impossible for me to run all aspects of my practice. Selecting or working with a skilled practice manager I have found is the only way it has been possible. Delegating tasks to her and working together has enabled me to thrive and prosper as a practice.

Benefits of delegating

  • Gives you the ability and time to focus on specific tasks
  • Learn and develop new skills within your team
  • Develops trust between workers and improves communication
  • Improves efficiency, productivity, and time.

2. Team

The importance of a good team is not to be underestimated. Getting employees to work well together will not only improve the efficiency of your practice but will also boost morale and improve your overall patient experience/journey. Practices thrive when they have a diverse team that can contribute individual ideas.

A lot of my marketing, branding and social media ideas have actually come from my team. I make a point of having brainstorming sessions regularly after our clinical meetings and find that the team always come up with great ideas. Involving them this way also gives them a sense of value. I often find that we collectively brainstorm ideas to create more effective solutions.

Creativity inspires the team to thrive together. Not only in their individual roles but also in tackling some of the challenges the practice may face as a team. This makes them feel:

  • That you value their work
  • That they can contribute to a successful result
  • That they have something special to offer.

It is also extremely important to invest in your team. This may be in the academic sense ie courses they may be interested in, but also in a social sense.

Regular social activities, nights out and team building really help increase team moral and a sense of belonging. Expressing your goals and parameters to your team early on means that the practice values are upheld. It is important the team work together to maximise their efficiency and reach a common goal. Whether that be working on time, recruiting new patients or following up treatments.

You are only as good as your team and if you invest time and energy into them you will find you increase efficiency, make financial savings, innovate and create new ideas and boost workplace morale.

Teamwork

  1. Working with synergy – stronger together than individual parts

  2. Empowers employees and removes constraints

  3. Removes hierarchy

  4. Encourages multi-disciplinary work

  5. Promotes flexibility/responsiveness, enhances ability to respond to change

  6. Pleases patients – they appreciate and value a good team

  7. Promotes the sense of achievement, equity and camaraderie, essential for a motivated workplace

  8. With good management – teamwork makes the dream work.

successful business building a brand

3. Branding and marketing

With increasing competition within dentistry, marketing and branding are becoming a necessary part of promoting treatments and services.

Branding your practice well is important. Your brand is what will make a memorable impression on your patients and will also reflect what they expect from your practice.

Developing a brand encompasses advertising, customer service, reputation, social media presence and logo. Spending time thinking about and designing your logo is important. This is your practice’s emblem and is what patients will come to recognise. A professional logo design needs to be simple enough to be memorable, but powerful enough to give the desired impression of your practice.

Importance of branding

  • Improves recognition

  • Creates trust

  • Supports advertising

  • Builds financial value

  • Inspires employees

  • Generates new patients.

Marketing is also a crucial element as it allows your practice to maintain long-lasting and ever-present relationships with the audience. A lot of people get disheartened when they pay large amounts of money for a single advertisement and feel they get nothing back. However, it is important to remember that advertising and marketing is not a one-time fix. Advertising once in a local magazine or newspaper may not provide the effect you were anticipating. You must prepare for an ongoing strategy and presence that helps your business flourish ie advertising monthly to maximise engagement.

Having an ongoing strategy will help to build and maintain the practice reputation. As well as being an effective way of engaging customers ie potential new patients.

Importance of marketing

  • Helps to build a relationship between a business and its customers

  • Communication channel to inform patients

  • Helps boosts sale

  • Aids in providing insights about your practice

  • Helps your business to maintain relevance

  • Marketing and social media create revenue options.

4. Social media

Social media is fast becoming one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. It provides benefits that can potentially help reach thousands of potential patients nationwide. Having a social media presence will increase your business’s visibility and ability to network with others.

As an advertising strategy, social media marketing is probably the most cost-effective way. Creating an account across almost all social media platforms is free. But if you do decide to use paid advertising on social media start small. Remaining cost effective is important as it will help you attain a larger return on investment.

Having an account and active page is also a great way to engage and interact with your patients. The more communication between you and your potential and existing patients the more chance you have of conversion. By connecting with your patients through these platforms you are more likely to upsurge patient retention and loyalty, patient satisfaction and brand loyalty go hand in hand.

As mentioned before social media platforms play a vital role in networking and communication. Creating a voice for your practice is important in improving the overall brand image. Patients will appreciate when they post comments on your page. They receive a personal response, which will make them feel valued as patients or potential patients of your practice.

Being active on social media also increases your marketplace awareness. By observing the activities on your profile you see your patients’ interests and opinions that you may not have known.

Another benefit of social media presence is increasing the traffic to your website. By sharing your content on social media, you are giving users a reason to click-through to your website. On your social account, the more quality content you share, the more inbound traffic you will generate, whilst also creating conversion opportunities.

Overall social media presence and marketing has many advantages for dental practices and has worked incredibly for mine. Through having a social media presence, we gain a better SEO, improve our practice/brand loyalty, and gain healthier patient satisfaction.

Importance of social media

  • Improved brand awareness

  • Cost-effective

  • Engage with your customers

  • Improved brand loyalty

  • Healthier customer satisfaction

  • Marketplace awareness

  • More brand authority

  • Increased traffic

  • Enhanced SEO rankings.

5. Invest wisely

We all know that there are many considerations to make before investing. The big question is how do you know if something is worth investing in?

It is important to think about the potential return on investment, your current financial status and implementation of the investment in your workflow. Any investment will increase your expenses initially and therefore cause a loss in profit in the short term. However, investing wisely will increase your profit substantially over time. Here are some factors to consider before making investments:

New patients

Before making any investment in your practice you must consider your overall strengths and weaknesses. Will the potential investment help leverage your strengths, or will it help solve your weaknesses?

If the answer to these questions is yes then it may be a worthwhile investment. By solving these issues you will not only make it easier to gain new patients, but also improve the experience of your existing ones as well.

Patient satisfaction

It goes without saying that a happier and more satisfied patient is likely to keep coming back and recommend you to their friends and family.

Involving patients in investment decisions is a great way to find out exactly what it is they would benefit from. This may include certain treatments they have heard about or measures to meet their expectations.

Besides treatments, think about your overall patient journey. It may be worth considering improving and investing in your reception, waiting areas, reducing chair-side time, reducing turnover time for a treatment or even reducing number of visits required for a treatment plan.

Increasing conversion rates

Average conversion rates are around 20-30%. So if your investment could potentially increase to 60-70%, your practice revenue doubles on the same number of patients.

It is important to remember that patients don’t make decisions on approving a treatment plan purely based on the facts. Emotions play a role too.

The patient journey has to be right and instil confidence that you as a practice can deliver the treatment to a high standard. If your investment will enhance your patient’s confidence in you and convince them that your practice is better than the one down the road, it may be worthwhile.

Productivity

Increasing the number of patients you can see in a day would increase the practices overall income. Therefore, any investment which increases productivity and efficiency will be worthwhile.

This may include automated processes that speed up the practice’s general admin/patient notes, streamlining processes will save you valuable time to dedicate to treatment. In my own practice we see many Invisalign patients and I invested in an Itero scanner to take digital impressions, which hugely reduced chair time.

It’s also important to relay the reasons of implementing new things at the practice with your staff. Once they understand the rationale behind your investments, they too will be on board with the changes. This increases not only the productivity of the practice, but the profit as well.

Decrease expenses long term

Some investments will reduce your overall expenses long term. Although initially it will add on to the practices expenses, it may eventually bring down running costs.

For example, the Itero machine I invested in at my practice; we have eliminated the use of conventional materials and have found we need fewer remakes due to the accuracy of the digital impressions. We no longer need storage space for models and have found lab fees decreasing significantly resulting in a long-term saving.

Moving with the times

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate and we must to some degree move with it so we are not left behind.

Many practices now are moving into the digital world. So there may be a risk of losing patients to other clinics that provide services and treatment options that we are not. Although the initial investments may be large, the return on investment will be larger and cover the cost over time.

Finally, never make an investment decision based on what your competitors have done. What may work for them may not necessarily work for you. Identifying your practices specific strengths and weaknesses is the first step in identifying what will work best.

Highlight the objectives that this investment will help you achieve and whether your team can integrate it into your workflow.

Investment is key to growth, as I have found with my practice, and will in time increase your practice productivity and profit.

Important of investing wisely

  • Acquiring new patients

  • Increase in patient satisfaction

  • Increase conversion rate

  • Practice productivity

  • Reduction in long term expenses

  • Not being left behind.