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Coming To A Walmart Near You

by Dr. Tyler Williams

Since I started practicing nearly 10 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Implant have become accepted as mainstream to patients, corporate practices have grown exponentially, and dental school debt is climbing rapidly. In one the best economic booms of all time, many practices are hitting all time highs.

It’s amazing however, that some are really struggling. We all have our challenges, it comes with running any type of business. In fact I’ve noticed 3 dental offices close near my home in the south part of the valley. I’ve also had several offers to buy my practice from DSOs and corporate practices, some call, email and write to me regularly. Not a bad fit for some people, but at this point in my career, being bought out offers no interest to me.

Our businesses aren’t any different just because we work in dentistry, business is business. Some see this idea as “salesy”, but I see businesses as the future of our jobs and economy. Great businesses are the future places our children will work when they grow up.

Plus the $815 billion juggernaut around the corner is now trying to compete with you.

Last fall, Walmart opened one of its first health clinics in Dallas, Texas. I’m not sure what and where their plans for expansion are, but if you study Walmart, it’s a matter of when, not if they come knocking into our town.

“The customer is at the heart of everything we do, and that focus is reflected in the new Walmart Health center. This state-of-the-art facility will provide quality, affordable and accessible health care for members of the Dallas, Georgia, community so they can get the right care at the right time, right in their hometown.” Sean Slovenski, SVP and President of Walmart U.S. Health and Wellness

I’m sure Amazon has already set its sights on dental care and is putting a plan into place to open up retail or mobile locations. Smile Direct Club is going nowhere. Even if you hate them and don’t agree, they are enrolling people (especially millennials) like crazy, and not just in the US. Interestingly, Invisalign’s stock (ALGN) has been climbing in value since Smile Direct went public a few months ago. That is a lesson in itself.

I’m sure the way you practice dentistry a decade from now will be very different, but hopefully in a good way. If you constantly innovate and improve the way you practice, not just on teeth but on your business as a whole, I believe dentistry still has lots to offer us. Especially since 50% of the population still isn’t seeing a dentist at least once a year.

Most importantly, my plan is NOT to compete with Walmart. That’s a totally different plan. I’m not going to try and compete on price or location with them. Why would I? If all of my patients run out and start getting care at Walmart, I have a bigger problem than Walmart – my problem would be the lack of a reason for my patients to come back and see me. I personally wouldn’t put Walmart as my top 10 choice for any type of healthcare for me or my family, but that’s just me.

There’s never been a better, or more important time to differentiate yourself than now. Dentists are well-known for buying “shiny objects,” as seen by much of the unused equipment in drawers and closets at our office. They are purchased with good intent, but without a plan, usually go to waste.

When Walmart first showed up, Nordstrom didn’t suffer, because they were already different. The “mom & pop shops” that closed down couldn’t differentiate themselves from Walmart on price, convenience or service so they got gobbled up.

My word of caution is to be careful on who you take advice from. Look for a mentor who has been and is going where you want to be. Much of the media and corporate growth is propaganda and is simply trying to scare small practice owners into selling or moving. I’m here to urge you to not compromise your ethics or goals, and to continue on your path to excellence in dentistry.

If you have any feedback or would like to share your experiences with me, I’d love to hear from you at twilliams@ pinecrestdds.com.

Dr. Tyler Williams

Dr. Williams  has written numerous articles for the Utah Dental Association, The Profitable Dentist and other journals. He is the author of three books, including The Owner’s Guide to a Productive Dental Practice: 7 Pillars Every Dentist Needs to Grow in the New Economy.

Dr. Williams has been featured on ABC’s Good Things Utah, NBC News Radio, the ForbesBooks Radio podcast, The One Thing marketing podcast, Sirius XM Radio, UK Health Radio, KTALK Utah radio and in several national dental research publications, and he has been recognized as one of the most influential dentists in Utah by Kleer's list of Most Influential Dentists in America. He also hosts a bi-monthly podcast called The Practice X-Factor.

To contact Dr. Williams, please email him at twilliams@yourpracticegrowth.com, text/call (801) 268-2323, or visit yourpracticegrowth.com.

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