Managing a solo dental practice is an incredibly fulfilling journey, with many ups and downs along the way. However, for many dental business owners, there comes a time when it feels like you’re starting to outgrow a single practice, and you want to start looking into opportunities for expansion. Expanding your dental practice can help you stand out in new markets, serve new clientele, and provide jobs for more professionals. Yes, it can be twice as busy and twice as demanding as running a practice with one location, but it can also be twice as fulfilling and rewarding. This article will detail expansion tactics for dental professionals who are currently considering taking this journey.
Determining The Right Time to Expand
Timeline might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a business expansion challenge. Why can’t you decide you want another location and start the process immediately? I saw a quote once that said, “Slow and steady wins the race, not the person who wants to climb the whole set of stairs in one stride,” and I think this quote rings true for practice expansion. If you rush headlong into an expansion without considering the best time and all the necessary considerations, you will not be able to reach success at the top of those steps.
Here are four questions that can help you determine how ready your practice is:
- Do you have a solid patient demand that is outpacing your current practice?
- Will the demand continue to be strong enough in the new location(s)?
- Are you prepared to lead both your practice and another location or multiple locations?
- What are your long-term business goals? Does this potential expansion align with those goals?
Along with the timeline, a huge consideration for expanding your dental business is finance; in fact, this should be at the forefront throughout your entire planning process. It’s essential to consider your current capital and the potential future income that can be generated through expansion. Many factors need to be organized throughout the expansion, such as:
- Current cash flow – Are you currently in a position where you have the cash needed to cover both the new business expenses and your current location?
- Projected ROI – Return on investment is important for every type of business expansion, but in dental services, it directly correlates to the level of care you can provide for your patients, so estimating the ROI is very important while expanding.
- Budget preparation – Your workload will increase after you expand to a second or more locations, and it isn’t likely you will have as much time to focus on finance for at least the first few months. That’s why it’s so important to prepare your budget ahead of time and ensure you don’t go over budget during the launch phase.
If you’re a practicing dental professional while also running your business, you likely don’t have a huge amount of time to spend on financial considerations. Though these are important, your time must be spent on the day-to-day management of your practice and client management. That’s why working with trusted financial advisors and professionals is vital to your success, especially during business expansion.
Even though there are over 25,000 licensed dentists in Canada, staffing is a key issue for many clinics. As a business leader, you need to hire the right people at the right time, and when you expand your practice, that grows exponentially more difficult. During an expansion, you’re on a set timeline of when you want to open the new location, so staffing can feel rushed and complicated financially when you don’t have a patient roster yet. Effective staffing is crucial to any practice, especially expanding a previously trusted and established practice. Your new patients will expect to receive the same level of care and commitment at the new location as the original from all the staff involved, from dentists to hygienists, to dental assistants, to the front desk team. Each of these individuals plays a key role in the patient experience.
For staffing your new clinic, it is essential to start early. Some people think a shorter leeway time will draw in more talent, but beginning to staff the clinic with key roles a few months prior to launch will help you fill necessary roles quicker when you open. Using referrals from your current staff can be a good way to fill out some of the roles and post them on internal job boards (such as ODA’s), mentioning that it is a newly opening clinic, so there will be room for growth.
When you’ve decided that the time is right and you have the right resources to build another successful clinic, your next consideration is location. As a successful business owner, you understand the importance of location. You wouldn’t open an ice cream parlour in the middle of the Arctic Circle. And you certainly wouldn’t want to open a dental practice in a location where there is no client demand.
Consider your current clientele – do you have a long waitlist for new patients? If you do, expanding to a new practice in the same area as your current business could be a great strategy because you have proven demand on your waitlist, and chances are those patients would be willing to be taken on by a new dentist with your referral. You can also look into other locations to expand beyond your coverage area, reaching new client options. When deciding on a new location, consider the competition in the area, potential building options and, the leasing or purchasing costs, and other businesses and institutions in the community. Look for locations where there is a growing patient population and chances to get connected to the local community, such as proximity to schools and community centers.
After The Expansion
The time is right, the finances are in order, the staff is ready, and the perfect location has been found, but the work is not done. Especially for the first year, the demands of new practice locations will seem a lot, but it is worth it to set your business up for success in the long term. There are a few key steps to take in order to build a strong foundation for your new location:
- Marketing: You can’t expect your new practice to be hugely popular right from the moment doors open. To draw in new clientele, you need to commit to localized marketing to the unique patient profiles you’re looking for. A healthy way to start is through the pre-established social media and web channels you have from your original practice.
- Staffing: As mentioned previously, you can only do so much staffing before opening your new location. When the building is ready, prioritize getting more staff in to serve your new clients.
- Training: Remember that your new staff will not be familiar with the new location and its features. To retain consistency across locations, design a training program to keep staff informed on expectations for service.
- Branding: In general, consistency is key to growing your expansion. Whether your new location carries the same name as your original practice or not, ensure that your branding and design are consistent so clients can have that recognizable footprint and build trust with the new location quickly.
- Tracking success: Don’t forget to regularly check in with your new location and ensure it is meeting the business goals you have in mind, such as patient load, client satisfaction levels, and monthly recurring revenue.
You are a successful practice owner already. You know the challenges that come with running a dental clinic. Though launching a business expansion may sound like a tall task, you are already preparing yourself for it through the day-to-day management of your own clinic. If you plan effectively, take your time, research, and work with the right professionals, the expansion process can be seamless and successful. You need to be willing to see it through for the long term because building any business takes time, especially one inherently client and relationship like dental services. Hopefully, this guide will help you prepare even more for the coming expansion.
About the Author:
Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani is the CEO and Director of Yazdani Family Dentistry. Dr. Yazdani earned his DDS degree with Honours from the University of Toronto in 1998, then completed a 2-year residency in North Carolina. In 2001, he opened Yazdani Family Dentistry, and a few years later, he expanded and opened Costello Family Dentistry.