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Setting up a New Dental Practice
After years of training and associate positions, the next step for many dentists is into practice ownership. Whether you build a brand-new practice or purchase one, the learning curve will be steep. The journey can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, experiences and outcomes. Not only for yourself but for your team.
My clients are busy dentists who are at various stages of their careers and practice ownership journeys. I am privileged to hear what has been difficult and challenging along with the successes and high points. Being able to talk things through with someone who has no direct or personal relationship to yourself or the practice is a very beneficial experience. As a coach I have no agenda relating to the practice. My role is to support my dentist clients to create their vision and set their goals while supporting them to achieve both.
Building your own practice means you get to wear many hats. Business owner, leader, manager, maintenance person and still continue with the job of being the dentist. It is a lot to take on and does create a considerable mental load. Add this on top of family and life away from the practice (yes, that still exists too) and for some it can be overwhelming. However, there are strategies that you can implement and services that you can use which will turn a daunting and all-consuming experience into something much more positive. Other dentists will ask you how you did it and still keep smiling! So how have the dentists I work with managed their experiences? Here are a few of their ideas.
A mission statement and personal vision.
Start out with a solid foundation (or if you already own a practice you can always create one now). The mission statement is a brief description of your dental practice 's fundamental purpose. It will explain why your practice exists and will articulate its purpose not just for you but for your team, your patients and community.
Your mission statement should not be confused with your vision statement. Your vision statement for the practice is focused on the future. It's about what you see happening, how the practice runs and very importantly where you are going to take the practice. Once you have a mission and vision statement you are able to move forwards with the reassurance that you are going in the right direction.
Acknowledge that you need to learn how to run a business.
This is something that we were not taught how to do in dental school and as such presents as one of the most stressful aspects of owning your own practice. Navigating the finances, employees and all the regulations can seem daunting. One top tip that dentists I have spoken with share as being very beneficial is creating time specifically for doing your admin. Allocating specific times during the working week for admin allows you to fully focus on it and also frees up your time when you get home in the evening.
Compliance is one area of practice ownership which can feel extremely daunting for both new and seasoned practice owners. QCS has launched a new pre-registration product to help dentists set up a new practice and register with the CQC. This not only supports new practices in their set-up, but once the CQC interview date is confirmed, you can then move to the full management system to remain compliant and help you in the busy world of dentistry. The policies and other guidance documents will give you the reassurance that you are covering all the bases in terms of compliance and regulations, and it will save you a great deal of time, money, and brain power. Leaving you with more time to be the dentist you trained to be and have the life away from work that you need.
Remember you are the leader.
You will most likely have a practice manager to help you run the practice day to day. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your PM is in charge of everything. Remember, your practice is your ship, and you need to help steer it in the right direction. You need to be at the helm and see the PM as your co-pilot who supports you in your quest.
Create a hiring and employee manifesto.
By writing out how you want your team to behave, interact, feel, act, and develop you are able to create a document that can be shared with existing and prospective team members. It gives employees a clear picture of the sort of person who will thrive in your practice and be an asset to your team. Just having this document means that even before you interview prospective employees they can ascertain if your practice is a place that will suit them.
Don't rush into buying the fancy equipment and technology.
We all know buying a practice is not a low-cost exercise but being cautious of how and when you spend your money is critically important. As lovely as it is to have the latest intra oral camera or top of the range dental chair, consider where you spend your budget. Initially invest in the people and services that will help you set up a successful practice with the least amount of stress. A great accountant and sound legal advice will help you to get your ducks in a row from the very start. As you start to produce a good income then you can add the fancy equipment piece by piece.
Making changes? Inform and explain.
If you're buying an existing practice the chances of you inheriting a team and the 'old’ way of doing things is high. Coming into this situation with all your great new ideas can be tempting but remember that the staff will be used to doing things the way 'old Dr X' did them. They may be resistant or reluctant to change and have a great loyalty to the previous practice owner which can take a while to overcome. When you are planning changes, be clear in your communication. Set expectations for the team and how you plan to measure success. Existing teams will have at least two questions for you. “Why and how?”
Remember your why.
There will be days when you feel like your dreams and ambitions have come true. There will also be days when you question why you even wanted your own practice! On these harder days remind yourself of the bigger picture and why you wanted your own practice in the first place. What does owning a practice mean to you, and what can you do, now that you are the practice owner?
In short, focus on the positives, create a mission and a vision. Keep things simple to start with and be a good communicator with a kind heart. Good things will happen, you will build a successful team, your patient list will grow and become loyal to you. When you leave work at the end of the day you'll feel proud that it is your name at the top of the list of name plates outside the door! You will be pleased you took the plunge!
To find out more about the pre-registration pack and the full QCS management system, you can arrange a free trial by going to https://www.qcs.co.uk/dental-pre-registration-pack/.
Dr. Karen Tindall was a dentist in the UK for 16 years. She now lives in the United States where she is an internationally accredited professional life coach supporting busy dentists and doctors on both sides of the Atlantic create a positive relationship with their time.
You can find her at https://www.balanceddoctor.com.
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