Dentistry was second nature to David. He was a star pupil in dental school, acing every exam and even tutoring his fellow students. He wasn’t out of school long before he decided to buy his own practice. He was drawn to the increased freedom and income that accompanied ownership, and he had the skills to back it up. However, he quickly found that dental school had not prepared him for the complexities of managing his own business. He suddenly felt like he was in over his head, and he began feeling trapped. Between student loans and his recent major purchase, he was facing sizeable debt – however, he knew he possessed the talent to make things work. He just needed some guidance.
Many young dentists find themselves in situations like David’s. Dental school does a great job of teaching the mechanics of dentistry, but does not go very far in teaching business skills like practice ownership and management. As dental expert R.J. Adolfi once said, “Dental school isn’t for business. If it were, they would call it dental business school.” Luckily, there are plenty of measures dentists can employ to get a better grasp of managing their practice. One such measure is to join a new dentist committee. The American Dental Association has a New Dentist Committee which is comprised of members throughout the nation and touts itself as “the voice of the new dentist.” They advise the ADA’s Board of Trustees on matters pertaining to new dentists. It should be noted that, in this context, “new dentists” refers to those 10 years or less out of dental school or advanced education. The significance of this committee is that it has local chapters throughout the country that organize events and provide a support system for new dentists. Such organizations can also provide invaluable networking opportunities, creating connections that may pay off down the road.
Dentists can also use benchmarking statistics to help guide how they govern their practice. Analyzing the numbers of one’s own office can provide a sense of performance, and comparing these figures to external data can reveal weak spots. This approach can help practice owners gauge compensation levels and benefits in order to reduce turnover and raise morale – things not often taught in dental school.
Dentists who are feeling unsure about their practice management skills should take a look at this list of 100 tips from 100 experts. They might also consider hiring an organization that specializes in practice management training, which can help guide them through the most important elements of running a successful organization. These elements may include complete practice analysis, front- and back-end office systems (such as efficient patient and cash flow), employee accountability checklists and financial accountability systems like embezzlement-proofing.
It’s not uncommon for a new business owner to feel like they’re in over their head. The good news is that there are resources available that can help.