When the time comes for you to expand your dental office, the experience can be both exciting and terrifying. You’ve followed all the steps to build a successful dental practice, but turning your modest office into something bigger, better and more profitable is a major next step with lots of important things to consider along the way.
If growing your dental office has been on your mind for some time, here are the pros and cons of expanding your practice and a few extra things to think about before you make the big decision.
Why do you want to expand?
The first question you need to ask yourself is why you want to expand. This will help you understand how best to develop your business to solve your problems and achieve your goals.
- Are you struggling to fit your patient appointments into your schedule?
- Do you find yourself too busy to handle dental emergencies?
- Is your waiting area too small to comfortably cater for all your patients?
- Do you not have enough space in your treatment rooms for the latest dental equipment?
- Are you fed up of referring patients to other practices for specialist treatment?
How much will it cost?
The second thing to consider is the total cost of expansion in terms of immediate expenses you need to pay without delay and long-term expenses which will add up over time. Having an idea of how much expanding your business will cost will let you know whether it’s possible or something you need to work toward. Consider:
- How much new equipment you need and the price
- The cost of a new lease and forwarding expenses (notifying clients of your new address)
- How much salary you’ll have to pay new employees, including specialist dentists, general dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and reception staff
- Marketing expenses
Is now the right time?
The final thing to think about when it comes to expanding your dental practice is timing. You need to make sure your business is stable enough to support such a big change and you have the finances to cover it. It’s important you grow your business at the right time and not rush it because you want to get it over with. Evaluate:
- Your patient load — do you have the ideal number of patients, are there gaping holes in your schedule or are you struggling to treat all your patients?
- Your time — are your currently following your preferred work schedule, are you working more hours than you like or are you finding yourself at a loose end without enough patients to fill your working week?
- Your lease contract — are you able to terminate it now or is there time left on the lease and you need to wait longer?
How to expand your dental practice
Expanding your dental practice takes many different forms according to the problems you’re trying to solve. When you’ve answered the above three questions, you’ll have a good understanding of how best to develop your practice to achieve your goals. Here’s an overview of some of the different choices available to help you decide.
Offering more services
Keep more of your current patients
Providing your patients with access to more services is one of the best ways of expanding your dental business. The primary benefit of this is you get to increase your profits by retaining a greater percentage of your current patients.
If you only offer basic treatments at this time, you’re forced to refer patients to other specialist dentists when they require more complex treatment. Patients prefer to visit the same dentist (or at least the same dental practice) for all their procedures. If the dental office you refer your patient to has a broader scope of treatments than your office, the patient might go straight to the other practice the next time they have a problem. If you already offer specialist treatments, you won’t have to refer your patients anywhere else and risk losing them.
Attract new patients
When you offer a variety of dental treatments, other dentists in your area who only offer essential procedures are more likely to refer their patients to you for specialist work. If you provide these patients with a five-star experience, it’s likely that they won’t return to their previous dentist and instead will come to your practice for treatment in the future.
You need to invest in your team
Investing in your dental team is one of our tips for running a successful practice and it’s also something you’ll need to do if you want to offer more services to your patients. There are two routes you can take:
- Train your current staff so they’re capable of completing more complex procedures
- Hire new staff who are already able to carry out specialist treatment
Training your staff will take longer and cost you more money, but you get to retain your current team of trustworthy employees without hiring anyone new. Hiring new staff with the right skills is quicker and more affordable and you can do it without dismissing any of your current team. If you find your staff through an online matching platform such as Cloud Dentistry, you can keep costs down even further by only hiring specialist dentists for the specific time and days you require them to work.
You might need new equipment and more space
If you’re planning on providing your patients with a greater choice of treatments, you’ll probably need new equipment. Depending on the size of equipment and how many pieces you require, you might also need additional rooms and space. This all comes at a significant cost which you need to account for during the planning stages.
Increasing your office hours
You can treat more patients
If your patient schedule is fully-booked for the next few weeks, increasing your dental office hours means you can make room for additional appointments, walk-ins and emergency treatments. Not only does this help you retain your current patients, since they don’t have to wait a long time for appointments or be turned away without an appointment at all, but it directly increases your income, since you can carry out more procedures.
Appeal to a greater number of potential patients
When you only treat patients Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, you’re hugely limiting your number of potential patients. If you offer early morning, evening or weekend appointments in addition to your regular schedule, you appeal to a much greater number of people. Determine when your target audience is most likely to want dental appointments and try to operate during those hours for the greatest ROI.
You have to work longer hours
If you don’t want to expand your dental practice by hiring more dental professionals, you need to be willing to put in the hours yourself. Finding work-life balance is something everyone struggles with, especially in the dental industry. And while it might be tempting to work all the hours you possibly can to turn a greater profit, this is only going to hurt your mental and physical wellbeing.
You need to hire people willing to work out-of-the-ordinary hours
On the other hand, if you’re happy to hire additional staff, you need to find professionals who are willing to work unusual hours that match your new schedule. When you hire people from Cloud Dentistry, you can see their availability and their work schedule. This means instead of wasting your time contacting people who aren’t a good match, you can make the most of your time by only getting in touch with the people who have said they’re happy to work when you need them.
Hiring more staff
We’ve already covered how hiring more staff takes a weight off your shoulders as a dental practice owner, but it helps out the rest of your team, too. Having more people working in your practice means a greater flexibility for everyone, as the working hours, patients and dental procedures are shared. This results in enhanced productivity, a greater patient experience and an increase in profits.
Reduce the risk of burnout
When staff are forced to work extra hours over long periods of time, they’re at a significant risk of burnout. Professional burnout takes many forms, but it’s harmful for both the individual suffering through it and their workplace.
When you expand your team, your staff are able to stick to a reasonable work schedule, carry out an acceptable number of treatments and take time out when they need it. This ensures their wellbeing is taken care of and they’re able to do the best job they can.
Expanding your team isn’t free. As the saying goes, “An hour worked is an hour paid” and depending on how many people you need to hire, the number of hours worked could be quite high. Unlike traditional dental job boards and dental temp agencies, Cloud Dentistry keeps fees down to an absolute minimum for dental practices. In exchange for a small monthly fee, you can hire as many dental professionals for as many hours as you like. All profiles display the professional’s hourly rate, so you can determine if someone fits into your budget before you contact them.
Possible compatibility issues
Just like any business decision, hiring new staff comes with a risk. What about if the person you hire doesn’t work well with your current staff? What if they’re not as skilled and experienced as you were expecting? What if your patients don’t get on well with them?
These are all risks you’re going to have to take.
Thankfully, due to modern technology, you don’t have to hire blind. With Cloud Dentistry, you can read potential employees’ profiles to understand their experience and take a look at reviews from previous employers. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, you simply don’t invite them back to your practice. You don’t have to worry about the hassle of firing them if it doesn’t work out.
Moving to a larger location
Take advantage of a larger space
Moving to a larger dental practice creates more room for better equipment, an increased number of rooms for more dentists to practice in and a larger waiting area for patients to be more comfortable in before they undergo procedures. Something as simple as having a larger space to work in and receive treatment in benefits almost all aspects of your business, from your staff’s working conditions and your patients’ experiences to your practice’s reputation and ultimately your profits.
Opportunity for a fresh start
Not only will changing your dental office provide you, your staff and your patients with more space, but it will also give everyone a fresh perspective. When you work in the same place every day, with the same people and the same surroundings, you can easily grow bored.
Sometimes you think you’re fed up with your job when in fact you’re simply tired of your surroundings. Moving to a new office with a fresh look and a brighter atmosphere is often all it takes to remind you why you went into dentistry in the first place.
Inform your clients about your relocation
One of the greatest challenges you’ll face as a dentist when it comes to relocation is encouraging your current patients to move with you. If you’re only moving a couple of blocks away, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if your move is significant, it’s likely your patients will at least consider changing to a dentist that’s closer to their home. To avoid losing patients, think about offering them a discount or a free cleaning if they stick with you after the move.
Your staff need to be willing to move
One of the primary reasons many people choose their workplace is because it’s in a convenient location close to their home. If you’re planning on moving you dental practice, not all of your staff might be willing to come with you. This is something you need to be aware of in the planning stages, so make sure you ask your staff if they’d be happy to move.
If you’re determined to keep your current team, you might have to consider offering them a pay rise to compensate. But if your new location is too far from home for them to come with you, you can always find new dental professionals local to your new area.
There’s a lot to think about
While the idea of expanding your dental practice is a thrilling opportunity, there’s a lot to consider before you take the plunge and begin the process. It’s important you take your time, ascertain why you want to expand, if you can afford to do it, if now is the right time to do it and the best way to go about it before you make any big changes. You don’t want to make a rash decision that could hurt your business.