4 Ways Dentists Can Increase Their Business Knowledge
Effective strategies to take practice management to the next level
Dentists do not learn a great deal about business, management, or leadership in dental school. Unlike corporate CEOs—who have training and experience adapting to shifting market conditions with innovation and strategic thinking—many dentists are unprepared to respond effectively to changes in the dental economy. They are focused on caring for patients by providing high-quality dentistry, which is just one component of achieving success as a business.
Business Education for Dentists
It would be impractical for dentists to go out and acquire a business degree. Their educational priority must be on continuing clinical studies that will keep them up-to-date on the latest patient-care techniques. Even if they were to invest their time in attending academic business courses, it would still be necessary to determine how to apply what they learn to meet the unique demands of a dental practice. While I am a proponent of all forms of education that can benefit individuals in their personal or professional lives, practicality dictates a more targeted approach for dentists who seek to upgrade office efficiency. Following are some suggested strategies for acquiring the needed business knowledge.
1. Read and watch everything you can find on dental business management.
Dentists can develop a general knowledge of the business aspects of dentistry. This involves learning from:
• Dental business articles and magazines
• Dental business content on respected websites
• Dental-related business books and other material
• Videos, webinars, and live seminars
These resources will help lay the foundation for becoming a more successful practice leader. This is comparable to someone who wants to become an outstanding athlete starting with a regimen of cardiovascular and resistance training.
2. Study the methodologies of other highly successful dentists.
Most dentists are more than happy to have visitors to their practice for observation. In fact, they often take it as a compliment. By observing successful practices and asking questions about how they address key management issues, dentists can acquire significant knowledge and insight in a short amount of time. Some of these highly successful dentists may also become mentors to young dentists or those who are appreciative and enthusiastic. Bear in mind, however, that a methodology that works well in one office may not work as well in others. This potential problem can be eliminated by visiting several offices to get a broader perspective and learning how different methodologies can lead to the same successful results.
3. Upgrade the business management skills of your staff.
Another recommendation is to improve internal managerial capabilities. This can be accomplished by hiring an experienced administrator to manage day-to-day practice operations. The problem with this approach is that the cost would be prohibitive for most dental practices. A more cost-effective alternative would be to enroll the practice’s office manager in a comprehensive training program designed to meet the unique needs of dental practices. This would be especially beneficial in conjunction with establishing practice performance targets and implementing management and marketing systems designed to meet those targets.
4. Learn from acknowledged experts.
As the CEO of a leading dental management consulting firm, I have had the opportunity to witness the transformations of literally thousands of practices during the past 29 years. I mention this because, for dentists who do not have time to master an extensive learning curve, accessing outside experts in successful practice management may make the most sense. The right dental consultant can provide immediate expertise and hands-on support to practices seeking to acquire real-world business capabilities. Dentists choosing this approach should begin with a professional business analysis. The analyst conducting it will ascertain the current state of the practice, which will enable the doctor and/or office manager to decide which type of consultants and programs will be most effective—and cost-effective—for their practice.
Dentistry is in an era when growth is essential, not only for its impact on production, profit, and income, but also for dealing with many of the new market challenges dentists face today. As I say repeatedly in my seminars, if a practice is not growing, it is declining. In the new dental economy, excellent clinical skills no longer guarantee success. It takes real-world business knowledge and skills to thrive, and the recommendations above will help any dentist acquire these essential tools.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc. To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center—a free online resource with tips, videos, and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.
If you are interested in upgrading your practice’s performance as a business, an analysis of where your practice stands is the place to start. Find out about Levin Group’s Practice Performance Analysis™ at www.levingroup.com/practiceanalysis.