Five Traits of Failed Dental Start Ups

Chris O’Shea: Welcome to the Dental Business Guide Podcast. I’m Chris O’Shea and today I’m joined by Arun Mehra. 

Arun Mehra: Hi, Chris. How are you doing?

Chris O’Shea: I’m good. How are you doing?

Arun Mehra: I’m good. I’m good. Thanks. Yeah, all go.

Chris O’Shea: Brilliant. Brilliant. Right. So today, we’re going to be talking about what failed dental squats always do. So what do new dental practices get wrong? Arun, what do you see the new dental practices get wrong all the time.

Arun Mehra: Right. So where do I start? I’ve been helping clients over the last 20 years almost now. And some squats do really well. And we’ll talk about that another day, what they do well, ones that do make a success of it. But there are a whole range of things that people get wrong. Okay, there’s five key areas where people have made the mistakes. 

Poor Location Choice

So the first one is poor location choice. What I’ve seen is people open up brand new businesses in a location which isn’t visible, or it’s up some stairs, it’s hidden. And, therefore, it’s difficult for people to find it and visually see it. So that would be something I would strongly recommend people be careful with when they’re choosing their location.I recall it was one clinic that we opened up in the South East with a client many years ago, and I told him right at the outset, you’re going to struggle here, you’re going to struggle. He kitted it out to look beautiful, lovely. But no one could see it. Okay, no one knew where it was. And he said, I’m going to do it on Google. And I said, Yeah, I’m sure you’ll do well on Google, and you’re new and you’re going to have to resort to that at some point. Why make your job even harder? By choosing a poor location? Okay, so I think if I was opening a squat today, visibility is paramount. And there’s no excuses. Now with the changing planning laws, you can actually open a squat virtually anywhere now.

Chris O’Shea: Of course, yeah, they just opened it all up now. So pretty much open it wherever you want.

Arun Mehra: Yeah, absolutely. I think that makes it easy. There’s a few hoops to jump through. But yeah, considerably easier than when we opened up our clinics many years ago. So poor location choices. 

Chris O’Shea: Okay, right. Okay, that makes more sense.

Overspending on Equipment

Arun Mehra: Then I suppose the next point in my mind, me being the accountant, is expenditure or over overspending on equipment. Now, people see dentists as an easy target. Especially if they’re a new dentist and excited that they want to open up a clinic. So for the dental engineering companies out there, sorry, but that’s their opportunity to really try and milk you as much as possible. So they say you need this, you need that, you need this piece of kit. And I’m sure you might need it at some point in the future, but you don’t necessarily need it right at the outset. 

But remember, when you buy it, you have to pay for it. So really, really be careful about what you need to spend money on and what you don’t need to spend money on. And I remember when my wife opened up her first clinic, we were green and kind of didn’t really know much at that time. And we saw a nice guy, we kitted out, looked beautiful. But one of the surgeries we never used for about 18 months, two years, because it was just sitting there gathering dust and that money could have been used much more usefully in managing and building the business further earlier on. 

And so that was a real learning point 20 years back, but people still make the same mistake these days. They still overspend on equipment that they’re not even going to use and maybe in two, three years down the line, they could probably get a newer piece of kit which is more later version of the technology for the same price. So think carefully about what you want. And I suppose the other point Chris to highlight here is get various quotes. Don’t just rely on one company, get a few quotes from various companies. There’s plenty of people out there selling dental equipment these days. You’d be foolish not to get a few quotes and then you decide and it might not necessarily be the cheapest is the one that you go with. Far from it. But check you’re getting good value for money, check you’re getting the right equipment, what you really need for your practice. 

Chris O’Shea: Okay, some good advice.

Getting the Marketing Wrong

Arun Mehra: So that’s two points. This one is kind of really important. And I think even more important in today’s market. And this goes back to more and more people are opening up squats or buying practices and trying to build their existing practices. Therefore, what does that mean? That means more competition. And therefore, you need to be strong in your marketplace. People need to have good visibility. That’s why I said location choice was important earlier, and strong marketing. And that’s where I think a lot of people fail. You’re a marketing expert, Chris, what do you see? What do you think? 

Chris O’Shea: I see exactly the same thing, either people not putting enough money into their digital marketing, people not worrying about their digital marketing enough. Yeah, I mean, the two biggest things I think I see are people not worry about SEO enough. People not really put the effort into their website, making sure it ranks highly, making sure it’s good, making sure it converts. 

And the other one is not putting enough money and effort into their and Pay Per Click ads. So people hope that they can put in a tenner, a week or a tenner, a month, a couple of keywords, then people walk in through the door. It doesn’t work that way, you’ve really got to spend money to make money with digital marketing. Yeah, I would definitely agree with that, poor marketing investment is a big hindrance I’ve been seeing.

Arun Mehra: I think this is gonna get worse because I think, more competition. And absolutely, Google’s constantly changing his algorithms, there’s a new one coming in May as we’re aware of. Pay Per Click is changing. So there’s no excuse not to spend on marketing. But what I’ve seen in so many practices is that they hire a web designer, and they create a website which looks very nice, and it’s got nice pictures and all this type of fancy trickery on it and stuff, but no one’s actually seeing it. Because they’re driving no traffic to it. 

Okay, so they’re not getting traffic from pay per clicks, they don’t want to spend the money on it. And they’re not driving traffic through organic search, because they’re not spending the effort and time and money on SEO. So you spent a few 1,000 pounds on a lovely looking website, but if no one’s seeing it, what’s the point? Today’s squats need to, in my mind, if we’re going to set up a practice, I need to have a website, probably before they even open. 

How long do you reckon in advance? What do you think it should be set up? Or at least a presence online for Google to pick up? What do you reckon?

Chris O’Shea: I’d say three to six months minimum before you open up you want to start, you want to get your website live, and you want to start putting content on there. Because like we keep saying, content is key to digital marketing. So even before you open, start writing your blogs, start writing your about pages, start writing your articles and making your videos because Google’s gonna start seeing that six months before you open, then by the time you open, hopefully, you’re in the top 10 of Google, you’re on the front page, maybe even number one. 

Arun Mehra: I’d say three months minimum. So it takes about six to 12 months before Google really starts ranking you properly. So you want to have that momentum early. And you can listen to various other podcasts Chris has done. I’ve done videos, we’ve got out there on some of the tips for marketing. So if you need any help on that, give us a shout. 

Chris O’Shea: Yeah. We got some great articles in there about this.

Not Having the Right Team

Arun Mehra: Absolutely. Absolutely. So those are the top three points that came to mind. But then the fourth point is having a skeleton team and then not having the right team in place. I think from experience, building a team takes time, there’s no doubt about it. And you hire people that you realise, you know what you wish you hadn’t hired them in the first place, you then need to hire people that you want to hire. 

And then you need to keep them motivated and interested in wanting to get involved in work. So you cannot be everything to everyone. You can’t answer the phone, you can’t do the nursing, you can’t do the dentistry. So you need to make sure you recruit and find the right team members for your practice. And in order to do that, you need to pay a decent salary to attract the right type of person into your business. And at the same time, if you spent money on marketing, then someone who answers the phone who cannot answer the phone very well, who hasn’t a clue – what’s the point of spending the money on marketing? So you need to make sure you have that consistency through there. 

So not just a minimal team, but a decent sized team that can support the investment that you’ve made. You’ve probably spent hundreds of 1,000s of pounds, or a lot of money, on setting up your clinic. You then need to make sure you’ve got patients and it looks beautiful. But again, you don’t want an empty clinic, you want to fill that chair, or fill those chairs. And in order to do that you need the marketing and in order to do that, you need to make sure you have the right team who’s going to deliver on the care. So that would be my fourth kind of experience point, Chris. Okay. Which I think is really important. 

Being Too Safe

And I suppose the final one today, which I wanted to just kind of highlight is being safe, I suppose, is where some other squats really fail. You’ve got to stand out in this marketplace, you’ve got to be different. You need to have a brand that’s different, stands for something different. People can understand you, you look different, your colours are different, your website’s different, your team is different. The way you practice and communicate to your potential patients is different. 

You have got to be willing to risk and be willing to make some mistakes, you inevitably will make mistakes when you start up a business or do any business. You make mistakes. Obviously, you don’t make such grandiose mistakes that it will fall down. I’m not saying you will do that. But I think you’ve got to be willing to take the risk, you’ve taken the risk in buying or setting up a clinic, you’ve then got to continue that in that vein, and continue with the vision that you created when you started up in the first place. 

So I think don’t play it safe, business is all about taking the risk. And ultimately, if you take that risk, you’ll be rewarded for it. In some shape or form. So yeah, five key areas that kind of come to mind whilst we’re on this podcast, poor location choice, overspending and being sucked in, a lack of investment in the right type of digital marketing, not having the right team in place, who are not motivated and I suppose being safe, or being too safe, and not really being different out there in the marketplace. Those are kind of the five things that come to my mind. I’ve seen in fail squats over the last 20 years. 

Chris O’Shea: Okay. As a digital marketer myself, obviously, number three is close to my heart. And I can’t stress that enough to everyone out there. Digital Marketing is paramount. You got to get that right. Nowadays it’s just key to almost everything. So, yeah it’s a great advice.

Arun Mehra: Definitely. It is key to everything. And if you need some help on the digital side of things, we’re helping dentists now on their website and digital marketing things in various manners. So yeah, get in touch with Chris, and we’ll be there to help. Okay, so absolutely. There you go. Five tips for avoiding to be a failed squat there. 

Chris O’Shea: Brilliant, thank you very much, Arun. That was great. Hopefully everyone learned a lot there. Well, at least know what to avoid and what not to do.

Arun Mehra: Brilliant. All right. Thanks, Chris.

Chris O’Shea: Thank you very much. We’ll see you next time.

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