Growing a Dental Practice
Key to the successful scaling of a dental practice is retaining a reliable and talented team. Any surgery that cannot provide a variety of high quality dental services is unlikely to attract and retain patients, and a great team is needed to make this happen.
It’s important to recognise if there is a need for expansion; if the current premises are unable to cater for the growing demand for dental services. There are several options, when it comes to expansion; making better use of current space and design, expanding current premises, buying new property for conversion and buying additional practices.
All of these options demand the use of highly developed marketing, financial and legal acumen, so working with professional dental accountants and dental solicitors is vital, if the scaling of the business is to be a success.
Dental Practice Growth in the UK
In 2017, a report published by IBIS World referred to the fact that the dental market size in the UK at the time was £6.7bn, and was projected to grow over £7bn in following five years There is growth out there and the most ambitious and efficient dental practice owners want to get as large a share as possible.
The time is right for scaling a dental practice
The UK population is continuing to grow. By 2039 it’s estimated to reach 74 million. You can take a look at more detailed figures, provided by the Office for National Statistics. A growing population leads to an increased need for resources, including dental care. As strain on NHS dental care increases, there is an increased need for good quality private dental care.
The population is also ageing and, as the only part of the human body that has no self-repair ability, teeth require on-going repair and maintenance, if they are to last into later years. As I have discussed with several clients in recent years, there is plenty of opportunity to scale a dental practice, as long as the scaling process is completed correctly.
Factors to consider
I am going to look at how to build a successful dental practice that is ready for growth, and how to complete the expansion process, in this section. However, the first point I wanted to make is that it’s not all about profits, when it comes to growing a dental surgery.
It’s important to consider the costs of running a practice which are also likely to increase significantly over the coming years. For instance, payroll costs can account for almost 60% of revenue expenditure, on average. In 2019 especially, the increase in the National Living Wage may make a difference to dental practices that employ younger administration and support staff.
These cost increases need to be factored into any decision to scale a dental practice. Other on-going costs that should be accounted for include non payroll related expenses, such as the purchase of materials, payment of utility bills, insurance premiums and the cost of marketing.
The obvious lesson to take from all this is that any dental practice owner needs to concentrate their efforts on increasing revenue, as soon as they take over at a practice, or start up their own dental surgery. It’s these efforts that make expansion a possibility.
Expanding a current dental surgery – what to consider
For anyone who is successful in scaling a dental practice, there will hopefully come a time when physical expansion is necessary. There may be an option to re-design the current surgery in order to make this happen, or it may be necessary to acquire additional property, in order for expansion to take place.
Optimising the use of current space
The first question to ask when looking for room to expand is, “How effective is the current use of space?” For instance, staff break rooms do not need to be large, luxurious spaces. They simply need to be a place to take a reasonably comfortable break before returning to work. It may be possible to use some of this space as a treatment area.
Unused hallways and storage areas can also be utilised. Taking the time to consider the current usage of the entire surgery space, and coming up with new design options, can save on the cost of having to acquire additional premises, in some circumstances.
Dealing with the landlord
This will only be an issue if the leasehold of the property is not owned by the dental practice. If this is the case, it’s important to discuss any refurbishment or re-design ideas with the landlord, before any work commences. Failure to do so could lead to legal complications further down the line.
Depending on how good or bad the relationship with the landlord is there could be an argument for involving a dental solicitor in the discussions, or at least seeking their advice and support.
The issue of planning permission
If the purpose of the premises is to remain the same, it’s unlikely that planning permission will be needed. However, there may be times when there will be a need to acquire planning permission when extending a dental practice. For instance, part of the property which is currently being used as a residence may be converted for business use, or neighbouring residential property may be purchased for conversion.
Any property that is going to be used as part of a dental practice should have D1 planning consent. If the correct consent is not in place, it’s possible that enforcement penalties could be imposed. It’s always best to check if D1 planning consent is needed, before going ahead and making any changes. The government provides advice on this subject.