According to a report published by IBIS World in 2017, the size of the dental market in the UK was £6.7bn, with a growth projection of 1.1% over the following five years. This means that the time is right to grow a dental practice. If you get it right, you can take advantage of the growing UK population, which is leading to a growing demand for dental health services.
In order to grow a dental practice, you need to have a good understanding of the methods that you need to use. Making the right use of these methods is essential, if you want your dental practice to expand and thrive.
As a dental practice grows, there is likely to come a time when significant additional funding is required, in order to scale further. This funding may be needed to purchase new equipment, to extend a current practice, or to buy more dental practices, to become a group. I discussed financing the purchase of a dental practice in the first section of this book, and I do not want to repeat myself. However, there are some points that it’s worth mentioning, including how important it is to work with professionals and to have personal and practice finances in order.
Work with Professionals When Looking for Growth and Acquisition Financing
In the same way as it’s important to work with expert dental accountants and dental solicitors when financing and buying an initial dental practice, it’s vital to do so when growth and further purchasing is required.
Never forget that a dental surgery owners talents lie with running the practice itself and not with accounting or legal implications. It’s better to work with experts to deal with these factors. I’ve worked on these aspects of scaling a dental practice with clients on many occasions and it’s made the process a lot simpler for them.
Being Prepared to Apply for Financing
It stands to reason that any bank, or other financial institution, wants to reduce the risk of non-payment. For this reason, they look to lend to businesses that can prove they have reliable revenue and are in a position to make repayments on time.
It’s worth bearing this in mind when making decisions to grow a dental practice. Planning ahead is essential. Ideally, plan 10-12 months ahead of time, and make sure that revenue is optimised and accounts are up to date and accurate, before applying for funding. When funding is applied for, be prepared to provide a significant amount of documentation including:
- An up to date business plan.
- Up to date and accurate accounts (personal and business).
- Up to date tax records.
- Details of expenditure.
- Detailed analysis of proposed finance spending and growth of the practice.
Having everything in one place before applying for growth or acquisition funding makes a successful outcome more likely.
Maintain A High Performing Team
When you set up your dental practice, you put a team in place that you could trust. It’s important to retain this team if you want to grow your dental practice successfully. This means that you have to consider several factors.
Making Sure The Working Environment Is A Positive One.
A working environment that is less than positive environment will deter people from wanting to remain working at your practice. Make sure that everyone is aware of the vision of the practice and working towards it. You should also make sure that members of your team have access to the training and technology that they need.
Encouraging Good Performance.
You cannot grow a dental practice without having a high performing team in place. This is why it’s so important to make use of key performance indicators, SMART objectives and an effective appraisal system that includes an emphasis on personal development.
Making Sure That Communication Works.
Effective communication is central to the success and growth of any dental practice. This may sound easy, but communication can become confused and messy if you let it. Make use of tools such as a communications strategy, an Intranet system and weekly team meetings, to help make sure that this does not happen.
All of these factors can help you to keep your high performing team in place.
Attracting new patients is not enough to grow a dental practice; you need to make sure that they are retained. There are several things that you need to do, in order to make sure that this happens.
- Make a good first impression that includes maintaining a welcoming but tidy waiting room and making sure that reception staff are friendly as well as efficient.
- Engage with your patients. No-one expects you, or the associates who work at your practice, to be best friends with patients. However, you do need to engage with them. Few patients will return to a dentist who is unapproachable and distant.
- Remind patients in a friendly manner. We all lead busy lives, and it’s easy to forget things like dental check-ups. Keep your patients engaged by sending them friendly reminders, but do not harass them with constant contact.
- Monitor the retention of patients. In order to understand how your patient retention efforts are working, you need to monitor their effectiveness. If you do not do this, you cannot hope to grow your dental practice successfully.
Optimising Marketing Efforts To Grow A Dental Practice
You can have an exceptional dental practice, but it’s not going to grow and flourish if you do not market it effectively. Optimised marketing is essential to the growth of any business. It’s important that you emphasise the benefits that people can get from choosing your dental surgery, rather than simply concentrating on the brand itself.
It’s these benefits that will attract people to your practice and make it easier for you to retain their loyalty.
When you are marketing your dental practice, do not forget to make full use of social media. This is where large numbers of potential patients spend time, and it’s the perfect place for you to reach them and communicate with them. You can also choose to pay for social media advertising, as well as other advertising options, such as PPC.
Your website should be central to your marketing efforts. You need to make sure that the content is fresh, interesting and well-written. You also need to ensure that your website is easy to navigate, by remembering to use relevant headings and menus. Do not forget to optimise your website for mobile, as more people use mobile devices to access the Internet than use desktops or laptops.
Anyone who wants to grow a dental practice, to take advantage of the demand, needs to make sure they have a high performing team in place, that they retain patients and that they optimise their marketing efforts.
Expanding a Dental Practice
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.
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