As a successful single dental practice owner, you have probably considered whether adding additional locations makes sense for you both professionally and personally. The decision to add additional locations to your dental brand can be both exciting and overwhelming. Choosing to grow through multiple locations can potentially increase your revenue, boost your professional reputation, and enable you to serve a broader patient base. With the right approach, you can successfully grow your practice while minimizing risks. In this step-by-step guide, we will provide tips for optimizing your existing practice, doing market research, providing resources for demographic data, and discussing the pros and cons of buying an existing practice versus starting from scratch.
Optimize Your Current Practice First and Create the Template For Expansion.
It is important that your existing operation is running like a well-oiled machine. The more SOPs that can be transferred to the new practices the better. DentistryIQ's article, "9 Ways to Grow Your Practice," offers excellent insight into optimizing your existing systems and maximizing revenue and efficiency. The following are strategies from that article that can be implemented prior to expanding to new locations.
1. Maximize chair time: Streamline scheduling and reduce no-shows to increase chair-time productivity. Automating the scheduling and patient communication process is a great place to start. Allowing patients to schedule their own appointments at their convenience through an online portal or your website is good for the practice and the patient. Text and email reminders at scheduled intervals ensure patients keep the appointments they make.
2. Emphasize patient retention: Implement recall systems and patient follow-up programs to encourage regular visits. The automated scheduling software can also stay in touch with patients to emphasize the importance of regular visits and maintaining oral health. Creating a patient loyalty program is a great way to incentivize your patients to focus on their oral health and save money at the same time.
3. Enhance your online presence: Invest in a user-friendly website, online appointment booking, and a strong social media presence. Have educational information on your website and team member bios. Create a monthly blog or newsletter to promote your brand. Hire a marketing company that can help with SEO and SEM to get you noticed online. Focus on patient experience: Prioritize patient satisfaction with excellent customer service, a comfortable office environment, and clear communication. Then encourage your patients to connect and share their positive experiences at your office through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. This article from Dental Products Report offers great advice for developing an online marketing plan.
4. Offer flexible payment options: Provide a variety of payment options, including payment plans and third-party financing, to make dental care more accessible.
5. Develop a referral program: Encourage word-of-mouth referrals by offering incentives for patients who refer friends and family. Having a good online presence with an engaging website helps referrals learn more about what makes your practice special. Giving patients printed images, x-rays, treatment plans, and educational material allows your patient to share with others who they may refer to your practice.
6. Invest in staff training and development: Ensure your team is knowledgeable, skilled, and engaged in their roles. Ongoing staff training and education keep your team engaged in their jobs and professional growth. Develop incentive programs that allow valuable employees to earn more by going above and beyond. Happy employees are not looking for new jobs! Dentist's Advantage offers excellent insight into the importance of staff training in this blog link.
7. Regularly review key performance indicators (KPIs): Monitor KPIs, such as new patient acquisition, treatment acceptance rates, and patient retention, to assess your practice's performance and identify areas for improvement. If you are not measuring metrics you are not navigating in the dark.
After you have optimized your existing practice, you are prepared to duplicate that success at a new location. When considering expanding your dental practice into new markets, it's crucial to evaluate various metrics to ensure that the new locations are a good fit for your practice and personal needs. Based on your market research, select the most promising locations for your additional practices. Consider factors such as accessibility, visibility, competition, and patient demographics. The following are important variables to evaluate as you look to expand your dental practice.
1. Distance from home to each practice and commute times. In an ideal world, your home would be equally close to each practice so your commute time would not vary. This may not be possible depending on where you live relative to the locations you are looking to add. In any case, additional travel time should be accounted for if prospective locations are farther than your existing practice. Take into account not only distance but also travel time during peak and off-peak hours. Time in the car can be much greater if traffic congestion is high in your area.
2. The availability of associates and staff. Hiring competent team members is one of the biggest challenges facing dental practices today. Consider the staff that will be needed at the new location and start looking prior to opening the doors. If existing team members will be used, have discussions with them regarding commuting to the new location when needed. Knowing who is willing to travel to the new location when needed and who is not will help in planning for new hires.
3. The potential impact on your personal life and family. Having a conversation with your significant other about your plans to expand is crucial. Will you still be able to spend time doing the things that make you happy? If the desire to expand is singularly driven by the desire for more income, maybe improving the profitability of your existing practice would be a better fit. The old adage, "don't bite off more than you can chew" definitely applies. Have honest conversations with your loved ones to make sure that you are making the right move.
Once you have confirmed that you are committed to adding an additional location, the following will help make the process as smooth as possible.
1. Conduct Market Research
Before you can expand into new markets, it's crucial to identify potential areas for growth and analyze market trends and competition. Conduct thorough research to gather data on demographics, patient availability, competitors, and local industry trends. This information will help you make informed decisions about which markets are most likely to support the success of your new locations.
Reference: "How to Conduct Market Research for Your Dental Practice" (DentistryIQ) - This article provides a comprehensive guide on conducting market research specifically for dental practices.
2. Develop a Business Plan
A well-crafted business plan is vital for outlining your goals, strategies, and financial projections for your expansion. Include a detailed timeline for opening additional locations, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure progress and success. A solid business plan will also be necessary when securing funding or attracting investors.
3. Secure Funding
To finance your expansion, explore options such as loans, government-backed programs, or private investors. Be prepared to provide necessary documents such as your business plan and financial statements to demonstrate the viability and potential ROI of your expansion.
4. Choose a Location
Selecting the right location for your new practice is critical. Evaluate factors such as demographics, accessibility, and competition to determine the most promising areas for growth. Once you've identified potential locations, negotiate lease terms with landlords or property owners to secure favorable agreements.
Check out this article from tdaperks on A Dentist's Guide to Selecting the Right Office Location.
5. Hire Staff & Train Employees
Recruit qualified candidates for management positions and invest in comprehensive training programs to ensure consistency across all locations. Focus on staff development and encourage continuing education to keep your team knowledgeable, skilled, and engaged in their roles.
Reference: Video - "Hiring and Training Dental Staff for Success" (Dental Practice Solutions) - This video offers insights and advice on hiring and training dental staff to build a successful team.
6. Launch Marketing Campaigns
A great marketing plan can help you build your brand and create awareness in the community of what differentiates your practice. Attract new patients and generate buzz about your new practices. Utilize social media platforms, online marketing, community outreach, and referral programs to enhance your practice's visibility and reach. By creating a comprehensive marketing plan that aligns with your target demographics, you can increase brand awareness and drive patient acquisition.
Reference: "10 Dental Marketing Ideas Proven to Attract New Patients" (Practice Cafe) - This article offers a variety of proven marketing ideas specifically designed for dental practices, helping you create a successful marketing campaign for your new locations.
7. Monitor Progress & Make Adjustments
Regularly track sales performance, customer feedback, and KPIs such as new patient acquisition, treatment acceptance rates, and patient retention. Use this data to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to optimize operations and ensure the success of your new locations. Continuously refining your strategies based on data can help improve your practice's overall performance and success.
The desire to expand your dental practice can be driven by many factors that may include, increasing patient demand, the need to diversify services, a desire to tap into new market opportunities, maximize economies of scale, enhance brand reputation, or achieve long-term financial growth and stability. While all of those reasons may offer justification to expand, you must consider if expanding is the best way to meet those goals. Doing a thorough evaluation of your reasons for wanting to expand will put you in a good position to make the correct decision. It is possible that you may find that the key to your happiness is to fix issues in your current practice rather than duplicate those same problems in a new additional location. Focusing on improving your practice first will help you expand with SOPs that will drive success in additional locations. So, when you are ready to expand, you have a template for success.
Dental TI is committed to helping practices thrive through the correct application of technology and resources. Whether it is implementation, training, or support, Dental TI strives to help our clients get the most from their investments. If you are looking to expand or simply improve your practice, let's have a conversation to see how Dental TI can help you meet all of your practice goals. Click the link below to arrange a conversation with an expert.