Engineering is defined as the application of science and math to design and solve complex problems. I prefer the definition of engineering as artfully working to bring something about. This sounds like today’s dental models that intentionally apply math (business), science (clinical science) and art as not only clinical dentistry but a leadership style creating a practice culture that keeps the patients in the forefront.
Dentistry has commonly been referred to as a blend of science and art. While that is certainly true in complex restorative cases, orthodontics and prosthodontics, other specialties like oral surgery, periodontics and endodontics certainly require a level of technical finesse to create positive outcomes for their patients. Dentists historically have been technically centered for clinical excellence and the business of dentistry has passively followed many talented dentists. As the landscape of dentistry rapidly changes, passive business success is not nearly as likely as in the past.
The competitive industry of DSOs and a growing supply of dentists has led to a decline in busyness for dentists in Texas. There are more dentists seeking associateship/ partnership opportunities and practice acquisition opportunities as dentists are practicing longer than before. According to the ADA’s, Health Policy Institute’s research, the average age of retirement for a dentist is 69 years old in 2015 rather than the long held 66 years in 2005. With the increased length of a dental career, coupled with a lack of busyness, fewer opportunities exist for young doctors in the private practice models. The young doctors are technically talented and savvy about business metrics and are seeking the same things dentists have sought to provide for their patients, team and their families.
As a dental practice transition consultant, Phase II Dental Transitions has the unique opportunity to see all models and levels of success in dental practices. It is interesting to see what an impact intentional leadership has in developing these practices. It seems that all new practices began with intentionality – attention to detail and active management to respond to the practice changes. As a practice matures and doctors begin to take more time off, many of these principles are left behind. The management and leadership of the practice move to “auto pilot” status and the responsiveness and intentionality possibly become impaired. As staff attrition develops and new technologies are ignored, it is difficult to remain enthusiastic about practice growth possibilities. The practice culture becomes stagnant and the busyness and revenues follow. The time to transition a practice to an eager young dentist is when the culture is strong, leadership is engaged, and management is nimble and thriving.
Intentionality and leadership are just as important in a new growing practice as they are in a mature practice ready to see what the next phase brings. If a doctor is considering a transition of any kind from walk away to partnership, accurate clean financials are mandatory when pursuing a valuation and developing a strategy. Too often, the practice financials are messy or unavailable. These financials should be used regularly as a tool for management. They are the metrics to measure revenue and expenses.
Knowing the expense ratios for staffing, facility costs and clinical supplies and other expenses for each specialty is important and a guide for decision making when considering a capital improvement for offering a new procedure in your practice. It is not necessary to total remodel or reequip a dental practice before considering a transition. It is important for the office to be clean, uncluttered, efficient and growing. A declining revenue is a difficult position of negotiation for any seller. Proper management and leadership can position a practice owner to a place of strength in negotiating and recruiting the best young doctors to their practice.
The rapidly changing profession of dentistry requires technical excellence, management and leadership skills to navigate patient needs and a competitive business climate. As dentists engineer their own day to apply principles that are responsive to the metrics of the practice, a predictable level of success for the practice of dentistry is high. Starting with the end in mind when evaluating patient treatment options and outcomes is likely part of your daily routine. That principle applies to leading a dental practice and engineering your success for your best transition outcome as well.