Scaling Up From One Practice: The Do's and Don'ts

by Tiger Safarov

02.23.2018, 2:04 PM

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Happy Wednesday evening everybody! This is becoming our traditional Wednesday blog post. Today we are going to talk about efficiencies and expanding to multiple locations. As I travel around the country and I look at and meet with different dentists who are expanding to two, three, or five locations, it’s fun to watch what makes one office expand successfully. I would say that the number one thing that’s interesting to me is the obsession with customer service.

As we continue to grow, one of the things I personally believe is that true entrepreneurship in dentistry begins when you expand to more than one location. Before that, you are working for yourself but within the confines of working with your customers and staff. When you expand, that’s when you start to set up your own systems. If you have three locations and have no systems in place, you cannot run all three practices at the same time. The systematization of your practices is going to be the big, big, big first step.

A good friend of mine, Mark Costas, talks a lot about building your flagship office. Most of my successful clients and friends who are expanding into multiple locations always have the flagship office up and running, with overhead under 60%, so that they can expand into the next office. That’s going to be very critical.

We’ve talked about having the flagship office and building up the systems. The third component which is really interesting for me is actually being a little selfless. What that means is, as you scale up the business, you actually take less and less from the business. If you are in a position where you can’t allow yourself to work without a salary, decrease your salary, or work extra hours or without extra pay, then you’re probably not in the position to go to multiple locations. That’s because you’ll need every single dollar to be going towards that new location, being used for things like the marketing budget and adding supplies and furniture.

The more successful dentists that I’ve seen that are expanding are the ones who are willing to take the cut, think long-term instead of short-term, and build the expansion on their own dime as much as they can. They are borrowing less and building more on their own. A lot of those doctors that I find fascinating and I’m fascinated by their growth are long-term thinkers, take less today, and continue to grow, grow, grow!

I want to stress systems one more time. From inventory management, such as ZenSupplies, to having any other types of systems in place, like scheduling, appointment confirmations, marketing, or collections, you need to be thinking about how all of these fit together when you are building up a small group of offices. You need to start thinking more as a business instead of just as a dentist. So, work on the business instead of in the business. That’s a very important saying to take to heart.

I would say the last tip, but the big tip, is that everything is your fault. A lot of doctors that I meet would like to blame somebody for some of the mistakes and shortfalls. Yet, the most consistent trait I see among dentists who are very successful is that they take 100% responsibility. My suggestion would be to get “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink, read the book, and use it as your guiding compass for opening more practices and taking full ownership of anything that happens. It’s actually a good thing. You’ll see that you sleep much better if you take 100% responsibility, everything is your fault. Things go well, great! Things go poorly, also okay! You’re at fault, you are in charge, you’re responsible, you don’t blame anybody, you have lower expectations, and you just get after it and have fun.

Another thing that I have to say is that, if you feel like it would be too much pressure to operate and manage multiple offices, just have one! You can feel like there’s so much going on right now and so much pressure to get more efficient and open up multiple locations, but you don’t. If you are a single-practice owner and you enjoy focusing on dentistry and like not having too much stress, just enjoy it. Life is too short. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are being forced into multiple locations by financial reasons or by ambitions of other people, that’s not the right way to do it. So, make sure that you have the intentions and have fun with it.

Let us know how we can help :)


[Edited by Matt Fischer]

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