Are you in the Market for a Dental Practice Business Partner?

I was intrigued by an article I read recently in The Canadian Press about the challenges a small business can face when taking on a business partner. Reading it reminded me that for many of our clients – entrepreneurial dental practice owners – moving from a sole proprietorship to a partnership represents a natural approach to growth.

Small-to-medium business owners can get so caught up in the prospect of infusing their business with investment money, help and expertise that they overlook the due diligence they would normally extend to other types of decisions. They would rarely hire an employee without a formal interview, confirmation of experience and credentials, reference checks, and a fit check… why should a potential partner undergo anything less?

A partner is a much more significant commitment. When a partnership fails, it can be emotionally and financially devastating. It disrupts your business, your staff, your patients, and could harm your reputation. Financial wrangling can lead to complete fallout and business closure. It can deliver some very hard lessons and a blow to entrepreneurial spirit. In short, it’s wise to consult with an experienced dental practice broker who knows about the issues specific to dentistry that a general business partnership advisor may not be cognizant of.

Joyce M. Rosenberg, Business Writer for the Associated Press, in her article on this topic, stresses the importance of professional financial advice and legal counsel in drawing up a partnership agreement.

Along with explicit financial and legal understanding, it is important to examine:

  • Goals and vision for the business. Are you in agreement about short- and long-term goals?
  • Roles and responsibilities. How will work be divided and shared? Are your clinical interests complementary, or is there potential for conflict?
  • Fit. Do you complement each other in your working style? Will there be a good fit with existing staff? Do you share values and purpose?
  • Work ethic. What expectations exist regarding hours of work, amount of work, pace of work, quality of work?
  • Service philosophy. Do you share patient treatment and service standards?
  • Growth plans. Are you in agreement regarding reinvestment versus payout?
  • Conflict. Can you establish today how eventual conflict will be handled and resolved? Can you agree to recognize and confront the signs that the partnership may no longer be working?

Partners do not need to be clones of each other; different perspectives and constructive challenge are healthy in every business. But they do need to be able to communicate. They need to understand what their strengths, weakness and differences are in order to plan effectively and work through obstacles as they arise. They need to trust each other.

I often hear the comment that we spend more time with a business partner than with a life partner. Shouldn’t we exert the same degree of effort in choosing one?

Take Advantage of Facebook to Market your Dental Practice. Step 1: Create a page. Step 2: Use It.

How many organizations, small and large, stop after step 1 of this simple 2-step formula? Sadly, far too many. Neglecting a Facebook page – or any other digital property – is one of the most common social media management mistakes. And it’s a big one.

It is tempting to believe that if you build it, they will come. But they will not. Not unless you let people know about it, make it interesting, offer opportunities for interaction, and keep it fresh. Facebook mastered the push-out mechanism, making it incredibly easy to define and reach your desired target audiences, but as the saying goes, it won’t work unless you do.

It works like SEO – search engine optimization – for your website. Complex algorithms are constantly judging the content, context and relevance of your material against keywords, and ranking it accordingly. Google et al want their users’ searches to be productive. Facebook wants to be popular. It wants to be liked.

So how can a dental practice optimize Facebook without turning it into a full-time job? Here are a few tips we’ve compiled:

  1. Involve your team. Add Facebook strategy to your weekly team meeting agenda. Or devote one team lunch every month to brainstorm content ideas.
  2. Assign a Champion. You’re bound to have at least one person on your team who would like to take this on as part of their job – with a reasonable time commitment of course so as not to interfere with other tasks. If not a team member, find a digital native: a son, daughter, or local college student who would love a part-time job.
  3. Be helpful. Supply facts, health information and useful links that will inspire your readers to like, love, be wowed by, and share your posts. Following you is the ultimate Facebook compliment. Be worthy.
  4. Try a little empathy. Publish what your think patients want to buy, not just what you want to sell. Special offers for Facebook friends are useful to reward followers and attract new business.
  5. Go for the visual. Photos, graphics, videos, and colour all add to readability. Before-and-after procedure photos are always popular – just make sure that you have permission for any photo you use.
  6. Stand out. Facebook algorithms are able to distinguish original and distinctive content. If it judges your post newsworthy, it will push your content to news feeds.
  7. Think local. Your existing and prospective patients are within convenient proximity. Get interested and involved in community events and report on them.
  8. Repurpose your content. Market your practice to even more people in your community by posting each of your messages on other social media like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.
  9. Get help. Ask your staff, family, friends and existing patients to like and follow you. Even better, ask them to post and share testimonials on their personal pages. Facebook gives higher visibility to an original post on a personal page.
  10. Using, monitoring and managing your Facebook page is a vital aspect of overall Reputation Management. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this topic!

The most important takeaway from this post is the emphasis on fresh and frequent activity on your page. Attention spans are short and digital multi-tasking is the norm. So when it comes to a company page on Facebook, use it… or lose it.

An innocent-looking email can play serious tricks on your Dental Practice.

Every year about this time, our Social Committee starts revving up the excitement about our annual Halloween costume contest. Thoughts turn to the ghoulish and creepy, but to me, there’s nothing more off-putting than cybercrime. Especially when it comes to attacking dental practice data, ransomware tops the nasty list.

The stress, expense and loss of revenue are only part of the problem. Consider patient safety, potential breach exposure, government fines, tarnished reputations and governing body reprimands… the risks are immense.

With all the precautionary information circulating about data protection and software security, one might expect hacking thievery to be on the decline. Not so. It is actually reported to be on the rise!

I was shocked to hear just a couple of weeks ago about an alarming data hostage situation at the City of Midland, about an hour’s drive north of Toronto. A data hack and ransom demand affected the City’s computer operations, leaving the population of 16,000 without access to a number of important services. The City paid the bitcoin ransom for the decryption key and was back in business in two days.

Earlier this year, the City of Atlanta suffered devastating and expensive damage at the hands of a cyber attacker. Reportedly, decades of documents were lost and the City is still racking up millions in restoration costs, in addition to the $2 million just to fix the original problem caused by the hack.

We seem to be learning the hard way that no business is off limits to hackers who want to rake in easy money. And the anonymity of cryptocurrency is making them more difficult to catch. As an ounce of prevention, I’m re-posting my list of security measures and recommend that you share it within your dental practice as a reminder:

  1. Use a reputable email service provider with both anti-virus and anti-malware security built in. A good email product has layers of filtering to block, quarantine or eliminate bad files from ever reaching the desktop.
  2. Secure a personalized domain for your practice (name@PracticeName.com).
  3. Train yourself and your staff to recognize the warning signs of non-legitimate emails:

– an email is unexpected and the sender name not recognized
– there are obvious spelling, grammar and language mistakes
– a legitimate company logo is mimicked, appears warped, blurred, stretched, etc.
– a different url appears if you hover your mouse over the “From” address or link
– the subject does not make sense in the context of your business/practice

  1. Never follow unknown or suspicious links.
  2. Do not open attachments from an unknown sender, or if any aspect of the email seems strange. Examine zip files carefully; do not open .exe files. When in doubt, verify with the sender.
  3. Be wary about websites visited. Ensure all users stay on legitimate business sites, not distracted by ads, banners and pop-ups.
  4. Have at least two backups. Rotate daily and weekly backup files. Keep one offsite to protect your data from physical threats like fire, theft, or flood. Backups MUST be encrypted and you MUST safeguard the encryption key (password to decrypt).
  5. Have the backup data verified quarterly. This is like simulating a disaster; restoring your data from the backup to make sure that it works! Simply checking the backup notification is not data verification.

If you haven’t already spoken to us about protection, backup, data verification and recovery, click here to learn more and take action right away. Malware is everywhere and does not limit its ghoulish behaviour to one day in October.

If your practice has managed to avoid cyber threats and ransomware, outfit your IT team with superhero capes! Pamper them with some caramels and candy apples. Then treat them to this blog post to reinforce the importance of keeping up the good work.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Shouldn’t Dentists be Especially Good at This?

Sales executives in every business will unanimously agree that referrals from existing customers are the of lead generation. Certainly for us, when a satisfied ABELDent user recommends our software to a colleague, we are thrilled on multiple levels.

First, it is testimony to the confidence that Dentists place in our product. We are honoured that they take the time out of their busy day to champion ABELDent! Second, the positive introduction promotes our solution and dramatically reduces the sales cycle. Finally, the direct lead to a qualified decision-maker is the most cost-effective method of welcoming new customers.

The same benefits apply to a dental practice whose patients trust them enough to recommend their services. Imagine for a moment if one-quarter of your existing patient base was to successfully refer just one new patient each. That would represent a 25% growth spike without touching your advertising budget!

As great as that sounds, it is actually realistic to aim to receive one referral per year from 40-60% of your existing patient base, of which ideally 10% will successfully convert to a new patient.

So how does your dental practice measure up? Do you even know how many referrals you received over the past year? Are you aware of the value to your practice?

Every dental practice should know:

  • The number of new patient referrals and revenue attributed to the new patients
  • Your referral conversion ratio – how many leads actually convert to new patients
  • The net patient growth of the practice (the number of patients leaving the practice vs. number of patients added over the same period)

The good news is that all of the information necessary to calculate these KPIs resides within your ABELDent data. Detailed Referral Reports present useful data about all referrals including names, sources, timing, and resulting revenue generation.

Now… considering the value of patient referrals, imagine the exponential benefits that could be achieved with a little proactivity:

  • Ask for referrals. Train your front-desk staff to be confident: “We’re expanding our practice. Do you know anyone who needs a great Dentist?”
  • Print out cards that your patients can easily pass along to contacts
  • Develop an email or texting campaign to make it easy for your patients to forward your coordinates
  • Create prestige whereby a referred patient receives a value promotion (and be prepared to offer that same promotion to existing patients upon successful referral)
  • Offer an incentive. Contests, random draws and Frequent Referral Rewards always spur participation
  • Establish a Patient Appreciation Event… remember the famous car maker that sponsored a free drive-in movie event each year for customers and their families and friends?
  • Maintain top-of-mind awareness through ongoing communication. Brief, interesting newsletters tend to have a high readership ratio

It is important to remember that new patient acquisition should only be a priority focus once a successful patient retention strategy is in place. To explore some practical ideas and strategies for patient engagement and loyalty, just re-visit my previous posts:

In with the new… Patients

Facts and Figures Speak Volumes about Dental Patient Retention

Every dental practice has a UVP. What’s yours?

In closing, we have recently launched our amazing new ABELDent 365. Do you know anyone who needs some great practice management software?

I invite you to continue this conversation by reaching out to our team at any time.

Take a Closer Look at your Dental Practice Practices

“Another last-minute cancellation… why does this keep happening?”

“I wonder how other dental practices promote preventive treatment.”

“What are the chances that patient will call back?”

A recent conversation with a Dental Office Manager revealed a few nagging complaints she regularly overhears from her staff. We were discussing common day-to-day frustrations in running a patient-reliant business, looking for ways to rise above them. I am a champion of practice management software – that’s a given – but it goes further than that. Any program can only be as effective as you make it, with trained staff who understand its potential and ensure its consistent, client-centric application.

The topic of internal processes and appointment scheduling effectiveness always brings to mind one of my father’s favourite quotes, loosely: How can you expect different – improved – outcomes if you keep doing things the same way?

Every aspect of your interactions with patients presents an opportunity to build positive perceptions. From the moment they arrive in your waiting room until the door closes behind them, each touchpoint is an opportunity to display empathy, direct communication, smooth processes, knowledgeable advice, and future focus. It is a mindset that can become intrinsic to your service.

Under the umbrella of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™ methodology, we developed a series of relevant KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to assess your Internal Processes and optimize Appointment Scheduling protocols. You can easily extrapolate the data you will need from within your existing ABEL software database.

Here are seven quantifiable measures that will help you zero in on areas of opportunity. The formulas presented assume all parameters used are for the same time period.

Internal Processes KPI Chart

If you find your own numbers falling short of industry benchmarks, consider some of these short- and long-term initiatives:

  • Track patient appointment history and be proactive in bookings, confirmations and reminders
  • Communicate and apply cancellation policies
  • Book next appointments before the patient leaves the office
  • Emphasize the value of preventative measures with patients
  • Monitor production reports
  • Follow up regarding outstanding treatment plans and recalls
  • Establish and follow strict diagnostic protocols
  • Provide effective case presentations
  • Employ in-house specialists as much as possible
  • Provide advanced clinical training/continuing education
  • Provide and refresh staff customer service training

I hope this detailed information is helpful, or that at least it gets you thinking about your own internal processes. These KPIs are just one of the categories of the strategic practice management we champion. I invite you to continue this conversation by attending one of our webinars or by reaching out to a member of our team at any time.

Satisfied Patients Make Everybody Happy

A few common denominators propel the success of every business:

  • Developing and sticking to a meaningful Unique Value Proposition;
  • Having the right people focus on the right things at the right time;
  • Delivering a customer experience, product or service that is consistent, sustainable and of the highest possible quality.

These are just three basic principles that drive long-term viability and profitability, and they apply as much to managing a dental practice as to any other enterprise. Today’s blog is about end-user impressions – what your patients perceive, experience and remember – and the make-or-break impact they can have on your practice.

Beyond clinical excellence and value-based pricing, what is likely to influence positive patient impressions and drive repeat business? It really comes down to effective communication, smooth operations, disciplined follow up, and consistent service delivery. As part of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™ methodology, we developed a series of relevant KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to help you assess your status and guide your progress in these areas. You can easily extrapolate the data from within your existing ABEL software database.

Here are six quantifiable measures that will help you zero in on areas of opportunity:

Patient Satisfaction KPI Chart.png

If you find your own numbers falling short of industry benchmarks, you may want to ponder a few questions:

  • What techniques has your team mastered to build patient satisfaction?
    See the section Dental Patient Retention… What’s it worth to you? in
    Through the Looking Glass: What Your Patients See
  • Is the team confident in asking for referrals? Do they look and listen for triggers?
  • Do you have defined time requirements for each procedure?
  • Are you using a patient kiosk for check in and follow-through?
  • Have you implemented doctor/chair time scheduling?
  • Are you and your team trained in dealing effectively with complaints? Who is empowered to ‘make it right’?
  • Have you established reasonable and realistic patient expectations? Do you provide a new patient welcome kit with written office policies?
  • Do you consistently source new supplies and/or treatment techniques to improve productivity and the patient experience?
  • Do you maximize available technology?

Overall patient satisfaction should be Job One on everyone’s agenda. Staff must be trained and continuously reminded to use empathy in understanding the patient experience. Engagement, loyalty and free-flowing referrals stem from positive patient perceptions.

This group of KPIs is just one of the categories of the strategic practice management we champion. I invite you to continue this conversation by attending one of our webinars or by reaching out to a member of our team at any time.

What will you do with your cloud-shift $avings?

There is no question that investment in technology can be significant for any business, let alone a small- to medium-sized dental practice. When it comes to your practice management software, the return on that investment and its inherent value to your bottom line is undeniable. But the cost of hardware, maintenance, security, and IT support can certainly add up.

One of the best advantages of working in the cloud is the prospect of dramatically reducing the technology expenses line item in your budget.

During a recent discussion with a client regarding her planned migration to our cloud hybrid solution, we got out our calculators to do a real-life cost-benefit analysis.

This led to a genuine “eureka!” moment for my client. She got excited about the many ways that she could spend the freed-up funds over the next year. She started out with practical suggestions; by the end of our phone call we were contemplating whimsical and downright hysterical options.

The whole topic went viral – if you can use that term for water-cooler conversation dominance – and before I knew it we were compiling a list of ideas to share in a blog post. Here are the team’s top ten picks:

10. A bucket-list trip on the panoramic Rocky Mountaineer through Western Canada and Alaska

9. Porcelain veneers

8. Two weeks on a beach in Maui with my mate

7. Home theatre with surround sound: one for my operatory and another for my rec room

6. A wellness spa retreat for my hardworking staff

5. A Jaguar hood ornament for my Honda Civic

4. “Everybody gets a car!” (well, maybe with a small cash infusion from Oprah)

3. A vintage Pac Man arcade game for the staff lounge

2. A staff lounge

1. A shiny new, state-of-the-art CAD and CBCT system – or maybe just an AI Dental Advisor. Siri, meet Carie

What’s on your wish list?

I invite you to share your top picks with me.