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The Five Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned Since Owning a Dental Practice

The Five Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned Since Owning a Dental Practice

 “It’s what you learn after you know it all, that counts.”

– Coach John Wooden

Since the NCAA basketball tournament is about to begin, it seems appropriate to quote Coach Wooden. Most of the readers of this blog know that although I am not a dentist, I co-own a dental practice in Phoenix, AZ in partnership with Dr. Paul Nielson. We bought a ‘fixer-upper’ practice in May 2007 and have worked tirelessly ever since to develop it into our ideal practice. While we have made many improvements, it is still a work in progress. In this blog post, I will define the five most important lessons I’ve learned since owning this practice.

1.  Hire slowly and fire quickly  
Paul and I have made the dual mistakes of hiring quickly and firing slowly. Egregious errors! In an earlier blog post, I listed the six goals that every practice needs ( Each of these goals is critically important but if I had to pick one as supreme it would be goal #4: To have a high performance team that you truly LOVE and enjoy working with. When you have this, you have the means to achieve the other five goals.

2. Market Constantly 
We’ve developed a comprehensive marketing plan consistently attracts new patients and this has allowed us to thrive even in a very tough economy. We use a combination of internal, external and digital strategies and carefully monitor the source of every new patient and the value of the dentistry they accept. This allows us to accurately track our marketing ROI.

3. Eliminate Poor Insurance Plans
In April 2008, we made the fateful decision to no longer participate with any PPO insurance plans that we could not provide care, profitably. Best decision we made. Period!

4. Invest More Time in Team Training    
I am not embarrassed to admit that there have been times when we have been so busy working ‘in’ our practice that we have not made time to work ‘on’ the practice. This is a mistake. Spending time on team training results in much greater efficiency and effectiveness. Another byproduct of this team training is much greater congruency. Valuable outcomes all.

5. Raise Fees    
Providing quality dental care is expensive. We want our care to be affordable and accessible to the public, yet we are uncompromising in our selection of materials, supplies and lab partners. We deserve an appropriate profit margin so that we can continually invest in the practice to deliver the promise of quality care to our patients. While you will need to determine your own fee schedule based on a variety of factors, I’d encourage you to raise your fees to a level that allows you to use spend the necessary time, use the materials of choice, and provide an acceptable profit margin. Here’s a previous blog post for your consideration:


So, while I have learned a great deal from owning a dental practice over these past four and a half years, I would consider the five lessons listed in this blog post as the most important. I invite you stand on my shoulders and consider how these lessons could positively impact your practice. Keep smiling!