By Dru Halverson
As we have more and more conversations with high performing dentists and teams throughout the U.S., there is more interest than ever before in the entrepreneurial approach to owning multiple locations. The "group practice" model is often not fully developed in the beginning of its growth, which can lead to headaches for the practice owner(s) later down the road. How do you find success with multiple locations while also keeping your sanity in check? One word: CONTINUITY.
Often dentist entrepreneurs make the mistake of jumping in with both feet before fully realizing the vision of what they want to accomplish and WHY they are pursuing this business path in the first place. "I don't know" is a common answer to the question of "why" when we are speaking to dentists looking to branch out. It is important from the beginning to have the clear vision of the company in place so that all decisions, all acquisitions, all purchases revolve around the pursuit of that vision. Otherwise, it breeds chaos and stress in all areas of decision-making. Get the vision in place first. Get the strategy in place next. Get the practices in place third.
While speaking to partnering dentists recently about adding locations to their two-location business, it was quickly realized that their visions for the business and its existence differed. While this may seem small in the beginning, in time these differences can create conflict between decision makers. If you are partnering with others to grow into multi-location, make sure you not only have a vision in place, but that your shared vision is in alignment so that all decisions made together are coming from the same place of intention.
If you don't have all practices running on the same software – and if you don't have your technology specs up and above what they need to be – your management team's efforts will be attempting to work in the dark. Your management team will be spending all of their time attempting to gather statistics and reports instead of managing the people in a proactive way.
There are business systems and clinical systems that must be set up and run the same way. Ease of management depends on consistent systems being run throughout the business. Each location needs to schedule with the same approach, run collections the same, present treatment the same, etc. This way, you as the owner know how to read and measure the metrics of each location. It also helps ease stress in the realm of team development. Cross-trained, high performing teams can work as utility players for your practices, new team members will be on-boarded in a more efficient and effective manner, and you will find a drastic decrease in chaos and stress when everyone is on the same page on how your systems are expected to be managed.
Trainers and managers must be trained and working toward the same KPIs. We want to develop KPIs that give us insights into the business as a whole as well as into each department, so we can drill down to the area of opportunity for development and growth. It is important that everyone on the team understands their role and these KPIs can help them in understanding their role in the practice as well as focus them on the goals you are all trying to achieve.
Once the managers and trainers are trained, there must be a concerted effort for the leaders to be building continuity in the culture and community of that business. This in itself is one of the most important elements of your role as the business owner. Get the culture you desire in place, lead from a place of consistency and be the example to which you desire your team to refer. Once the culture is in place, you will find leaders rise up and protect what you have worked so hard and so diligently to create. That is more rewarding than you can even realize. Don't let your work in leadership fall to the wayside. It will be the foundation on which every other area of your business is built. As you grow and develop locations, add new team members, associate doctors, and business team, your role as leader to your team will be the most important role you hold. You will need to use this role to lead people, to stand up for the vision and mission and be the CEO of the business you have created.
Find resources, mentors, educational opportunities and fellow business owners with success-stories that you can study and follow. Moving from one location to multiple is a big step in a new direction of dentistry, but it is being created successfully over and over again. If you have the vision and you are ready to lead a team toward that vision with continuity at every waypoint, this success can also be yours.
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