Top 10 mistakes when opening a dental practice

Over the last 15 years I’ve always had a trickle of calls and voicemails coming in from folk who think they want to open a new practice. Very often they decide they want to do this having discovered that they can’t simply ask the NHS for a contract and that both NHS and private goodwill is expensive to buy.

During our (usually short-lived) email conversations they often tell me they have found some premises that might be suitable (usually without planning permission) and that they have researched the local market (whatever that means…) and it’s dying for a new practice.

Many of them believe that this is a cheaper option than buying an existing practice. After all, how expensive (or hard) can it be to buy some tatty premises for not very much, put in a surgery, have a website built, hire a couple of staff on minimum wage and open for business? These folk generally expect free and lengthy advice and so after a while I get resentful at giving away my hard earned wisdom!

However, amongst the spoofers and the deluded are a few who realise that starting a successful practice may not be quite as simple as it first appears and that a bit of help might save them some (expensive) mistakes further down the track. So with these folk in mind, here are my top 10 mistakes to avoid when considering starting a new practice:

  1. It’s not enough to have found some suitable premises and chosen some nice kit at the BDTA exhibition. The UK doesn’t need any new dental practices right now and so if you are planning a new one it has to offer a solution that your competitors are not offering (or not offering well). Your practice proposition has to distinguish your practice from everybody else in your area and be very compelling! Here are some propositions that can create a successful practice: painless dentistry, on-time dentistry, trustworthy dentistry, one-stop dentistry, dentistry with transparent pricing, affordable dentistry, easy access dentistry (including parking and seven day opening hours), dentistry with special help for fearful patients (needle and drill free and with sedation), kids and family friendly dentistry.
  2. Don’t think it’s going to be easy and accept that it’s going to take all of your time for at least two years of your life.
  3. Don’t build a small practice, they are simply unprofitable, plan to build a three or four-chair practice from the start.
  4. Don’t expect to make any profit for at least 18 months and so have another job or a pile of savings to live off.
  5. If you have to save money, save it on dental equipment, not on public areas like marketing, sales training and staff costs.
  6. Don’t neglect to build a business model so that you understand how your practice will make a profit and how much profit this will be. And create a cashflow forecast which includes new patient values, new patient numbers, the cost of acquiring new patients and the business’s average daily gross. This will tell you when you reach profitability and what your sales need to be to do this.
  7. Don’t underestimate your time commitment to the launch project — understand that it will take a lot of your time, at least one working day a week during the planning and at least six working days a week during the build and growth stages.
  8. Don’t make it the sort of practice you’d want to visit. Make it the sort of practice that your target market wants to visit. If they happen to be the same, then great!
  9. Don’t guess at the fees or charge the same as everybody else.
  10. Don’t ignore early feedback from patients. Sometimes the practice you start is not the practice you end up with as patient feedback will help you evolve the practice into a business that is fit for your target market.

I’ve opened three successful private squat practices of my own and helped dozens of dentists open their own successful squat practices. I’ve even written a book about it, Moonwalking For Dentists, if you’d like to know more.

If you would like some practical help opening your practice however, contact me for a chat on:


m. 07770 403576

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