Every month, a handful of associates call my mobile and pick my brain as to whether I think their latest idea for a squat practice will work. Since the summer, these calls from associates about squat practices have quadrupled, (6 calls received during the last 7 days.)
One recent caller asked me what I felt the main problem might be in starting a squat practice? Great question. My answer was: lack of patients/not enough work. As I travel the length and breadth of the UK, I see that every corner of the country has a dental practice. I even have clients who own NHS practices in England who can’t find enough patients to fulfil their UDA contracts.
So it looks to me as if the UK is pretty well dentist’ed. I’m sure someone will contact me and tell me about an inner city area or a remote area of the UK where you still can’t get an NHS dentist, however mostly, Tony Blair made good on his promise in 1999 that everyone who wants access to an NHS dentist, can do so.
The Missing 50% of Patients
Many dentists who plan to open a squat practice have their eye on the missing 50% of patients who don’t go (regularly) to the dentist. Knowing that fear is the greatest blocker to patients attending, they often call their practice “Gentle Dental” or similar, in the hope that the missing 50% will trust them to be their dentist. Well, they may be able to persuade some of these folk to come to their practice, however I think they may be missing what the data is really telling them. My understanding is that in any year around half of the UK population visit a dentist. Next year, another 50% of the population will also visit the dentist, just not quite the same 50% as last year… In other words, the UK market in terms of patient numbers is staying around the same size.
In my view, starting a squat practice in 2018 will be difficult, and the patients you need will most likely come from the cohort of the population who do go to the dentist (from time to time) and they will have to be lured away from the last practice they went to in order to visit yours. In other words, you will have to pinch patients from the dentists around you to grow your practice.
The difficulties in establishing a squat practice are also compounded by the way some of the owners behave and so here are my top 10 reasons why your squat practice is likely to fail:
- Your proposition is too weak and because of this your practice will not stand out from the crowd.
- You have set up a practice which is all about what you have to sell rather than what the patients in your locale might want to buy.
- Your practice location is poor and, in particular, you haven’t thought about patient (or staff) car parking.
- Your marketing is poor. Your branding is weak, your web site looks the same as everyone else, your social media presence is dull and boring.
- Your fees are the same as everybody else.
- You’re not in the practice enough, too busy working as an associate to make some money to prop up your squat practice.
- Your second surgery isn’t full and you have no idea how to fill the third. Until you fill your second surgery, you simply won’t make any money.
- You have no processes or protocols and so your team are simply making it all up as they go.
- Your receptionists have no idea how best to convert enquirers into patients and also, you can’t find and sell big treatment plans.
- Your fit-out is at odds with your brand. (For example, you claim to be a boutique practice and yet your waiting room is full of Ikea vinyl-covered tub chairs…)
If you would like some help with getting your squat practice busy, contact me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576