Optometric Strategies For Success library
Leadership: Key to a Successful Transition
Learn from peer experience how leadership can overcome potential challenges. Most dental practices ultimately succeed – but inevitably, some new practice owners run into transition difficulties that require vision and assertiveness to overcome.
Whatever challenges you may face when transitioning to ownership, your practice can survive and thrive when you apply the lessons of leadership. Take a look at how other practice owners have used their leadership skills to overcome a difficult situation.
Most dental practices ultimately succeed – but inevitably, some new practice owners run into transition difficulties that require vision and assertiveness to overcome. Whatever challenges you may face when transitioning to ownership, your practice can survive and thrive when you apply the lessons of leadership. Take a look at how other practice owners have used their leadership skills to overcome a difficult situation.
Lesson #1: Push Past A Bad Start
Dr. “Hughes” purchased a practice in downtown Chicago that was presented as having 1,200 active patients. However, the seller dropped the only major insurance plan for the practice several months before the purchase was completed, initiating a patient attrition rate that only became apparent after the final purchase. By her third month of ownership, Dr. Hughes realized she actually had a base of about 450 patients—or a 2 ½-day-a-week practice.
Despite the seller’s poor transition, Dr. Hughes immediately set out to grow the practice. Her first step was to learn the numbers in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the practice. She began monitoring her cash flow using Monthly Milestones, a management tool for tracking the financial health of a practice and establishing baseline measurements for everything from production to operating expenses. She also added a morning huddle and staff meetings, initiated a marketing plan, and worked on her case presentation skills. In two years she grew her practice to 850 active patients and a full, four-day-a-week schedule.
Lesson #2: Increase Your Knowledge Base to Gain Traction
As a new graduate, Dr. “Smith” purchased a multi-doctor general practice and specialty clinic in Florida. He soon discovered that the senior associates, who were accustomed to an absentee owner, were skeptical of his leadership and practice management abilities and resisted his attempts to make constructive change. To help increase his credibility, Dr. Smith dove into practice management studies, reading numerous articles, taking continuing education courses and actively seeking the advice of two key mentors.
By expanding his knowledge base, Dr. Smith successfully grew his practice revenues by 28% in three years and made the tough personnel decisions required to ensure a thriving, patient-oriented practice.
Lesson #3: Take Control of Your Success
Dr. “Farrell”, a prosthodontist based in Boston, faced a tough challenge when he bought a practice from a friend. The seller remained on staff on a commission basis, while the seller’s wife continued as the office manager and key appointment coordinator. It became apparent after several months that the majority of patient appointments were being directed to the seller of the practice, while Dr. Farrell had increasing cash flow problems.
When Dr. Farrell confronted the situation, he lost both the seller and the office manager – as colleagues, and as friends. He soon discovered that while the office manager was well liked by patients, she was not popular with the rest of the staff. In a matter of months, the staff helped him recruit and train a new office manager and the practice started attracting new patients because of its pleasant, synergistic team.
Seven Steps To A Smooth Transition
An important lesson from all of these examples is to have a definitive back-up plan should you run into problems, for example: “If I run into cash flow difficulties, I will do __X__.” The solution may be as simple as networking with other business neighbors – or as serious as applying for supplemental practice financing. The point is to not waste time floundering, but get busy with the resolution.
Here are seven additional steps you can take to help ensure that your transition to practice ownership is as smooth as possible:
1. Complete your due diligence before purchasing a practice. You can help prevent unpleasant surprises by asking to see charts, reports, inventories and schedules – any information that will help detail the daily operations of the practice.
2. Be prepared to market yourself. Even if you are shy, you need to learn how to meet people, start conversations and encourage referrals. It’s one of the fundamentals of growing your practice.
3. Take responsibility. Understand what you can control, what you can’t, and what you need to change to ensure success. Remember that you are in a service-based industry, so even in the worst of scenarios patients will still come to you based on your reputation and how they feel treated.
4. Know your strengths and build on them. Surround yourself with people who complement your skills, and while you work to improve your weaknesses, let your strengths take the lead in guiding the tone and style of your practice. You’ll be happier in your work as your success will be based on your natural strengths.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People love to help one another. Join a small business networking group to gain the support and mentorship you need to be successful.
6. Establish good savings habits. Some practices place 10% of all deposits in a separate office savings account in order to ensure they have cash on hand in case of a bad month or an unanticipated expense.
7. Become a student of leadership. Learn to be a motivator and celebrate small wins everyday. A happy work environment leads to employee loyalty and new patient referrals.
Remember that when you do run into a challenge, finding the solution that works best for your patients and your team is evidence of true leadership. This alone will have a significant impact on the degree of success you will achieve.
Statements of opinion not necessarily endorsed by ADA Member Advantage, ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., or the American Dental Association, or any of its subsidiaries, counsels, commissions, or agencies.
|Tammara Plankers, Assistant Vice President, Client Practice Services for Wells Fargo Practice Finance, helps doctors establish and grow their new practices. A Certified Executive Coach and practice consultant for over 15 years, Ms. Plankers assists practitioners in successfully transitioning to practice ownership through the use of proper due diligence, and guides them in developing the management and leadership skills necessary to successfully operate a practice. She can be reached at 888-499-8871 or email@example.com.|
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