Expanding your dental practice may be the next logical step in your business plan. Perhaps you're struggling to schedule new patients or maybe you're hoping to bring in more associates or partners in order to share the burden of patient care along with increased profits. Before expanding your dental practice, however, make sure that you take the time to think through these key considerations.
Consideration #1: Why Do You Want to Expand?
Often, thinking about expanding your practice means thinking about a move to a new location--which can offer its own set of problems. Why do you want to expand your practice? Are you struggling to fit in patient appointments, with so little time in your schedule that dental emergencies can bring your schedule crashing to the ground? Are patients practically sitting on top of one another in your waiting area? You might also find that your existing spaces are leaving you feeling cramped or that you don't have the space you need to add the latest technology to your dental practice. Think through your reasons for wanting to expand and make sure that you make the move at a good time for your practice, rather than rushing it because when you think about expansion, all you can imagine is increased profits.
Consideration #2: What Does Expansion Offer?
If you do expand your practice, what will you be able to accomplish that you can't take care of in your existing office? This might include elements like additional space for more patients, which will, at least in theory, fix the problem of an overcrowded office. It's important, however, to consider whether or not what an expansion offers your practice is more than you could acquire in other ways. For example, you might discover that you can easily see more patients by simply expanding your office hours. Allowing an associate to take over some of your time slots will make it possible for you to work the same number of hours, but increase the number of patients you can see.
Consideration #3: What's the Cost of Expansion?
When the time comes to expand your office, it's not going to be free--and it's important to consider what the cost will be both in terms of immediate expenses and in terms of long-term expenses over the lifetime of your expansion. Make sure that you calculate:
- The cost of new equipment that will allow you to properly care for the increased numbers of patients you're hoping to see
- The cost of your new lease. Larger spaces typically cost more to rent than smaller ones!
- The cost of salary for staff to see those new patients: hygienists, associates, reception staff, and anyone else who helps your office function smoothly
- Marketing expenses, including notifying patients of the changes in your office structure
It's important to carefully calculate that cost of expansion not only so that you'll know what you're getting into financially, but so that you can increase the odds that your expansion will support those necessary expenses.
Consideration #4: Is Now the Right Time for You to Make a Move?
Timing is important when you make that important dental practice expansion. Carefully evaluate whether it's the right time for your practice to expand before you decide to make a move. This may include things like:
- Evaluating your patient load. Are you left with gaping holes in your schedule now, or are you struggling with excess numbers of patients?
- Considering your time. Are you able to work your preferred hours, or are you working overtime every week to fit everyone in? On the other hand, if you're struggling to fit in enough patients for you and your current associates to work a full week, now might not be the time for an expansion.
- Checking your dental lease agreement. You may not be able to get out of your current lease right now--and it's important to be clear on the terms of the lease before you try to move on. If you still have time left on your lease and you suspect that your landlord won't let you out, consider that time an opportunity to plan more thoroughly.
Consideration #5: Choosing the Right Staff
You can be struggling daily to keep up with your patient load and still not be ready to expand for one key reason: you won't have the staff in place to take care of your needs. You need associates, hygienists, and other employees who will fit in with your practice: people who share your vision, have the same positive attitude you do, and will treat your patients with the care you want whenever they interact with them. It's important to be sure that you have the right staff to expand along with you, since those staff members will be a key part of interactions with your patients.
Consideration #6: Designing Your Office
If you're currently in your first building, it's been an excellent opportunity to learn more about what you really want out of your practice. Do you have the right number of operatories? What about seating for the patients in your waiting area? Your office design can improve patients' comfort levels and make it easier for you to take care of business every day--and when you expand your practice, you want to expand into a location that will improve, rather than detract from, those important elements. Make sure that you have room for items like the latest pieces of dental technology, patients to sit comfortably in your waiting room, and other key elements. Create an inviting atmosphere that is ideally arranged to make your job easier, not harder. Thinking through office design before you make the move will allow you to choose a better location.
Expanding your dental practice is a big step, and it's important to have a clear plan of action in place before you do so. By carefully considering the actual needs of your practice along with your current status and how the move can impact your patients, you can grow your practice more effectively, allowing you to see more patients and take better care of the ones already in your care.