I had known for years that my ultimate professional goal was to start my own pediatric dental practice. I wanted to have that autonomy and control over my career so that I could deliver my dentistry in the way I thought was superior.
I briefly worked for another office for eight months after my stay, and then COVID hit and I was fired. The pandemic ended up being a blessing in disguise, as I suddenly had countless hours of isolation at home where I could begin my dream practice.
Starting a Pediatric Dentistry Practice
I secured the loan, designed and built the space, bought the equipment, hired the team and ran my own marketing campaign during that time. By the time I opened the doors in October 2020 to Cuivre Creek Pediatric Dentistry in Troy, Missouri, we already had a list of more than 100 children waiting for an appointment.
In our first year of business, we went from seeing our first patient with zero dollars in the bank to a very lean, seven-figure collections practice. I would like to share with you the most important keys to our success, while at the same time outlining some common mistakes and how to avoid them.
As Socrates was quoted,
Use your time to improve yourself through the writings of other men so that you will easily get what others have worked hard for.
Tips from a successful pediatric dentistry start-up
Here are five things I did right when I started my dental practice and five things I wish I had done differently.
Learn how to do things yourself
Modern young dentists need to be resourceful in the age of being squeezed by insurance companies and rising costs. I learned to do my own graphic design, create social media ads, build my own website, do my own bookkeeping, etc.
Ultimately, you can outsource, but it will save you money and give you better control over your overhead.
Don’t be afraid to go in the countryside
In complete transparency it is easy to be successful when you have no competition. Dentists like to ignore the hard demographics in the name of practicing in a “high-income area.”
I would vote instead to find an area with minimal competition, lots of cavities, and enough community employment to support working families with dental insurance. You will never run out of work as our nationwide office sees over 150 new patients every month.
Be a people person
I was able to expand my reference base from day one by personally going to every dental office in the surrounding counties and shaking hands with dentists and doctors.
It’s important to make those connections and pretend you’re running for mayor.
Invest in your community
The dividends paid out by supporting my local FFA, 4H, community fundraisers and nonprofit donations have outperformed any ROI on traditional advertising. Also support and buy from other local businesses.
Don’t underestimate the power of being active in your community as other small business owners will refer brands and patients your way. The first day I moved to the city, I walked into the local furniture store and bought appliances for my dental office. I gave them my company and now all the staff bring their children to me.
Running a dental office requires endless logins, spreadsheets, emails, schedules, PINs, and passwords.
Store documents in the cloud and keep them organized and current.
Don’t rely on equipment representatives for everything
It’s an easy mistake to write the big checks to your local supplier in exchange for a turnkey practice. Instead, take some time to shop around online, you can save thousands.
I bought a lot of equipment from my reps that I later found online for a fraction of the price.
Learn the insurance in your community
I tried going off-net with Delta Dental early on, but didn’t realize that 50% of our community has a Delta plan through work. This severely curtailed our growth in the first few months.
If you have a lot of unproductive downtime during your early months, you probably need to refocus and adjust. Don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Instead, make connections and hand out business cards and referral pads at local businesses.
If it’s necessary to shake hands from door to door, don’t get over it. At first, patients failed their appointments and I sat waiting for the next one to come in. I could have used that downtime much more productively.
don’t stand still
If your practice is stagnant or growing very slowly, don’t accept it. Keeping the growth pedal on the ground early on is critical.
Add team members, equip an extra chair, spend more on your marketing. That growth is compounded early on, especially if you can afford things like setting up a 401k office, investing in better technologies, or paying off debt.
Study other successful pediatric dentistry practices
If you are going to start a practice, you should be in the shadows or visit at least 10 other similar offices. I have visited a dozen colleagues in their offices and I wish I had done twice as many.
Learn what you like and don’t like by seeing these examples in person. Once you’ve invested the money and built your own money, it becomes more difficult to make major changes or adjustments.
Next one: What to do and avoid at a dental start-up