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7 True Secrets to Running A Successful Dental Office

Let me begin by saying this may not be the article you are expecting from reading the title. When I was asked to write an article for dentists to give them little-known secrets to running a successful dental office, the expectation was that the secrets would be focused on specific business tips—what reports to run, what numbers to pay attention to, how to save money, how to increase production, etc. Those things are important to the success of a dental office, of course, along with many other specific nitty-gritty everyday details. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that none of those aspects really contain the true secret to success for dental offices.

Part 1: 7 True Secrets to Running A Successful Dental Office

When we dig deeper into this idea of running a successful office, the true secrets to success aren’t dental specific. They are approaches that I have seen used by successful people in a variety of business areas. Maybe it’s time for those of us in the dental field to look outside of our niche and see what success secrets we can apply to our own business success. With that in mind, here are my seven secrets to running a successful dental office, they all revolve around taking care of the core elements your office needs to exist and thrive.

Secret #1: Take care of yourself.

First, if you are not taking care of yourself, there is not much foundation to build the practice on. As the owner and the dentist, it is vital you are doing things that keep you mentally and physically healthy. You need to do things to help you stay sane and keep your stress levels down. Owning and running a small business can be a lot of work and quite stressful at times, and if you are not in your best health and mental state, it can really take a toll on you. It’s true what they tell you every time you get on a plane: When you are traveling with others and there is an emergency situation, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first or else you will be no help to anyone else. It turns out this isn’t only true in emergencies. Your health and well-being come first as the owner of the practice, so you are able to adequately support the rest of the team in their roles as well as supporting patients by providing amazing service.

Aside from physical and mental health, there is another important aspect of taking care of yourself as an owner. You have to invest in yourself and what you need to run the business well. I happen to know a lot of professionals, dentists included, who don’t get enough education or support to improve and grow in their role—and a few who don’t get any at all! And then there are some others who are very active in growing and continuing to learn, but solely in areas they are already good at or find particularly interesting.

Dentists generally love to continually grow and learn in terms of clinical skills, but where they really need to focus on themselves and their knowledge is in the area of running their business.

These two self-care areas are actually interconnected. When you are taking care of yourself and keeping your stress level low, this will directly impact the amount of time you have available to invest in learning how to effectively maintain and grow your business.

Secret #2: Take care of your team.

Your team spends more time working in your dental office than they do with their families. In order to keep up morale and make it possible for the team to continue delivering excellent work for patients, it is important for them to have an environment they love to work in, feel appreciated by you and each other, and be rewarded or at least thanked on a regular basis for their hard work and dedication. Studies have shown that most people are not motivated by money as much as they are by recognition and appreciation. I believe this is something many dentists don’t prioritize in leading their teams. However, the most successful ones are those who have found ways to make their team members feel valued and like part of a team working toward a common goal. No owner can achieve success without the enthusiasm and buy-in of a hard-working team to help them get there.

Of course, there is more to taking care of your team than making them feel appreciated as individuals. Your dental assistants and hygienists and other clinical team members need continuing education as much as you do, but your front office and administrative staff also need ongoing training in specific areas of how to run a successful office. Hopefully they show up every day wanting to do their best, but a good attitude isn’t enough. Continual training will help them learn skills, techniques and systems so they can grow in their positions and they can help your office grow. When the biggest overhead for a dental office is salaries and wages, it makes sense to invest the most in that area to help your team lead the office to success.

Check back next week for Part 2: 7 True Secrets to Running A Successful Dental Office, to find Tips #3 through #7!

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.