Are You in Control of Your Practice Revenue?
A startup dental practice by its nature can be challenging and overwhelming at times. Like anything else, when doing something you have never done before, it comes with many questions. During this process you will find many people who would like to answer your questions and share some experiences of their own. This often creates even more uncertainty about how to approach your startup and where to look for answers to questions you might not have even thought of. But this task does not have to be daunting if you know where to get help.
There are three categories related to startups that will be impactful for the rest of your professional life. Many of the questions in these categories can be answered by professionals, some of them may never have an answer, and most, believe it or not, only you can answer.
The three categories are related to Vision, Budget and Timeline. Looking deeper into these areas you will find that each has a major role in what the outcome is today and for the years to come. Let’s look at each category in a different light by asking a few questions that are normally asked.
Start with the least important question circling around budget. You might wonder why I said least important. Money is everything you might say. If I don’t have money, there is no way I can build this. You are right, but there is more to it.
Budget is the first and most popular question for almost all startups and it continues to be this way. Question number one is how much will it cost? Sound familiar? It might ring a bell. I bet this is the same question you get from many of your patients. How often have you received calls where you were asked: “How much does it cost to fix my toothache?” You then respond, without any examination or x-ray, that there is no way to know how much “it” will cost when you don’t know what “IT” is.
Most of us have explained our needs at one time or another to try and get an accurate price quote, such as when trying to determine how much something costs and explaining what we think we want. Your front desk likely deals with patients who do the same thing when calling about their tooth problems – such as saying there is a cold sensation when they drink, or excruciating pain when they chew. But what does all this mean to you? Will it allow you to define what the specific problem is (the “IT”) and provide a cost?
You may explain that you want your new office to be “modern but not cold.” What that really means to you and how you imagine it may be very different from what anyone else could. In this case the “IT” cannot be defined to determine the cost. This is why budget, as important as it may be, cannot come before vision! Vision is the x-ray you take and the patient exam that you do to diagnose the problem and provide the solution, defining “IT”. Until then, the cost cannot be determined. If anyone provides you with the cost of what they don’t know, it most certainly is the cost associated with their own vision, not yours.
Finding vision is simple yet difficult. It is really two-fold. Vision can help you form your feelings and overall customer experience. A nice physical environment enhances the customer experience – but what is “nice”? This question should be answered with the help of a professional dental architect. The architect needs to get into your head and see the world through your eyes, then translate that world into reality. It’s challenging, but this is something architects are trained to do by listening to their clients and paying great attention to detail.
Once that vision is established, the architect can determine the material type, color palettes, and how it should all go together to provide you with a space that will portray “you” in the way you desire. This also provides guidance for budgeting and costs associated with material selection. It is now where you begin to discuss budget. Everything is intertwined, not separated.
Another way to look at vision is to ask how you see yourself in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years. Is this office something you will keep through your entire professional life, or are you going to establish it and leave within five years? Vision should embody how you want to feel when walking into an office.
On the other hand, you should have your exit strategy ready when you are starting up. You want to look that far in the future, or at least make an educated guess. With that in mind, you will establish a startup that can last you twenty years rather than ten. This is directly associated with cost. Or, you might allocate enough chairs or infrastructure within your new startup to where you can add operatories and services at a later time.
Planning for the future makes good sense. It should be a clear part of your vision and needs to be discussed prior to site selection. Otherwise, how will you know how many square feet of space you need or how many chairs you need and why? Understanding both parts of the vision clearly is the most important part of your startup, simply because it determines your budget and timeline.
Timeline may not have an obvious impact on the overall startup exercise, but you will be surprised by how much it can impact your budget. If you built something last year it may have been 25% less expensive! With that in mind, you want to make sure to have goals and set an occupancy deadline for yourself.
In summary, the questions that should be asked of yourself and the professionals around you before looking at any space are:
1. What is my vision for now, and fifteen years from now, and how do I want the space to look?
2. How much can I afford to spend today on my startup, and what can wait for later?
3. How soon do I need to occupy my new practice?
From there you can begin the process of building a startup practice that will meet your needs and help you accomplish your goals, both today and tomorrow.
Mohsen Ghoreishi is the CEO and President of The Kohan Group, Inc. He has 18 years of experience in Architectural/Design practice working on healthcare facilities, specifically dental office design and construction management.
Mohsen holds a master degree in architecture and is credited with several awards in designing different facilities. Mohsen also is an author for several of the reputable Dental journals in the United States.