We Believe in a Balanced Operational Approach for our Dental Clients
By Michael Zepf, Director, Tax & Business Services
If you’re looking to improve both your dental practice’s bottom line and your team’s quality of life, you need to get your practice into operational balance.
Operational balance is achieved when all key elements of the practice are proactively managed and governed by proper systems, policies, and protocols. So what is the difference between a typical practice and one that is in balance? In simple terms, it comes down to a reactive owner versus a proactive owner. Someone who reactively manages their practice is reacting to the past rather than anticipating the future. Someone who is proactive anticipates and plans for issues before they create problems. It’s the difference between knowing your destination and mapping it out versus just heading somewhere with no real target.
Most office leaders spend all their time looking at just one element: day-to-day operations. That includes all production and collection activities inside of a practice. While it is an extremely important element of operations, it is tied to another element that needs to be addressed first: human resources.
Before you spend so much time, effort, and energy pushing staff to reach certain production and collection goals in the office, you have to ensure you are using the proper staffing model and that all staff is properly trained in their positions. The staffing model is critical for your ability to perform necessary work — after all, achieving targets is easier with the right team.
At Marcum, we work with our clients to bring them into operational balance. To do so, we target seven key areas of operations management: Day-to-day operations, human resources, finance/accounting, marketing, compliance, facility management, and technology integration.
Day-to-day operations encompass about 90% of the things that are done in a dental office, including all production and collection activities. This is measured monthly and held against benchmarks (more about benchmarks in a future article). We manage our practice to these benchmarks. We create accountability and support teams while they work to achieve our desired results. Many practices hire consultants that only focus on day-to-day operations, but we believe in a more balanced approach because each of the other pre-defined elements impact your ability to conduct day-to-day operations.
The next area we focus on is human resources. This encompasses the office staffing model, team development, team readiness, team willingness, and job descriptions. We also ensure that proper guidance is provided for HR issues to limit any future issues for the owner. Subpar staffing models, training, or job descriptions create a very unhealthy culture for all in the practice.
We also measure the financial side of the practice with benchmarking and best practices. We ensure the owner understands the current financial condition of the office. We work hand-in-hand with the accounting team to identify and pivot the office quickly if a negative trend develops. In other words, we don’t wait six months before we look at the practice’s finances. Accurate and timely reporting of financials is critical to achieving operational balance, so we review monthly and effect quick changes when needed. Further, we advise the practice about any insurance impact issues, such as excessive write-offs. We watch the numbers closely to maximize the bottom line. This has a direct impact on staff quality of life and earnings.
Marketing is a critical piece of every practice, no matter how long you have been in business. Simply put, you should have an internal and external marketing plan. Internal marketing is critical to the longevity of any practice because it creates referrals and keeps the back door closed. A back door is open in a practice when someone comes in one time, has a mediocre experience, and leaves the practice to find another. These offices typically have frequent openings for simple checkups and do not have a robust recall system. They need a constant flow of new patients to survive. We train the team on how to use internal marketing to create value for patients. Dental professionals are in the relationship business, and the entire team needs to understand the value that is created when patients feel they have been treated correctly.
Once the internal marketing systems are in alignment, we engage in external marketing as needed. You never want to spend money on external marketing until your internal issues are cleaned up. That would be pouring money down the drain. You would lose that new patient and any referrals they could have provided in the future.
Compliance is so important but often regarded as an afterthought. We incorporate systems to ensure your practice remains in compliance year after year. Does compliance affect your ability to carry out day-to-day operations? It sure does: Consider what would happen if the state dental board came in and closed you down or gave you bad press. This is a critical area that requires attention and accountability.
Facility management deals with your carpets, walls, furnishings, and equipment. Is your patient bathroom clean? Is the rug vacuumed and floors mopped? These things matter! Many patients believe the way the office looks and feels reflects the type of care they will receive. You don’t ever want to lose patients over anything like this because it also creates the possibility of negative talk among patients. Remember the old Head and Shoulders advertising slogan: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Technology integration is an exciting area of operations. Through technology we can often streamline areas of our practice to make them more efficient. Outsourcing certain tasks in the office can also help with the staffing model and in some cases drive down costs while increasing efficiencies. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing has been a challenge throughout the country. We utilize technology and outsourcing so dental offices can keep functioning. Billing, posting, and even scheduling can be handled through third-party vendors. Practice owners should keep their eyes on changing technologies and vendors that can help streamline operations.
At Marcum, we believe in a balanced operational approach to any business. We have a specialized division dedicated to helping any dentist achieve their goals.