As the owner of a private practice you need to know about both and will need skills beyond those taught in dental school. It also means that your workload will increase beyond patient/client consultations, and that you may experience work-related stress.
Dental practitioner, recruiter, HR and team builder, business development planner, customer service and marketer, IT and compliance officer, and small business owner – the hats you may need to wear when running your own business are many.
Your role has changed – you now work on the business, not just for the business. You set the direction, keep up with industry changes, respond to staff or patient requests or complaints, keep the equipment current, hire and fire and pay the rent. There’s business tax and finance, employment law, occupational health and safety, office administration, privacy legislation, marketing and patient communications, billing systems, record keeping, wages and industry awards, staff recruitment and team management to think about.
To get all of this done and build a dental practitioner business that is effective, efficient and compliant while ensuring that you as the owner are not over-stretched and stressed, it’s a good idea to get some help.
Feeling overworked, failing to meet client expectations, a poor understanding of what you are trying to do, too much responsibility and the wrong people in your team – these are all ingredients that will lead to stress for business owners and their employees.
Find out what you are stepping into
Before you embark on opening your business, you could find a mentor or ask a peer who is experienced in practice management to let you observe, ask questions and shadow them as they go about their work day. To find out more, go to mentors and making your way.
Sign up to stay informed
To keep up with changes in your industry, it’s a good idea to join a peak body or professional association. They work to keep members informed about advances, regulation and what is going on in the world of dental practice.
It is important that you understand what needs to happen in a clinic to enable dental practitioners to deliver great care to patients so that they keep coming back. If you don’t understand some aspect of running a practice, sign up for professional development or get some coaching. That knowledge will help you to steer the business, tell your staff what needs to be done, make informed choices when problems come up and protect your business investment.
Choose the right staff and services
If you are busy, delegate to a trusted team member. If you’ve got too much to manage, call in some expert help. Consultants and business services can help you to streamline your processes or rethink your HR structures, set a sustainable business direction, meet legislative requirements and avoid hiccups from growing into insurmountable problems.
A good accountant is essential for your tax reporting, payroll, billing and more. If cash flow is a problem you could talk to a financial counsellor, your bank, or even the Australian Tax Office to reorganise how and when you meet your tax and super obligations. A capable IT service can help you design efficient processes, make sure you are online, manage backups and more. You could consider hiring an office or practice manager with skills in running health service practices who can help you ensure that your practice is compliant, that it supports the delivery of great patient care, retains its staff members and is a great place to work.
Find your people
It’s always useful to talk to someone who’s been there. Check with your professional association about whether they can connect you with business specialists and peers. Join a local business group or network of peers to build a support group to meet and discuss your daily challenges. Seek out other small business or dental clinic owners who are willing to exchange notes, debrief, and share ideas and anecdotes.
The benefits of creating a network of peers are many and extend to all involved – reduced stress, pooling of knowledge, innovation and even collaboration.
It is easy to forget to take time to look after yourself if you are busy at work. If you are exhausted, making mistakes or your stress is compromising how you communicate or relate to others, you could be undermining your hard work and investment in establishing your practice. By taking the time for some self-care, you are investing in yourself, your career and the sustainability and success of your business.
To tackle stress:
- Exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat well.
- Find an enjoyable activity or hobby.
- Try relaxation techniques or meditation.
- Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
- Set up your business so you can take breaks and holidays.
- Try not to take work home.
- Choose a regular time to ‘switch off’ (from calls and emails).
- Know it’s okay to sometimes say ‘no’.