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Corporate Dentistry Is Not The Problem – They Just Know How To Run A Business

Over and over again I hear dentists talk about corporate dentistry as the enemy. I’ve even heard doctors refer to their corporate competition as “the devil,” practically spitting out the words.

Obviously this is a topic that stirs up a lot of emotion, and it’s clear why. Corporate dentistry offers patients the opportunity to come in for convenient, after-hours appointments, they’re generally less expensive, and overall they are more profitable than most private dental offices.

It makes dental entrepreneurs angry, but here’s the bottom line: corporate dentistry understands business, and most private practice dentists don't.

Why Corporate Dentistry Works as a Business Model
Corporate dentistry has become more and more visible over the last 7-10 years. There are certain pockets of the country – Wisconsin and Colorado, for instance – where I would even go so far as to say that it’s “rampant.”

Typically, a corporation will approach an existing private practice and make an offer to purchase the company. The doctors say yes because they’re so tired of the business side of dentistry. They’re sick of dealing with employee issues, patient drama, having to learn sales... they just want a paycheck. They say yes to the corporation and essentially become an employee.

The general consensus among the private practices I work with is that giving in to a corporate offer is “selling out.” Some of the dentists I know believe that corporate dentistry hires the worst dentists, uses substandard materials, and can’t truly make the right choices for the patient because their doctors are put on sales quotas.

I hear horror stories about people who have had botched jobs done on their mouths at a corporate office and can’t get it fixed because an independent dentist won’t risk a lawsuit. Yikes!

Sure, not all dentists are great. But the idea that any dentist who works for a corporation is a “sell out” and that a corporate-run dental office doesn’t care about its patients? Well, I just don’t buy it.

What We Can Learn from Corporate Dentistry
Way back in time, a dentist would go to dental school (and yes, even if he graduated last in his class, he was still a dentist), throw all the money he had in a big pot and buy a practice. He would struggle for years trying to build the office from scratch.

Nowadays, a new dentist can graduate and go to work for a corporate dental office to get his first job. Getting his feet wet in a corporate office does not make him a bad dentist, a sell-out or indicate that he doesn’t care about the patients. It means that he’s new to the industry and probably doesn’t have the means to purchase his own practice just yet.

I don’t believe that every dentist working at a corporate office is just in it for the money. In fact, I believe there are some big business lessons we can learn from examining the structure of corporate dentistry that will improve the way independent practices operate.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson we can take away from corporate dentistry is this: they understand how to create a system that works. They know exactly how much they need to charge, how many new patients they need to bring in, and how many employees they can afford to have on payroll to keep their office solvent.

I challenge you to look at the system of your dental office. Do you know how much you need, how many patients to bring in and how many employees you can afford to keep your business running? It’s a numbers game.

Your Philosophy of Care
Let me be clear: I am not an advocate for selling your practice to become a corporate employee. This is not a “call to arms” to sell your independent office to the big guys.

I understand exactly why a dentist craves independence. If you have a philosophy of care that you wish to uphold and you want to create a business on your terms, I think you’re in prime position to be a CEODentist.

I am simply saying this: if you're in private practice and you intend to take care of your personal and family obligations and have a chance at a comfortable retirement, you'll have to be educated about business. Corporate Dental practices know how to run a business. Instead of griping about them, I say "learn from them."

Ready to look more closely at how your business is operating? Give us a call at 866-258-6777 Ext. 101 today to set up a preliminary assessment.

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