As I travel throughout the state I experience a wide range of dentists and practice models that vary in size, scope, age and experience. Our profession is morphing right before our very eyes. If you haven’t taken the time to look outside your window, the landscape is changing quite rapidly. Graduates leaving dental school today enter a far more complex world than those of the prior year. Although very talented and academically prepared their limited clinical skills and experience leaves them in a difficult situation. Today’s graduate leaves school with an average debt ranging in the area of $200,000 and some as high as $400,000. Many are choosing to opt for additional training in a residency program which provides them the opportunity to build their confidence and speed.
A rapidly growing option is corporate dentistry....and it’s here to stay. In this year’s senior class, I reviewed 12 different offers from corporate entities that offered seniors salaries ranging from $100,000 to $130,000. These are complex choices for the young graduate. They are unsure of the clinical environment that exists in the corporate model, but the urgency to secure gainful employment remains first and foremost in their mind. With student debt looming over their heads they have to make these difficult decisions. The legal language requires them to seek counsel on contracts often with anxiety of the unknown. The advantage of signing an agreement provides immediate income for the young dentist, but does not address factors unseen or unknown.
Managing staff, the operation, and the financial health of a practice should all be considered when making these important decisions. There are a variety of different models not seen 30 years ago. These provide diversified experiences for the growth of the young graduate and an opportunity to learn about the business and leadership necessary to develop their professional career.
Other significant changes in today’s work force:
These significant changes are important as you develop your strategies for your future and that of your practice. The fingerprints of change are stamped all over our profession.
In 1992 there were 10 significant dental service organizations frequently referred to as “corporate dentistry” in operation. Today there are over 100 of these models and they are growing rapidly.
They leverage the economics and the scale that lowers expenses, which increases revenue through negotiating fee schedules with insurance companies and suppliers. Expanded hours, large budgets and expert marketing make it difficult for the once dominant solo practitioner to compete in the marketplace. Much like medicine years ago, dental practices are forced to make the effort to operate multiple offices and/or consolidate to gain leverage in their business.
Many of the practices I work with are writing off 25% to 35% of their gross production due to participation in insurance programs. This is not a gloom and doom article, but an alert or eye opener that we be astute about all phases of our practice to remain healthy.
I opened this article to highlight the dynamic changes our profession is experiencing and how that impacts the future. Each of our careers and practices has a series of mini chapters leading to the next chapter. In the past we might often pull the trigger without planning or seeking consult outside our four walls. If you are approaching the twilight of your career, I encourage you to take the time to seek consult. You will need to develop a succession plan in multiple areas for your exit strategy. It has become too complex to do on your own without a careful objective. In the end, the assessment and a well thought out plan will be your strongest tools to assure strong choices and results.
If you are in the prime of your career and you’re not taking time on a regular basis to assess your position from a business perspective, leadership, technical skills viewpoint, then grab your calendar and set aside the time to start the conversation and seek outside consultation.
Select individuals with expertise in each of the three areas that can expand your understanding before making a decision. The time you invest today, will have tremendous returns for tomorrow. Helping people grow is far more enjoyable than digging out from choices made without adequate knowledge or planning. Decisions made without a complete understanding can have dire consequences such as:
Notice none of the above areas are related to your technical skills in dentistry yet they severely impact the outcome of your business. I not only encourage recent graduates, but all colleagues to take the time to evaluate your career. Developing your tool box is mandatory and will equip you for our changing profession. We must be comfortable to reach for additional expertise and the stamina to persist in difficult times. Your expanded tool box will equip you to enjoy a wonderful career in dentistry.
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Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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