By Roger P. Levin, DDS
Whether you’ve just opened your doors or you’re looking toward retirement, your ortho practice has probably felt the effects of the economic downshift. According to the Levin Group Data Center™, 75% of ortho practices have experienced production declines since the Great Recession. The economy will never return to the way things were, but you can still ensure your success at every stage of your career.
Phase 1: Start-up
Although very few orthodontists realize it at the time, the patterns they establish in the first few years set the stage for the future. Start-up practices typically have excess capacity, which makes it difficult to recognize inefficient systems. Also, as the doctor works hard to build the practice, he or she will often assume administrative, marketing, and other non-clinical duties. This can put the team at risk for problems down the road.
The key to success: Put best models to work immediately and delegate all non-clinical tasks.
Phase 2: Growth
During these years, the office becomes very busy. With strong systems in place, the days will generally run smoothly. However, as demand increases, orthodontists tend to step up the pace, leading to increasing levels of stress. The passion for orthodontics may start to dissipate. As systems break down, customer service suffers, and frustrated staff members may leave the practice.
The key to success: Replace systems every 3–5 years to keep up with changes in the practice and to keep stress down.
Phase 3: Maturity
This should be a time of steady, consistent growth. The practice has established strong relationships with referring doctors, and the orthodontist has trained the team well. The community recognizes the practice for its excellent care. But maturity is also the most dangerous phase. During this time, orthodontists often reach a plateau that can last years, even decades, unless the practice’s marketing strategies get updated regularly. Although referrals may come in steadily from GPs, the practice should still reach out and forge relationships with new GPs and pediatric dentists, increase patient referrals and keep marketing efforts strong. A lack of growth in this phase can prevent orthodontists from saving enough for retirement, which can lead to working 8–10 years longer to reach financial independence.
The key to success: Employ a variety of marketing strategies throughout the year that motivate both parents and doctors to refer new patients.
The secret to ultimate orthodontic success, at every stage, is to work smarter, not harder. Whether that means replacing inefficient systems or modifying marketing strategies, orthodontists must always maintain an unwavering focus on practice growth.
Attend Dr. Levin’s ortho seminar, Set Your Ortho Practice on Fire, October 8–9, 2015, in Baltimore, tuition-free. Ask your Ortho2 Systems Consultant how to receive an Educational Grant.