What Does “Growth” Really Mean to Dental Practices?

Dental Practice Growth

Growth might seem like an obvious goal for any dental practice (or any business at all!) but taking time to consider what that really looks like can ensure your actions have the intended impact. The stage of your practice, your personal goals, and the capacity of your team can all impact the type of growth your practice should prioritise and the actions you can take to get there. If the words “new patients” are flashing in your mind, I’ll ask you to put that aside for the moment. It can be very distracting and not all that fruitful. 


So what kind of growth should you be chasing?

The three modes of business growth for dental practices

There’s three main areas your practice could focus on to achieve “growth”. Each will have a different result and be better suited to certain factors. But the one important thing they have in common is pushing your practice forward. 

  1. Capital Growth
  2. Bottom Line Growth
  3. Big Picture Growth

Plenty of dental practices get caught up in the first two styles, focusing on the shiny numbers. And if you’re still establishing a solid base for your practice, that might be the right move. But ignoring number three might mean that you’re missing out on opportunities for a meaningful shift forwards. 


Big Picture Growth focuses more on long term success than the day-to-day revenue of your practice. It can be daunting and feel like a big responsibility or too far in the future, but it’s the type of growth that will have a lasting impact on your business. 


Let’s take a closer look at these three styles of growth.

Capital Growth

This is where those new patients can come in handy. Revenue may seem like the most obvious point of growth, and for a new practice it is probably the most valuable. The focus is on bringing in patients and bringing in money. But of course at this stage, the old adage is trueyou need to spend money to make money. Capital Growth means focusing more on the money coming in than the money you’re taking away at the end of the day. A lot of your profits will go back into growing the patient base and setting yourself up for success. 


It might look attractive on paper. But once your books are full, this type of growth simply might not be as productive for your practice.

Profit Growth

So if Capital Growth puts the focus on the money coming in the door, this type of growth focuses on the amount you get to take home. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!


For an established dental practice wanting to focus on finances, this could be the right way to go. Keep in mind, the draw of new patients won’t help you reach Profit Growth. The cost of reaching new patients is often too high to provide meaningful growth to your bottom line. Increasing the lifetime value of your patients, reducing costs, and increasing your prices will have the greatest impact. 


Obviously more money in your pocket is a good thing, but the strategies you can use at this level are limited. There are limits to the ways you can reduce costs, how much you can increase prices, and how many patients you can see in a day. But it doesn’t mean there’s limits on your practice growth—you just need to think bigger.

Big Picture Growth
It’s often overlooked, but this is likely the most valuable to an established dental practice. 
Big Picture Growth involves a strategic roadmap for expanding your dental business. That might mean something as major as opening or acquiring a new location, or it could be as simple as developing a referral program for patients. It could mean expanding your treatment list to include cosmetic or dental implants, or introducing additional specialty services for your practice
Having Big Picture Growth goals in place is often the difference between trucking along and seeing meaningful growth for your practice. Most practices have some idea of the direction they’d like to move in or what they’d like to achieve. But these kinds of goals take a bit more thought and planning with your team so they’re often overlooked. Taking the time to plan out your goals and the actions you’ll take to get there can make a huge difference to your practice’s growth.
What about Personal Growth?
We’ve talked a lot about how your practice can grow, but it’s important to think about how you’d like to grow your career, too. 
Is there a specialisation you’ve always had interest in that you’d like to develop? Are you looking to step back from hands-on dentistry and focus on the business? Or are you starting to consider your retirement plan and how the practice plays into that? 
Most importantly, how do your personal and career goals align with the goals you’re setting for the practice? If you’re close to retirement and planning to sell your practice, it might not be the time to overhaul it with an expansion plan for new locations. Instead, If you’d like to personally develop a specialty, create a plan to develop it as a focus in the practice.
Focus on your own ‘grass’
Remember, the grass is greenest where you water it. Growth is going to look different for each practice, so try not to compare your progress to others.They might be focused on increasing revenue and building up a patient base. Meanwhile you’re planning to develop a new specialty to increase the value of each patient. Stop peeking over the proverbial fence and focus on what will be most productive and effective for your practice
There’s no right way, only the right way for your team. And it takes thought, planning, and communication to get there. The sooner you develop a clear vision for the practice, the sooner you’ll see results.

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