Since I started practicing nearly 10 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Patients have accepted implants as mainstream treatment, corporate practices have grown exponentially, and dental school debt is climbing rapidly. In one the best economic booms of all time, many practices are hitting all-time highs in production and collections.
Still, some offices are really struggling. We all have our challenges. It comes with running any type of business. In fact, I’ve noticed three dental offices close near my home. I’ve also had several offers from dental service organizations (DSOs) and corporate practices to buy my office. Some call, email, and write to me regularly. Selling to a DSO isn’t a bad fit for some people, but at this point in my career, being bought out offers no interest to me.
Our businesses aren’t any different just because we work in dentistry. Business is business. Some see this idea as salesy, but I see businesses as the future of our jobs and economy. Great businesses are where our children will work when they grow up.
Plus, the $815 billion juggernaut around the corner is now trying to compete with you.
Last fall, Walmart opened one of its first health clinics in Dallas, Texas. I’m not sure what and where its plans for expansion are, but if you study Walmart, it’s a matter of when, not if, they come knocking into your town.
“The customer is at the heart of everything we do, and that focus is reflected in the new Walmart Health center. This state-of-the-art facility will provide quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare for members of the Dallas, Georgia, community so they can get the right care at the right time, right in their hometown,”said Sean Slovenski, senior vice president of Walmart and president of Walmart US Health and Wellness.
I’m sure Amazon has already set its sights on dental care and is putting a plan into place to open up retail or mobile locations. Even if you hate Smile Direct Club and don’t agree with its business model, it’s enrolling people (especially millennials) like crazy, and not just in the United States. Interestingly, Align Technology’s stock has been climbing in value since Smile Direct Club went public a few months ago. That’s a lesson in itself.
The way you practice dentistry a decade from now will be very different, but hopefully in a good way. If you constantly innovate and improve the way you practice, not just on teeth but on your business as a whole, dentistry still has lots to offer, especially since 50% of the population isn’t seeing a dentist at least once a year.
Most importantly, my plan is not to compete with Walmart. I’m not going to try and compete on price or location with it. Why would I? If all of my patients run out and start getting care at Walmart, I have a bigger problem than Walmart. My problem would be the lack of a reason for my patients to come back and see me. I personally wouldn’t put Walmart as my top 10 choice for any type of healthcare for me or my family, but that’s just me.
There’s never been a better or more important time to differentiate yourself than now. Dentists are well known for buying shiny objects, as seen by much of the unused equipment in the drawers and closets at our offices. They are purchased with good intent, but without a plan, they usually go to waste.
When Walmart first showed up, Nordstrom didn’t suffer, because they were already different. The mom and pop shops that closed down couldn’t differentiate themselves from Walmart on price, convenience, or service, so they got gobbled up.
Be careful who you take advice from. Look for a mentor who has been and is going where you want to be. Much of the media about corporate growth is propaganda and is simply trying to scare small practice owners into selling or moving. I’m here to urge you to not compromise your ethics or goals and to continue on your path to excellence in dentistry.
If you have any feedback or would like to share your experiences with me, I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Williams is the founder of Pinecrest Dental and the author of a Reason to Smile: 11 Keys to Your Best Oral Health Ever. He has been featured on ABC’s Good Things Utah, on KTALK radio, and in several national dental research publications. He also is a member of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, the ADA, and the Utah Dental Association. He is currently a speaker and instructor on Dental Implants with the Implant Institute. He can be reached at email@example.com.