Don't let debt damage your practice

By Sally McKenzie, contributing writer

March 7, 2019 -- When you look around your practice, you probably see areas you'd like to improve. Whether it is investing in new technology, updating your reception area, or another goal, you can't make these investments if you are struggling with debt.

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

Unfortunately, this is a problem many clinicians experience, not just dentists who are just out of school. Many midcareer dentists are between $300,000 and $500,000 in debt thanks to poor financial management. Their financial woes go way beyond just the cost of doing business, with company credit cards, loans, mortgages, equipment leases, and lines of credit among the contributing factors.

If you're drowning in debt, it's damaging your practice and keeping you from meeting your full potential. It's also leading to low team morale and plenty of frustration for everyone in the office. There's no talk of growing the practice; you're just trying to keep the doors open. This is no way to run a business.

If debt is a problem for your practice, I want to help you take back control and start reaching the level of success you've always envisioned. How? Let's start by looking at your practice management systems.

Don't ignore the problem

Most dentists simply don't want to talk about their money troubles. They convince themselves they can fix it all on their own, but they never do. They're always too busy or stressed to really focus on making positive change, so the same weak systems and bad habits keep them from reaching true success. The situation gets worse, and these dentists continue to struggle, working countless hours without getting the monetary gains they desire.

If debt is damaging your practice, now is the time to take back control. Identify problems then work with your team members to address them. Get outside help if you need to. Just take action. When you do, you'll finally have the profitable practice you've always dreamed of, and you'll be free of the debt that's kept you from reaching your goals.

Weak systems

Weak systems play a large role in debt accumulation. Outdated, inefficient practice management systems are a problem in many of the practices I visit, and they do nothing but hold the practice back and lead to money woes.

How can you tell if weak systems are one of the culprits keeping you in debt? Start by asking yourself these two questions:

“If debt is damaging your practice, now is the time to take back control.”
  1. Can you remember the last time you updated any of the 20 critical practice management systems?
  2. Do you monitor your systems each month?

If you answered no to either of these questions, then we've found one of your problems. Let me explain. When systems aren't up to snuff, they hold your practice back rather than move it forward. Instead of helping you reach success and profitability, they contribute to the high overhead costs and debt that are keeping you from meeting your full potential.

What can you do about this? Start paying attention to these critical systems. Take a step back and really look at them. How can they be improved? Get to know them and take the time to understand how they affect the practice's profitability. Then you can start making the necessary changes to get them on track -- which will help relieve some of the debt burden that's holding you back.

It will be worth the effort

Now, of course, you also have to be patient. You're not going to fix struggling systems overnight. Just stick with it and keep in mind that once these systems are performing as they should, you'll have a more efficient, profitable practice that isn't controlled by debt and overhead concerns. Seem a bit overwhelming? Not to worry. This might mean getting in touch with a dental consultant firm to help you identify issues with your systems, then put a plan together to address those issues.

When your systems run as they should, you'll feel like you're in a different practice. Your team members will be more efficient and happier to come to work each day. There will be less conflict, and both productivity numbers and revenues will rise. You'll finally have money to invest in new technologies and upgrades -- and even save for retirement. Your stress level will come down, and your passion for dentistry will return, which will come through in the way you interact with patients.

Sound good? Let me give you even more incentive. If you commit to making improvements and get those systems running at maximum efficiency, you can expect your revenues to increase 25% to 35% in only a few months in our experience.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2019

To read this and get access to all of the exclusive content on create a free account or sign-in now.

Member Sign In:
MemberID or email address:  
Do you have a password?
No, I want a free membership.
Yes, I have a password:  
Forgot your password?
Sign in using your social networking account:
Sign in using your social networking