2 areas to watch as your practice grows

By Teresa Duncan, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

June 25, 2019 -- When opening a new practice, there is much enthusiasm and hope. There is also uneasiness and concern about profitability. Being flexible will be key to not losing your mind during this time.

Two areas that can quickly get out of hand for any practice are the supplies and labor expenses. Let's walk through how to stay on top of these numbers in your practice now to help guide you through your practice growth.


Teresa Duncan
Teresa Duncan is an international speaker who focuses on revenue, dental insurance, and management issues.

I remind my clients to check their orders. In the age of getting everything delivered and the convenience of subscription services, you may think you will save yourself time if you put your practice on an automatic ordering schedule.

However, supplies can pile up. If you have recurring shipments with your vendors, be sure you know your inventory. If your supply room is overflowing with toothbrushes, then reevaluate your automatic shipments. Also, items such as anesthetics expire. Unused product is not an asset but a liability if it ends up being tossed due to expiration.

I ask my clients if they have implemented a budget for monthly supplies. If their answer is no, then I suggest they reconsider their approach. Other healthcare businesses, such as hospitals, order using the just-in-time method. With the ever-increasing speed of deliveries, your practice could benefit from doing the same.

Instead of letting products sit on your shelves, possibly to the point of expiration, order just what you need. Use what you have and then start the process over again. This may not be possible for some rural practices (because of delivery availability), but it won't hurt to check on what your supply company can do.

As your practice grows, checking orders should become one team member's job. It is important to have accountability, and this will help build actual relationships with vendor representatives who visit your office. Representatives will appreciate having one go-to person for specials and emergency calls for missing supplies. Your team will also have one point of contact so there won't be finger pointing when any over- or underordering happens.


If you are paying employees for overtime on a regular basis, it is time to examine why. One of my past clients reviewed the practice timecards and found that the receptionist was arriving 30 minutes early every single day and working through her lunch break. When asked about this, she said she came in early to beat the traffic, but the doctor noted that he would come in and see her making coffee or browsing Facebook on many occasions. The employee felt this extra time was best for her, but it was costing the practice in a big way. Not to mention, skipping her lunch and working for nine straight hours was a violation of state labor laws and could come back to hurt the practice. However, it is possible that excessive overtime can occur from another problem.

“It is a best practice to approve overhead hours ahead of time.”

Ask yourself if your team is working overtime to complete everyday tasks. If your answer is yes, then it is time for some investigation. If employees are putting focus into menial tasks, that is one thing. But are they honestly finding too few hours in the day to complete their work? Then perhaps it is time to hire another team member. Doing so can help cut down on your overtime and help with completing missed tasks. It may seem counterintuitive to hire another person rather than pay overtime. But think of the burnout that will eventually happen to good team members. Even the most efficient employee can run at 110% for only a finite time.

It has been my experience that treatment plan follow-up and hygiene reactivations are the most commonly neglected systems when a practice is too busy. Pay attention to your team's overtime with the thought in mind that it is extremely expensive for offices over the long term. It is a best practice to approve overhead hours ahead of time and have a legitimate reason for any excess.

As a business owner, it is important to have control of overhead costs. Start with determining how much revenue your practice needs to stay open and operate. After this, you can work on lowering variable costs. Labor is typically considered a fixed cost, but overtime is a variable factor that can tack on to your expenses -- often in a surprising way. Be sure to review these numbers frequently to assess practice profitability.

As your practice grows, you may consider hiring an office manager to help so the dentist can focus on dentistry. Also, be sure to work with a certified public accountant for dental practices who can provide benchmarks for similar-sized offices in your area.

I remind my clients to be firm with issues such as overtime and misuse of time. Overtime paychecks very quickly become expected if not checked in a timely manner. Abuse of overtime policies is very common but easily spotted.

Being vigilant about profits is part and parcel of owning a business. It's important to sit back occasionally and enjoy the evidence of your practice growth.

Teresa Duncan is the president of Odyssey Management and an international speaker who focuses on revenue, dental insurance, and management issues. She is the author of Moving Your Patients to Yes! Easy Insurance Conversations.

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

Copyright © 2019 DrBicuspid.com

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