Being back in the Pacific Northwest allowed me to save more for dental continuing education. It’s important to invest back into yourself through continuing education, so you can really progress clinically. I shared tips for budgeting for dental CE in one piece for the ADA’s New Dentist Now blog.
At my second associateship, I was the main dentist at the practice, and I had a supervisor dentist who managed other general dentists in the area. We had several specialists, including a pediatric dentist, orthodontist and oral surgeon, who would come in. Having a big team to manage really helped me understand how I needed to strengthen certain leadership skills. As new dentists, we’re very aware of building our skills in clinical dentistry. But in dental school we don’t train in leadership abilities, which are such a big component of our careers. That was one of the reasons why I started the New Dentist Business Study Club in September 2019.
KO: What motivated you to establish a study club for other new dentists?
SD: I realized during my second associateship that I needed to learn more about the HR and management side of dentistry. So I went to my first business seminar, and then I took another course and another. I went to a conference that also dealt with a lot of business fundamentals. And I just felt really good because the courses gave me things to work on, in myself and on my team, to prevent burnout.
But after a course, there’s usually no follow-up. So a week goes by after the course, and the excitement and the passion that you feel kind of dies down. I wanted something that continues at least once or twice a month to keep spirits high throughout the month and throughout the year. And I knew that I wanted to have my own dental practice one day. I wanted to keep learning about that and keep myself accountable. The best way I thought to do that was to get together with friends and other new dentists who also want to have their own practices, so we can learn about business together. I believed there was more value in camaraderie over competition.
KO: What are some topics that you focus on in the New Dentist Business Study Club? What are some lessons that you’d highlight for other new dentists, even if they’re not in the study club?
SD: One of the big things that we do is practice evaluations. So we’ve learned how to understand the numbers behind evaluating a practice, and it helps give you a lot of confidence. Instead of blindly delegating everything to brokers and others, you can gain the right education and learn these things yourself, so as a new dentist you can understand what you’re hiring your team for.
We also really focus on networking. We talk about how networking with other dentists in dental society meetings and in the community is so important to finding your dream practice. If you have done your demographic study, you can know exactly the area you want to be in and you can reach out to other dentists. You can even mail letters to see if they want to sell their practices.
We also talk about leadership and things like how to hire people, what kind of bonus structures are popular, how to motivate people and how to design a good benefits system for your team. I think being able to hire the right team is one of the fundamental things that a dentist should be able to do.
Lastly, the study club is an opportunity to gain public speaking skills. We meet about twice a month and conduct our sessions on GoToMeeting. And I think the experience is so valuable, because these are communication skills that we can bring back to our patients and our practices.