Tried it — Didn’t Like It

Dr LarryToday is a guest post from one of a pair of married dentists, Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.

Tried it — Didn’t Like It

by Dr. Larry Dougherty:

Owning a dental practice is rewarding. Understatement alert: it can also be stressful. This isn’t unique to dentistry; it’s just part of owning a small business. If only there was a perfect cookbook on how to handle every situation, it would be so easy.

There’s no cookbook — we learn as much as we can, we measure and analyze, and we try to course-correct after mistakes. What worked in year one might not continue to work in years two and three.

Here are a few things we used to do – maybe they will work for you, but they didn’t work for us:

  • Stay open late The evening slots were booked weeks in      advance, but the no-show rate was terrible compared to our normal hours.      And our after-hours patients were more interested in emergency/patch up      treatment, not in becoming regular patients to our practice. We also didn’t      enjoy being in the office so late and our productivity declined.
  • Maintain Multiple Vendors When our practice was small, it didn’t seem      like a bad idea to comparison shop between numerous suppliers of the same      products. As we grew, we didn’t have time for all of that. Worse, managing      inventory became confusing. 
  • Micro-manage the Office At first we didn’t have an office manager or a bookkeeper. I tried to do it all myself and realized I was in way over my head. Sure, I’m smart enough to get up to speed, but is that the best use of my time and skills? It made sense in the beginning to do it myself, but the busier we became, the more it made sense to hire professionals and maintain oversight.

Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty are the owners of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, TX.


  • I worked as a dental assistant for four years while I was working on my bachelor’s, and you’re right, it’s not easy running a business like that. I don’t think people realize how stressful it can be. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, but I worked with some pretty good people which made it easier. I couldn’t believe how much people complained. Do they realize that their dentist is doing a huge service for them? Jerry Jones |

  • Dr Dougherty wrote an excellent article, i think for a new dental office it can be useful to work on weekends ( saturday) and offer big discounts.

  • Been a practicing in the South Bay for 30 years and starting off can be hard, but once you know what you need then your practice will take off. There are always bumps along the way, but you get through each one and learn from it.

  • Your right on that, there is no cookbook for life experiences especially when it comes to owning your own business. It’s always great when you do open a new business having an open house and introducing your self and your staff to the community is a great idea. Then you can actually take a survey what the community would like to see. It doesn’t always work, but at least you got yourself out there. Marketing is crucial in our business because there are so many dentist offices popping up left and right. You need to make your business stand out and the best way of doing that is by innovating marking.

  • Life alone is experience in itself. But what a great experience it is. You just need to figure out what is best for you and of course your community that your business is located in.

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