With a desire to own a practice, a need to learn practice management

When I was in dental school, I never really paid much attention in our only business course. This class didn’t meet every week and mainly involved completing online modules that were created by another Texas dental school. The modules were meant to simulate many areas of practice management: creating a business plan for a startup; creating a budget for a new build; personnel management information. This course was in the midst of the craziness of my fourth year.

Dr. Stuchlik

I was trying to finish all of those removable requirements and didn’t see the need to take this practice management course seriously. After all, I was planning on being an associate for most of my career, right?

It wasn’t until last year that I felt the desire to be a business owner.

I’ve mentioned multiple times on this blog how grateful I am for the incredible associateship I landed after graduation. I’ve learned so much clinically, and more recently started asking questions about the business side. Another advantage to my associateship is how transparent the owners of my practice are. No question I ask is ever denied an answer due to “confidential information.”

Early on in my associateship, I was even invited to meetings with a consultant that went through a breakdown of all the numbers related to a dental practice. Some of these numbers were things I never even thought were a part of owning a practice. There is so much you don’t learn in dental school about running a business.

Where do dentists go for business education?

There are multiple companies and consultants that will help you run your business “so you don’t have to.” In my opinion, what’s the point in owning something for somebody else to manage?

A quick Google search showed me that even the ADA has an Executive Program in Dental Practice Management. This online program offers a convenient way to learn more about how to run a business.

Last fall, the Texas Dental Association announced an Executive Management for Texas Dental Association Members program with the McCombs Texas Executive Education at the University of Texas at Austin. A colleague of mine decided she wanted to take these courses for future practice ownership goals, so I followed suit. The program consists of four Fridays and Saturdays, once a month from January to April. The courses are held in Austin, Texas, on the UT campus. There are just under 30 participants in the program from across Texas. My colleague and I are easily the newest dentists in the group (and the only non-business owners). The first two classes in January focused solely on marketing. It was interesting to get actual business education on this topic, rather than what a dental marketing firm may tell you what you need to do.

The price associated with this course is very reasonable. The TDA sees this program solely as a member benefit for dentists to expand their business education. I’m looking forward to the next three sessions of this highly interactive program. I’ve already learned so much from the professors and the experiences of the other dentists. I highly recommend any new dentist to see what other business management programs are available in their areas.

Perhaps if I paid more attention in my only business course in dental school, I’d feel a little more comfortable with potentially starting a business. However, business education from the same professors as an MBA program is invaluable.

Dr. Katie Stuchlik is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. She grew up in Houston and graduated from The University of Texas School of Dentistry in 2015. Katie is a general dentist in a large group practice in Katy, Texas (a quick 25 minute commute from Houston). When she’s not working or staying involved with the Greater Houston Dental Society and the Texas Dental Association, she’s usually posting pictures of her miniature Australian shepherd puppy or her CrossFit workouts.

5 comments

  • Having been a dentist for almost 35 years, I believe your request is one of the most consistent that I have heard throughout my career. I still contend that dental students would benefit from more formal education in business during their training. As a dentist who has worked in the public arena for all of my years, there is commonality with the private sector in that “no margin, no mission.” There must be a solid foundation for sustainability regardless of the setting you practice in, if that practice is to survive. There is a lot to be learned from those who have built and nurtured dental safety net clinics over the years. Recently, the “Safety Net Dental Clinic Manual” (2nd ed.) was released. You might find some practical insight there as well. See this resource at: http://www.dentalclinicmanual.com. Hope you find it helpful.

  • Dr. Katie Stuchlik,

    Great article! As an outsider, I have always wondered why Dental Schools do not build in an in depth curriculum on lead generation for Dentists. I know you mentioned that the ADA does offer an Executive Program in Dental Practice Management, but how effective was it? I have talked with dozens of other Dentists in your same shoes and it seems like there is simply a lack of business development in Dental School. I know this is not related, but I also found that Lawyers go through the same thing. As a business owner and lead generation expert, I guess I see things differently. Without patients, there will not be a Dental Practice to run?

    I am on a mission to network within the Dental industry so I can conduct live trainings and/or webinars on lead generation practices for 2018. Best of luck to you!

  • It is really pleasure to read this article. Very informative. Thanks for sharing. I agree with you in the thing which you mentioned in the end.

  • There is an entire industry built around business training for dentists.
    Excellent contiuing educatiin programs exist in practice management. Hire a reputable consultant, go to seminars again and again, read as many books on business success as possible, get books on tape from companies like care credit(they are free).
    Knowledge of business in general comes with time.
    The more rapidly you seek the more its applicability.

    Consultants are worth their weight in diamonds and gold.

    Surround yourself with experts CPA,Attorney,Practice consultants etc.

  • Thank you very much for sharing your experience!

    Another subject I think is very important about running our own business owner, apart learning dental practice management (by the way, thanks for the link) is paying attention to marketing and social media

    Nowadays, we need to open our digital channels in order to give value to our patients by those means

    Greetings from Caracas, Venezuela

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