5 Things Dentists Can Do to Financially Survive this World Disaster

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Our lives have changed drastically over the last few weeks. Concern over the spread of coronavirus has led to countless businesses temporarily shutting down across the country and world—including dental practices. While some practices have remained open to treat those who need urgent care, many have opted to close completely to protect patients and team members from possible exposure to this highly contagious virus.

These certainly are challenging times, and many dentists are understandably worried about what it all means for the future of their businesses. I’m here to help you navigate through this world disaster and have put together five tips for financial survival.

1. Reduce overhead immediately. This is crucial. You can start by making a list of every financial obligation you have that is a fixed cost. This includes rent and equipment payments. Once you have that, move on to optional expenses. Include services or jobs that you can take on yourself, and then considering doing so.

It’s also critical to figure out your monthly expense total. With that number in mind, you can assess how much cash you have on hand and determine how you’re going to cover expenses. This will give you a pretty good idea of how long you can survive with the cash you have. I can’t stress how important this is. You can’t bury your head in the sand. Now is the time to take action.

What’s your biggest expense? Payroll. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to pay your team members when you have no patients coming in, and therefore no money coming in. One option is to layoff your team members so they can collect unemployment until you’re able to start seeing patients again.

2. Communicate with your employees. Remember this is a difficult time for your employees as well, especially if you do have to lay them off.  Let employees know you understand this crisis will cause economic hardship for them and that you will do everything you can to ease the burden. Pay out any sick leave, vacation or personal days they have accumulated while they’re not working and remind them how they’ll receive such payments as outlined in your employee policy manual. Make sure they know they may be eligible for state unemployment benefits and that they will need to file to receive those benefits. Provide them with a link so they know exactly how to do that. 

3. Communicate with your patients. Let your patients know about the precautions you and your team members are taking during the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, you have a robust database of patient emails, because you’re going to need it. Craft a letter explaining how you’re handling the situation. If you’re closing, let patients know why you made that decision and when you plan to reopen. Emphasize that patient safety is a top priority. Then, send updates as necessary.

If you’re staying open to treat patients with urgent needs, I suggest you schedule so only one patient is in the reception area at a time. You can ask patients to stay in the car and then call or text to let them know when to come inside. This will make patients more comfortable and will help prevent contact that could potentially spread COVID-19. This approach also will help keep your staff from feeling overwhelmed. If you’re open, you should only have a skeleton crew of one assistant and one front office employee in the office.

4. Identify weaknesses in your systems. If your production was leveling off before this disaster, you must identify the weaknesses in your operation systems and develop a plan to correct them—now.  You want your systems to be working at a high level when it’s time to go back to the office and start seeing patients again.

It’s also critical to put an action plan in place for patient retention. Patients are always looking for reasons to put off getting needed dental care, and this is a doozy. If production had leveled off before the office closure, there’s a larger risk that patients won’t come back even after this disaster is behind us. Having a patient retention plan in place will help get more patients back in the chair once our lives go back to normal.

5. Remember, you’re not alone in this. Everyone is experiencing the same concerns about their physical and financial health. Use the time away from your office to make positive changes that will improve practice operations—and don’t be afraid to seek out help while you do it. I can work with you virtually to develop a solid plan of action that will put you in the best position for success moving forward.

I also suggest you spend some time on education while you’re not treating patients. I have more than 50 free webinars you can watch at practicemanagementlearning.com, all filled with practice-boosting tips you can implement once you’re open again.

Try to stay positive while we all deal with this unprecedented crisis. Communicate openly with patients and employees and do what you can from home to make improvements that will benefit your practice in the future. Please reach out if you need more guidance. Like always, I am here to help.

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Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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