The CEO Dentist: Where Do We Start?

4 ways branding drives growth, profitability, and purpose

Every day we bring our best to our practices. We focus on an area the size of a tennis ball and set restorative margins within microns. Clinical care takes energy, and sometimes we don’t feel like we have much left at the end of the day.

But our clinical gown isn’t the only uniform we wear. There’s more to do as managers and entrepreneurs, and we can’t afford to ignore it. Otherwise, there’s a trap; if we sidestep those vital roles, we’ll end up providing less clinical care or less of the care we want to give.

That’s a path to burnout, frustration, and delayed retirement.

We’ve heard it before, but it’s essential to success in dentistry: Spend time working on the practice, not just in the practice. But with so many moving pieces, we don’t always know where to turn or what to do. And we may keep ten balls in the air for a while until another fire requires our attention.

Where do we turn when we need to leverage our time and energy? Activities that clarify, communicate, and strengthen our brand may be the most effective place to start. Brand is our story, and it gives us the direction we need.

Isn’t branding about advertising?

Our brand is a story that is told in a million ways. It’s more than colors, logos, and mottos, and our community hears and sees it online and offline. Consider these four ways branding makes our CEO role a little easier to execute.

Branding makes our practice live.

We’d like to think that consumers spend a lot of time checking our website, but they’re far more likely to head to Amazon. Still, at some point, people need us. And they generally look online to find a dentist. What do they see when they come to our site? Is there a story embedded in the images, words, and colors that you want to tell? Does it reflect your values and reputation?

ACTION: Check with three people of different ages and ask them to look over your website and social media pages. Permit them to provide an honest assessment of what they see and think when reviewing your digital presence. Does their feedback align with your vision for your practice?

Branding sets the sail.

Our practices provide a job for our employees, but it’s bigger than that. A strong brand can give our team a sense of pride, a mission they’re pleased to support. When everyone knows what you want and where you’re headed, it’s a rallying point. Our employees are our first customers, and they’ll advocate for the practice and build the brand. CEOs set the tone with clearly defined storylines. As dental CEOs, our team looks for us to raise the flag.

ACTION: Set time aside to consider what you want your practice to look and feel like. We often get busy and skip this vital exercise. Then, sit with your team monthly to share your vision and brainstorm ways to promote your brand story within the practice. Find out what’s important to each employee, and ask them what they need to help fulfill the mission.

Branding helps us stand out.

Most of us practice in regions with many other practices nearby, and one practice may look a lot like another to prospective patients. Millennials continue to dominate more of the marketplace and will eventually replace Baby Boomers as the largest demographic. This generation also spends 211 minutes a day on their phones, which is why we need a differentiating message and strong online presence.

ACTION: Try one of the most common searches consumers do when they’re looking for a new dentist: “Find a dentist near me.” Where does your practice show up in the results? And do you find support from online reviews amongst the competition? Also, check your impression when you click through to your website. Is it the story you want to be told?

Branding drives higher profits.

Our primary mission is to serve patients and add value to their lives. I’ve always been a firm believer that rewards come when we provide excellent service. But unless we work for a corporate entity, we can’t ignore overhead and budgets. Unprofitable businesses don’t last, and healthcare suffers when we’re stressed about cash flow. We’d benefit from an MBA alongside our doctorate degrees, but most of us don’t enjoy that luxury. A strong brand offers a vital way to help us stay viable in the marketplace. If we ignore our brand, we get lost in the noise, and patients end up in someone else’s chair.

ACTION: Run a monthly KPI report and analyze your seven primary overhead categories. If you’re hitting profitability targets, funding retirement, and investing comfortably in new technology, you’re on track. If not, there may be a dozen reasons why. In a rush to fix financial problems, we often overlook the driving force behind our practice: Our brand. Start there, and make the story is clearly written and told.

Think like a CEO and grow in 2021.

After the challenges of 2020, it may be enough just to survive. But we can do better than that; we can refine and grow. Dentistry isn’t getting more manageable, but we don’t want to add roadblocks to our own success. Our brand is our secret sauce, and it encompasses every aspect of our practice.