I was recently interviewed for Authority Magazine about strategies to grow your private practice. Find the story below.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your ‘backstory”?
Dentistry is my third career. I wasn't a science major in college and before venturing into the health sciences, I held positions as a newspaper columnist and a contract coordinator for MTV Productions. Also, unlike many of my colleagues whose parents, siblings or spouses are also dentists, I am the first family member to go into dental medicine. It was the support of my family, however, that helped me to successfully transition into healthcare. My first step was obtaining a position as a medical research assistant, which gave me the opportunity to work alongside hospital dentists and oral surgeons, and introduced me to the wonders of providing care.
What made you want to start your own practice?
I have been so fortunate to have practiced dentistry in a variety of settings including private practice, public health at a maternal care center, and stationed abroad on a US military base in Germany. Those experiences helped me to develop and strengthen my clinical skills. However ultimately my desire to provide a broader range of treatments inspired me to open a solo practice.
Managing being a provider and a business owner can often be exhausting. Can you elaborate on how you manage(d) both roles?
Business ownership is one of the cornerstones of the dental profession with solo practitioners traditionally being most popular. However, more dentists are now working in managed groups or dental support organizations due to the taxing challenges of running a business in a digital era with the high patient demands for availability, modern finishes, and swift transactions. Teaming up with my husband, Aleksandar, as a business partner has really been a great asset in my practice model. His affinity for management allows me to focus on clinical care while keeping our shared vision intact.
As a business owner, how do you know when to stop working IN your business (maybe see a full patient load) and shift to working ON your business?
Dental production is certainly the financial engine of the business but as I've learned through developing my dental persona via social media, branding and marketing are crucial gears in entrepreneurship. Dentistry is a physically demanding job and providing high volumes of patient care can indeed become challenging. Designing content for social media as a tool for patient education can dual as a lucrative marketing strategy, which allows me to step back from my role as a clinician while incorporating my creativity into the practice.
From completing your degree to opening a clinic and becoming a business owner, the path was obviously full of many hurdles. How did you build up resilience to rebound from failures? Is there a specific hurdle that sticks out to you?
Swimming competitively for 10 years helped prepare me for many of life's challenges academic, social, and professional. In high school, I had to learn how to manage my time in order to complete academic assignments while meeting training requirements. Endurance in athletics definitely transferred into energy to help get through the long nights of studying in dental school and is also essential for long days at the practice. Persistence is also a virtue that competing taught me. As the first of my family to attend dental school, I did not know what to expect and admittedly, I had to adjust my study habits to satisfy multiple choice sequences, which was in great contrast to the long writing assignments that assessed my undergraduate studies of policy and international affairs. I used to record lectures on my own, which gave me an added opportunity to review material as I typed up my notes at home and also allowed me really absorb the instructors live remarks while in class.
What are your "5 Things You Need to Know to Grow Your Private Practice" and why.
1. Start building your brand as a dentist even before you open your office. Your dental persona travels with you regardless of where you practice and if it's already established, patients will follow you both inside and outside of the operatory.
2. Don't be afraid to be innovative and authentic. There is more diversity in dentistry than ever. More women are practicing and the traditional image of the dentist has evolved. The oral care market is also catering ever more to the consumer patient. I have implemented a Smile Box checklist with my patients that really gives me the chance to talk about home care and offer product suggestions that can help them maintain their best smile.
3. Join dental study clubs and find ways to interact with other providers regularly. Dentistry is traditionally very isolating and it's not only beneficial for your social well-being but also provides a setting for the sharing of ideas that you can take back to your practice.
4. Take mini vacations. In the first few years of practice ownership, you may find it impossible to really take a proper break. Even one sick day translates to no production and quite possibly missed income for your team. My husband, son, and I recently took a long holiday weekend trip to Cancun that really helped us refuel our engines.
5. Shop around before you buy materials and equipment. The high cost of overhead often makes running an office a very expensive undertaking. However, there is a wide array of dental vendors and manufacturers. So, it pays to really take the time to read the scientific studies and product reviews, and shop around for good deals.
Many healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization”. How did you
overcome that mental block?
One of the best things about being a dental provider is the fact that every person you meet is a potential patient whether for a routine maintenance cleaning, pain and emergency, or comprehensive care. A patient who has arrived in my chair is seeking care and it is my duty and responsibility to offer the best treatment options for a healthy outcome. I educate and inform but ultimately the patient must make a decision that suits his or her lifestyle goals.
What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?
I commit to gym workouts in the mornings before work that include cardio and strength building exercises. This is my time to invest in myself, my family, and my patients. It also gives me a chance to reflect. Even if I have a challenging patient visit or a long day up ahead, my daily workout is a great jump start.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career - None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
My biggest mentor was definitely my father, who passed away last year after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. He always believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my passions and reach my goals. He was always a rock from my first job interview at MTV Networks as a graduating college senior, when I chose to leave the music industry and transition into healthcare, and most significantly when I decided to launch my Dr. Brigitte White brand with the publication of my Children's Books. Even in times of frustration and despair, he always had words of wisdom to keep shooting for the stars and keep my nose to the grindstone. This not only helped me through my studies but guided me to implement my creative side into my professional role.
What resources did you use (Blogs, webinars, conferences, coaching, etc.) that helped jumpstart you in the beginning of your business?
The Journal of the American Dental Association, Dentaltown.com, and Dental Economics Magazine have been great resources for me as a practice owner. There are also countless Facebook groups and local study clubs that continue to help guide me as practitioner.
What’s the worst piece of advice or recommendation you’ve ever received? Can you share a story about that?
Once I made the decision to apply to dental school, I faced the hurdle of accepting responsibility for the high cost of dental education. The numbers were indeed daunting and a few people, including an older sibling of a dear friend who was actually in medical school at the time, tried to discourage me from embarking on the journey. He argued that with the growing changes and stresses of the healthcare industry, practicing in this millennium wouldn’t likely yield a good return on the financial investment, explicitly the overwhelming student loan debt. Now, as a seasoned provider, I can testify that the rewards of dentistry are far greater than the financial aspects and there is no numerical value that matches the ability to help patients everyday improve their quality of life.
Please recommend one book that’s made the biggest impact on you.
Michelle Obama's latest memoir “Becoming” has greatly inspired me as a woman, mother, and professional. Mrs. Obama’s ability to def expectations, challenge norms and maintain grace and style, even in the face of adversity, is remarkably compelling.
Where can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow my blog drbrigittewhite.com for inspirational and educational smile tips on all parts of life from health and beauty to overall wellness. Connect with me @drbrigittewhite on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.