The Marketing Expert – business ownership: build it and they’ll come

This month the Marketing Expert, Shaz Memon, shares advice on business ownership, including what to expect and how to feel confident.

This article is for you if you…

  • Want to buy a practice one day
  • Are in the process of buying a practice
  • Have just bought a practice.

This article is most certainly for you if you have the following thoughts:

  • Where will I get my patients from?
  • Will I be able to find the right patients?
  • I don’t know if I am doing the right thing
  • I’ll have no money left
  • I am scared, I don’t know what to expect
  • What should I be focusing my spend on?
  • What if it doesn’t work out?
  • How long will it take to start recovering my investment?
  • Do I need to be a social media pro to be successful?
  • I will have no life!

Let’s start simply

Business ownership isn’t meant to be easy. But you already know that. You also know that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

My wife asked me: ‘Why does having a baby have to take nine months! Why not three?’. I said to her: ‘If it was three, the population would be triple what it is now…God had a plan.’

Obviously, I had no idea what I was talking about. But it did end the conversation quickly enough to let me get back to this article.

I have a business that I started when I was 18 years old. When I moved into my current premises in Marylebone, Central London – a shop premises – I had to empty out my entire bank account of savings. This left me just £5,000 to operate my whole business. The money went on a refurb, deposit and all the essentials. I didn’t have any money left over for a sign so that had to wait.

Although this wasn’t a dental practice, I have since worked with tonnes of start-up dental practices. Therefore, I know what’s involved and I have lots of positive stories that will give you faith. Every single one of these dentists had a strong level of willpower, but also a decent amount of self-doubt. This is perfectly natural when taking such a big step.

‘A long game with a simple ending’

In my years of working with start-up dental practices, my favourite part has to be reminiscing about the first calls I had with clients who were setting out on their journey. We always laugh about the name they were going to go for (until I dissuaded them) or how they were worried about investing in marketing. Now we can laugh at these things because the practice is now successful, established and making money.

We all get into business for different reasons: to make more money, to achieve a childhood dream, to prove the doubters wrong. But for most, it’s to achieve the life balance they wanted.

Businesses can give you the life balance you want, such as flexibility, holidays and financial freedom. But rarely will you get these things straight away! It’s a long game with a simple ending…I cannot think of one dental practice client that has failed. Not one.

If you don’t know already I am the founder Digimax – the world’s highest rated dental marketing agency. We are a leading dental marketing agency that has worked with practices in almost every corner of the UK. Being sole-director I have personally spoken to thousands of dentists on their journey and the doubts have always been the same.

Why am I writing this article? Well, because I wish someone had given me this information when I was starting out. I wish someone could look into the future for me and say: ‘Shaz, trust me on this. Go all in, it will be alright’.

Let’s look at those worries one by one:

1. Where will I get my patients from?

If you have premises with a sign, people will walk in and enquire. There is something that excites humans about anything new opening in the locality. You are destined to get walk ins if the premises are inviting.

Not all practices benefit from shop frontage. Rest assured there is a solution for all.

A few things to tick off:

  1. A memorable name
  2. A high-converting dental website
  3. Customer service training skills for your team
  4. Search engine optimisation to rank high on Google
  5. Google maps/business listing.

Established businesses run on reputation and raving fans. I am a huge believer in designing your service to be the best possible in its class. Customer service is an epic fail in the UK, which makes it so easy for your practice to stand out.

2. Will I be able to find the right patients?

When I asked a dentist who their ideal patient was, he said: ‘Anyone with teeth’.

‘Is it really?’, I asked. He said yes. He was dead serious. Sure, anyone with teeth is needed for a dental practice. But do we really grow our businesses by focusing on everyone?

The more clarity you have around your ideal patients, the better it will be for your marketing and the route you take in designing your practice and website.

3. I don’t know if I am doing the right thing

Business ownership isn’t complicated, it’s just time consuming and will take up a lot of your life in the beginning. Anything you are not good at, seek professional help. If you haven’t got any managerial experience, get trained.

Dealing with people will be your biggest challenge unless you get very lucky. My biggest wins in the early days were when team members left to work for bigger companies. Only after they’d left and I’d recovered from the initial shock and breakdown did I realise I was holding myself back with my beliefs around recruiting. Your team will be your biggest asset.

If you genuinely can’t handle stress, have no patience, and are not willing to make sacrifices then you really may be better off in a steady job. All of which will still give you stress and require you to make sacrifices. But they will be more predictable which you may prefer.

I meet some people and I tell them, ‘Please don’t open your own practice. It’s not for you – you will not be happy’. To others I say, ‘Please don’t hold yourself back – get started right away’. The people I say this to are usually grafters with a big vision.

4. I will have no money left!

True, I was in the same position. My brother replied to my concern with, ‘So?’ and I responded with: ‘Well I could lose all of my savings.’

He said: ‘So?’ I gave a blank stare back at him…he continued to say: ‘If all we are talking about here is money, then money will come and go. Money can always be earned again.’

Since then, I came to hear that many multi-millionaires have once upon a time been bankrupt. They know how to get up time and time again and build several million-pound generating businesses. It’s something that can be learned.

I hope I didn’t scare you by using the word ‘bankrupt’. As I said earlier, I’ve never seen it happen to any dental practice I have worked with.

5. I am scared, I don’t know what to expect

This is what to expect:

  1. You will not have tonnes of patients from day one
  2. You will have disappointments
  3. Things will cost you money that you didn’t expect
  4. You will need to keep improving yourself
  5. You will be tired.

The above are guaranteed, unless you are rare or in a unique situation. There you go, that’s all the sort of scary stuff to expect. The fun stuff should be left as a surprise. These will include patients that love you and will tell the whole town about you, the patient that will breakdown in your chair with happy tears after you’ve restored their confidence or eased their pain, and of course the first of your successful high-ticket cases that becomes a success.

Eventually you’ll have a busy diary with the kind of patients that you want!

6. What should I be focusing my spend on?

Start with the basics.

  1. A practice interior that reflects the type of patient you wish to attract. Don’t think that high quality patients want to walk into a practice dripping in gold trimmings. Think about brands such as John Lewis and Marks and Spencer. They appeal to a diverse mid to upper range market
  2. A memorable brand identity design
  3. An incredible high-converting dental website. I know you’re thinking: ‘Of course he is going to say that’, but its obvious! Ninety per cent of the non-Digimax websites I see tend to be failing with the basics of patient retention. I found that if you can get a patient to stay on your website longer than five seconds, they end up staying a few minutes and making an enquiry. Our closely guarded ‘success formula’ is a culmination of years of experience, research and tests. It is still being honed to deliver the highest converting award winning dental websites in dentistry
  4. Customer service training and patient experience training
  5. Search engine optimisation.

The list can go on, but I really feel this should be the core to your marketing spend set-up.

7. What if it doesn’t work out?

It will work out.

8. How long will it take to start recovering my investment?

One to three years is what I have heard, but it really is impossible to answer this question generically.

Andy Acton, founder of Frank Taylor & Associates says: ‘Your return on investment will come down to the planning before you open. If you invest in a pre-opening marketing plan you should start with a book of patients wanting treatment. This will kick start your cash flow and put you on the path to recovering your investment in just a few years.’

9. Do I need to be a social media pro to be successful?

Read my book Instagram for Dentists – you can do it yourself.

If you fail, speak to Hazel – she can guide you.

10. I will have no life!

Yes, that can happen but don’t let it. You need to carve out time for yourself. Do not take this lightly. Men in particular can be really bad at this. Schedule in time for yourself so you can think freely about your business. If you are constantly working in your business, and not on your business, then years will fly by with no progress. I wasted 10 years of my own life doing this. What a mistake!

I asked a good friend of mine, Mide Ojo to summarise his experience of the journey starting a practice: ‘Taking the jump from associate to principal is huge! It really isn’t for everyone. You can never be certain that it’s the right thing for you but there are a few key features that tell you are ready! Experience, your story, passion and fear!

  • Experienced dentists – don’t start a business when you can’t do the day job. Make your mistakes and learn from them before you put your name above the door!
  • Share your story – you need great people skills. People buy from people. The problem is everyone is different, so you need to adapt yourself in all scenarios. Sharing your story is extremely powerful and will help you grow clients and team around you
  • Be passionate – people can sense your desire to succeed. This true passion and hunger will give you the drive to make it and to go the extra mile. It’s all about the personal touch. Not all big businesses can do this
  • Fear – it’s scary to leave a predictable lifestyle and, yes, the challenges are initially constant. The fear of failure can actually drive you forwards. Fear is good because it makes you ask questions. The next job is simply to find answers to the questions, then move forward.

What are the rewards?

‘The rewards? For me, it’s the promise of being in control of your own destiny!

‘It’s not an easier lifestyle but it is one that I am in charge of and where I reap what I have sown.

‘Five years on, I wouldn’t change one thing! I love the buzz and the adrenaline and being able to see the growth in my career. The highs most definitely outweigh the lows.’

Thanks Mide!

Everything you need is within you, go get it! You got this! 

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