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Are You Forgetting About The “Chicken Sandwiches” Of Your Dental Practice?

Articles, Practice Life

Few businesses are as fastpaced as a dental practice.  Naturally—at some point or another—every dentist finds themselves racing around more than they want to, hustling and bustling from chair to chair, trying to cram one patient after the next into their hectic day. And on those quieter days—some of us have more than others—we’re still busy managing all the other pieces of the puzzle between marketing, leading a team, managing HR, and more. 

Whether you chose to be an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, you likely knew the grind would be inevitable—it comes with being a dentist. However, what you probably didn’t account for is when the chaos starts adding up, and you’re stuck constantly plugging holes in your bucket or putting out fires in your business. Even if that’s all in order, there’s a silent killer that runs rampant amongst our people: losing a grip on our foundational pieces, not proactively scaling, and—perhaps worst of all—not capitalizing upon the nuances of our finances.  When coaching other dentists and entrepreneurs in this last area, I like to use the example of a Chick-fil-A sandwich. You’re probably thinking, “Glenn, what the heck? You had me at then realizing nuances of finances’—why are we talking about a chicken sandwich?” Well, hear me out.

 

How does a chicken sandwich relate to running a dental practice? 

From the time that Chick-fil-A opens and closes, a sandwich is made minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day (minus Sundays). This happens all across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with happy customers far and wide.  Most importantly, their chief product—the chicken sandwich—is always the same: two buns, a fried chicken breast, and two pickles (getting hungry yet?).

Step back for a minute—stop drooling over that sandwich— and think about Chick-fil-A’s supply chain. Their worst nightmare is telling an eager customer they’ve run out of chicken sandwiches. Depending on how many sandwiches Chick-fil-A wants to sell, they know precisely how many buns to order, how many chicken breasts to order, and how many pickles to order. If they sell a hundred sandwiches, they know they’re down 100 chicken breasts—and they know precisely how many they need to replenish their supply. Again, you’re probably wondering: how does this relate to dentistry? You’ll see soon enough.

 

Standardize clinical setups to predict monthly supply needs.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to pretend that your equivalent of a chicken sandwich is a composite filling—your bread-and-butter procedure (pun intended) is drilling/removing a cavity. So, what makes up the good ol’ drilling-and-filling treatment plan? Those buns, chicken breasts, and pickles are the same as anesthetic carpules, various adhesives to be used as bonding agents, matrix bands, micro brushes, and other basic materials.

So, let’s get technical: If you use two carpules of anesthetic per filling and you did 100 fillings, then you’d know you used at least 200 carpules. If you use six cotton rolls per filling, and you did 100 fillings, then you’d know you used at least 600 cotton rolls. The list goes on, but
the point remains.  Are you seeing where I’m going with this? By keeping track of the number of items you’ll be using per procedure, it’ll be easier for you to predict what you need to order in the
future when it comes to your setups. Just like Chick-fil-A has set numbers that come with their sandwich recipe, you can standardize your setups, so you know exactly how your supply chain is flowing.

 

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

It goes beyond realizing the nuances of finances in your supply chain. Having a standardized setup will also help you become aware of the cost of your procedure. This is important because it lets you know how much you need to charge and keep track of your overhead. Let’s say, for example, that it takes you an hour to finish a filling. When you look at your clinical setup, you’ll see that it costs you $18 an hour to pay your dental assistant.

You also see that it costs you $0.20 a piece for your 330 carbides, $0.47 for your polisher, $0.20 for your bond and etch, $0.20 for your composite, and $0.25 a piece for your disposables. When you put it all together, you find that it costs you $19.32 to perform a filling.

That’s helpful information when you’re calculating the costs of marketing, leading a team, managing HR, and so on.  Now that you understand what the cost of your procedure is, you’re in a better spot. Going back to Chick-fil-A, they know exactly how much their pickles, buns, and chicken breasts cost.  Because they know the costs, they know how to set the price.  Likewise, if we know our costs per procedure, then we know what we need to charge to make the profit we want to make. 

If we can’t step back and look behind the scenes, much of our hard work may be for naught.  Standardizing your clinical set-up won’t only help you to predict future needs—it’ll particular procedure costs to do.  Take it from me: this strategy is a “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”

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