When you're ready to open a new dental practice, one of the most important aspects of your new business is the location where you'll practice. You want a location that is easy for your new patients to find--ideally one that will do some of your advertising for you. Make sure that your location is the ideal choice for your practice by ensuring that it has these key attributes.
The Wider Geographical Location
When you're ready to open your dental practice, there are several things that you want to take into consideration before settling on your wider geographic location. Make sure you're asking the right questions in order to settle on a geographic area that's right for your new practice.
- Have you signed a non-compete contract with the practice you worked at while gaining experience? Many states have made non-competes illegal but it’s important to check your state laws before deciding on a location. If it is legal to have a non-compete in your area you need to make sure that your new practice is outside the geographic area covered by the non-compete.
- Is there an area where there is a future community being planned? Reviewing a city’s master plan can give you good information and insight into the future growth plans of the area.
- Do you know of an area that is underserved by dentists? This can help make it easier to narrow down the geographic area where you want to have your practice, since underserved areas will provide you with more opportunities to reach patients.
The Concentration of Dentists
As a new dentist, the allure of upscale areas is strong. You may have an image of practicing in an area where it's rarely a struggle to get a bill paid and where all of your patients have dental insurance. The problem is, most of your competitors have the same image! In many cases, you'll find that affluent areas of the city are clogged with dentists, while low-income areas--or even areas with an average income--are underserved. Take the time to think through where you want to place your practice based on the number of people who will need your services. It may be far easier to establish yourself in an area where there are few dentists, in comparison to the local population, than it is to establish yourself in an area that is over-saturated. Of course, if you have a specific concentration--orthodontics, for example--that lends itself to establishing a practice in an area where people have the money for those services, this may change that concern.
Shopping Center Versus Dental/Medical Building
Do you want your new practice to be located in a shopping center or a thriving dental/medical building? Each one has distinct advantages depending on the needs of your practice and your specialty. Consider these facts:
- A shopping center will gain more attention and offer more advertising as dental offices benefit from being highly visible. If you're in a dental/medical building, you may find that people overlook your specific practice because it is tucked away with other similar medical and dental practices.
- A dental/medical building community may provide you with opportunities for immediate recommendations from other doctors within the same community, especially if you have a specialty that lends itself to referrals.
- Dental/medical building might provide you with higher visibility to a specific patient demographic. For example, if you're hoping to serve an elderly community, you may find that it's easier to reach them if you're in a medical/dental community that focuses on that demographic.
- Choosing a retail area--nestled into a shopping center, for example--is also a great way to ensure that you're able to find patients while still maintaining control over your practice. Carefully consider where you'd like your practice to be located before making a decision.
Choosing the Ideal Property
Once you've narrowed down your general geographic area, you'll need to choose the ideal property for your new practice. You don't want to end up trapped in a building that isn't convenient for you or your patients, so make sure that it has the right attributes. When you look at a potential property, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the property easy to see from the street? Will your signs be clearly visible? This will help both new patients who are trying to find your practice and patients who are looking for a dentist along their regular route.
- How difficult is it to get into the parking lot? This should include both people who will turn right into the parking lot and those who will turn left, across traffic. You want a parking lot that is easily accessible for your patients to make their experience with you as convenient as possible.
- What does the parking lot look like in inclement weather? Ideally, you want to take a look at the building on a rainy day before you buy. Does the parking lot flood, making it necessary to slog through water in order to reach the office? Will snow and ice quickly turn it into a skating rink? While you can't choose a perfect property, you can reduce the problems your patients will experience when coming through the parking lot.
- How easy is the building to find? Tucking your practice onto an out-of-the-way street may make your purchase price lower, but it may also make it more difficult for patients to locate.
- What size building do you need? How do you decide whether a building is too big or too small for your new practice? Make sure to carefully consider a practice that will offer you room to grow without leaving you with too much extra space to maintain in these early years.
There are a lot of factors that go into opening a new dental practice--and your ideal dental location is key to ensuring that you and your patients will have a great experience at this practice. By carefully considering all the necessary attributes of your new location, you'll find that you're in a better position to start bringing in patients and getting your practice off the ground.