28. Practice, profits, and purpose: The 3 Ps of practice ownership
With Stephen Trutter
When starting a healthcare practice, it's easy to get caught up in the details – the who, what, where, and when of opening your practice, so to speak..
But have you stopped to think about the "why"?
According to this week's guest, Stephen Trutter, too often the "why" of practice ownership is an afterthought – if it's considered at all.
Meet our guest
As CEO at Ideal Practices, a dental consulting firm that’s opened more than 3,000 practices, Stephen knows a thing or two about the topic.
Throughout his 17 years in dentistry, Stephen has personally guided more than 850 startup practices. He preaches what he calls "the three Ps of practice ownership: practice, profits and purpose."
In this episode
- Why it's critical to define a "why" for your practice and to commit to supporting a cause in the community
- How to leverage community involvement to strengthen the business end of your practice
- Who is a good candidate for starting their own healthcare practice
- How to find the right location for your startup
- Some of the common traits of the most successful startups he’s coached
Welcome to The Path to Owning It podcast by Provide, hosted by me, Corey Brown, a marketing leader at Provide with over a decade in the healthcare industry.
If you’ve found us, you're likely an aspiring or established healthcare practice owner looking for tools and advice to begin your journey or take your practice to new heights.
And you’re not alone. So to help you achieve your practice ownership dreams, twice monthly, we’ll tap into our unparalleled network of industry experts… who will join us on our quest to provide the answers to your most pressing questions.
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Today we are joined by Stephen Trutter, CEO at Ideal Practices. Throughout his 17 years in dentistry, Stephen has guided over 850 startup practices. He loves to understand what moves a dentist at his or her core to help build a custom strategy for the entire Ideal Practices team to implement. In addition to supporting aspiring dental practice owners, Stephen's other passion is the entire Ideal Practices team. He wants to provide the best leadership so each team member can level up and continue to deliver a truly elite and trusted experience for their clients and be proud of what they've accomplished. Stephen, thanks so much for joining us on the show today. We're very happy to have you.
Provide, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fifth Third Bank, National Association. All opinions expressed by the participant are solely their current opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Provide, its affiliates, or Fifth Third Bank. The participant’s opinions are based on information they consider reliable, but neither Provide, its affiliates nor Fifth Third Bank warrant its completeness or accuracy and should not be relied upon as such. This content is for informational purposes and does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, tax, or investment advice, or other professional services by Provide or any of its affiliates. Please consult with appropriate professionals related to your individual circumstances. All lending is subject to review and approval.
Yeah, thank you so much. I mean, it's clear you're an absolute pro in the startup practices, so I kinda wanna start with that. Let's talk about firstly, who is a good candidate to start a startup practice, in your opinion?
Yeah. And you know, many aspiring owners try to start a practice with kind of a trial and error method, and I know that you have a certain philosophy when it comes to starting a practice. So can you tell us a little bit about your three P's of practice ownership?
Yeah, so let's focus on the practice first. I would assume that starts and begins with funding. What advice would you give an associate who is thinking of starting their own practice when it comes to securing financing?
That we don't have to explain what an operatory is and how much it costs. And, you guys always understand that as well, like Provide always does a great job. Well, to make sure that they put themselves in the right position, we like to put them on a silver platter. And so that's kind of a methodology we use is like, we're gonna put you on a silver platter to talk to lenders, to talk to banks. Understanding their own personal financial statement, making sure that they have liquidity, making sure that they understand where are they at with their student loans, and where those elements are. And understanding that they need to borrow funds from a lender. You may be sitting here listening going, I've got $400,000 in debt, and student loans, can I get a loan? The answer is yes, depends on how they're structured. And understand that you're going to borrow six, $700,000 or more to open a startup practice. Could you do it for less? Sure, but I always say, don't be the cheap dentist. Don't try to borrow the least because then you'll end up being that cheap doctor on the street that you try to kind of shoehorn everything into a tight budget, which actually could constrict your growth as opposed to propel growth.
Yeah, no, that's great advice. And you know, after a dentist kind of goes through this process with you, you get them on that silver platter. Let's say they get pre-qualified for financing. How do you advise on kind of going about and finding the right space for their new practice?
So would you advise then kind of like working backwards, as opposed to chasing ratios, like, find how far you wanna go to work, where you wanna be in your type of patients, and then kind of make that fit on the back end?
Yeah. And let's say that we've kind of found the space based on the demographics and where we wanna be. We have our ideal patients, right? How do we know how much space we're actually looking for?
It's a huge different marketplace. And so that's how we customize everything. Mike, who's one of our directors of consulting and Kyle, one of our senior advisors, guides our clients in that real estate process. And so it's not just about chasing real estate or a street corner. It's really a process of looking at the economics. How does this space fit into attracting your patients from that area that we've identified because sometimes the real estate might not be in the middle of where you've identified your demographics.
Think about how people commute. We may need to be a town over or three exits north in order to attract that patient base that's traveling a certain way within the area. So the other part of it is X doesn't mark the spot. Just because demographics says this is great doesn’t mean, oh, I’ll place my practice in the middle of that. Not necessarily. In real estate the biggest definer is time for a process.
Yeah. And since you've seen so many starter practices, tell me, I'm curious, what are some other common pitfalls that you see first time owners kind of fall into regarding their real estate?
When you come in by yourself, they're like, oh cool, here's your deal. Here's what that looks like when your properly represented and then it's like, oh, wait a minute, we have a different set of circumstances for you. So don't chase real estate, number one. Number two, don't go in it by yourself. You're not gonna get a better deal. You're going to get a worse deal. This real estate is the biggest decision that you'll make in your career and you have to get it right because this could affect how you even sell or transition your practice later. A bad lease can actually prevent you from selling a practice or be the impedance for you to sell your practice in the future. So don't call the sign, please everybody.
As a former real estate agent, I can attest to that.
Yeah, we say it time and time again, the importance of having the right people on your team, right? Thanks for reiterating that. You know, Stephen, we've talked a lot about the first part of your three P's of practice ownership philosophy, and in just a few, we'll dive into profits and purpose and what that can mean for your business. More with Stephen right after this.
'm Corey Brown and this is Provide’s the Path to Owning It podcast. We're back with Steven Trutter, CEO at Ideal Practices to learn more about his three P's of practice ownership. Steven, after years of being an associate, many dentists, they know clinical dentistry, but they don't have usually too much of a taste for what it takes to actually run the business. How do partners like Ideal Practices help up an associate's game when it comes to business acumen? I would assume this is where your second P, profits, comes into play.
None of us on my team are gonna make them better clinicians, despite the fact that I have a biology degree, true story. I know nothing about clinical dentistry. I don't even know in that immersive teeth and I've been doing this for, I'm not here to help with your margins. I'm here to help you become entrepreneurs. You're running a business, a dental practice is that. And the big part of this is marketing. How are you gonna get patients through the door? Now, everyone's going to ask questions like, what's the best thing for marketing? The answer is yes.
Yeah, you know, I've worked with dentists for many years prior to this a lot, usually have that kind of “build it and they will come” mentality. I have a feeling that you have a lot to say about that.
No, not necessarily. And think about like every market is gonna be competitive and understand that marketing is a science. What's everybody else doing? You have to understand what is everybody else marketing towards. If you wanna say, hey, I wanna market implants, as a startup, you're gonna go into a marketplace. For example, if you say, I wanna do implants, you're not gonna outspend people in that marketplace as a startup. You have to find marketing channels. Ground marketing is key. That's what fuels growth because things like SEO and buzzwords like that, those things don't happen from day one. Those take time. So a marketing agent or marketing agency is a part of a marketing strategy. They're not the strategy. And I work with some great marketing agencies. These things take time. Google Ads, SEO, are long range strategies. What are you doing to get boots on the ground from day one to make connections in the community to drive patients to your door?
Working with so many startups, what do you find the most successful startups out of those 850 we mentioned do to become profitable quickly?
Such great advice, thank you. Let's dive into the final P, purpose. Can you elaborate on what this philosophy means to you?
And this could be everything from human trafficking. It could be rescue animals. One of our dentists, Dr. Andrew, he's my own dentist, he and his wife, they focus on rescue animals rescue dogs because that's what they had. One of our clients, she has a mountain bike trail named after her practice. She partnered with a mountain bike trail organization that helped develop and maintain mountain bike trails in her area in Colorado. Think about this, this non-for-profit organization ended up inviting its entire membership of over 1,000 members to her grand opening. Think about like what that does to connect in the community. This is not a gimmick. This is not just like an Instagram post. This is not just something you splash on a website. Because dentists are caregivers. It's dental care. And so that purpose is the connector. It shows you who you are as values, not just because of your discounts. And it also, it's a rallying for a team to build great team synergy. Think about like maybe something that you're passionate about. And it doesn't have to be rooted in dentistry, but the purpose, man, that's like the, that's an icing on the cake. That's that third step. It's like practice profits purpose. Like, what are you doing this for? What is, what is your why? What is, what's the end game? You know, what, how do you want to be remembered? How do you want to maybe impact your community on a broader scale? And I tell you what will happen is you'll find the right people to work for you. Because they're attracted to you because your values and you'll have patients that also look at that and say, wow, that is something that is purposeful and that they're a part of what you're doing to maybe enhance something in the community.
Yeah, that's great advice. What if somebody is ready to start their own practice, but they don't really have a strong vision or purpose in mind now? Is this something that they can kind of grow into, or is this something you'd recommend that they have from day one?
But I think if they have the idea of like, I'm aiming towards a vision, it's great. But does it have to be pre-planned? No, that's what our job is, to help extract that from what they want with what we know will work for a startup.
Yeah, and how important is it to have that kind of like boots on the ground mentality and getting really well known and liked in your community, you know, versus your local competition?
Now, Steven, we've talked a lot today about many different facets of starting your own practice and I'm sure we could go on for another hour, but if you had to pick just one thing, one thing you've mentioned today or maybe you haven't mentioned today that you really want our listeners to take with them, what would that be?
Yeah, and you know speaking of purpose, Ideal Practices has their own purpose as well. Can you tell us about your global entrepreneurialism initiative?
Yeah, that's fantastic. I mean, the impact that you have is just unreal. So thank you for doing that. You know,
for those that are listening, who'd like to learn more about working with you and your team at Ideal Practices, how can they contact you?
I'll make sure that we get books out to everybody. This is the Startup Dentist book. You can find this at www.startupdentistbook.com. It's a best seller and it goes through our 13 stages. It talks about the three P's and really unwraps every single stage of a startup. Great starting point for those who are wanting to take the leap, not quite sure where to begin. Before you call a sign, before you look at anything, before you even apply for financing, get a copy of the book and it will give you some really great stepping stones of moving forward.
Awesome. Stephen, thanks for that offer. And just thank you for sharing your startup philosophy and all your expertise. You've really given our listeners just a lot to consider. And we appreciate your time.
And thank you for joining us! Because you’ve listened to this whole episode, we assume you were entertained – or at the very least learned something new. If so, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Have a topic you’d like discussed in a future episode? Drop us a line in the comments section or send us a message on social media. If you’re ready to take your practice ownership dreams into your own hands, be sure to visit get-provide-dot-com to pre-qualify and browse our practice marketplace, or check out our news page for more helpful resources.
The Path To Owning It is brought to you by the team at Provide.
And it’s produced by Podcamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses. Podcampmedia.com. Producer Dusty Weis. Editor Will Henry.
For Provide, I’m Corey Brown. Thanks for being on the journey with us.