A squat practice is a single-surgery dental practice started from scratch and operated by the dentist who owns it.
Most dentists don’t own their own practice but work as self-employed or employed associates within a practice. Associate dentists are either employed by the practice owner or work as independent contractors and pay a fee to use the practice facilities.
With a squat practice you are very much your own boss.
The main reasons dentists set up their own squat practices are:
As with starting any new business, a lot of preparation and planning is needed before deciding to open a squat practice. The main risk is the financial burden of setting up on your own.
As with lots of new businesses, it can take two to three years before you start to make a decent profit. There are numerous outgoings to consider (we’ll come on to that) and the financial responsibility will all fall on you.
However, with careful planning and funding you could be expanding your dental empire before you know it!
Aside from financing, another element to consider is how you feel about working on your own. Whilst some people love the independence, it can feel rather lonely at times.
The first step towards starting your own practice is to set clear business goals. This will form the basis of your business plan. When setting goals, ensure they are realistic and measurable – set out what you intend to achieve and by when. This could be attracting a certain number of new patients by the end of month 3, month 6 etc. Also be clear about the services your practice will offer and who your client base will be.
The location of your clinic is crucial for your business’s success. Recent changes to planning laws mean it is now easier than ever to convert an existing property into a dental clinic. This is because most high street businesses (including retail, hospitality, medical and dental clinics) now come under the same planning category. Since 2020, you can open a dental clinic in a former restaurant or retail outlet without having to apply for change of use. This change has hugely increased the number of location options for dentists, particularly in town centres.
You will need to budget for all elements of your set-up, including:
Before seeking funding, ensure you have a comprehensive cashflow forecast for the first year as well as a detailed business plan. A good starting point is to estimate the number of patients you will bring in; the average treatment value; active practice fee earning hours; earnings from other revenue streams (e.g. product sales); and monthly payment plan earnings if you are setting one up. A bank will want to see as much detail as possible.
Make sure you have an accountant who is familiar with how dental practices work. Your accountant will be able to advise whether any of your capital equipment or building costs are eligible for tax relief and help you find the most cost-effective approach.
When it comes to borrowing money, It’s usually best practice to secure financing for your dental equipment and a loan for the building costs. Leasing is one of the most popular options when it comes to sourcing dental equipment and cabinetry, and as a result it is relatively easy to set up financing for these.
Of course, we’re slightly biased here – but you need to ensure you choose a reputable, experienced fit out company. The last thing you need is to have invested your heart and soul in a project (not to mention money) and end up with a botched job.
Our team has decades of experience in designing and fitting out dental and medical clinics. We can manage all aspects of your clinic build, from initial site surveys and estimating to building control approvals, design, construction and even the CQC approval process.
We have experience of building clinics in all sorts of premises – from empty-shell fit outs in brand new units to creating clinics in repurposed listed buildings. Whatever you have in mind, our team will be able to offer an expert opinion and solutions to any challenges that may arise.
As mentioned, the most popular option for dentists is to organise financing for equipment rather than buy it outright. Some dental equipment suppliers offer their own finance deals or you can arrange for separate financing. If budget is tight, keep an eye out for clearance sales or second hand equipment.
Although it’s tempting to initially cover as many roles as possible yourself to reduce costs, the one person you really should employ is a practice manager. Many principal dentists spread themselves too thinly when setting up a squat practice and don’t allow enough time to focus on attracting new patients and improving their practice. A practice manager will deal with the day-to-day running of your business, leaving you to focus on wider priorities.
Rather than being an afterthought, marketing should be central to every stage of your process. The dental market is extremely competitive and ensuring you have a great brand with good visibility, both physically and digitally, is vital to building your business.
Considering your USP in the early days is crucial – what makes you stand out from the crowd? Do you cater for a particular niche or perhaps you offer specialist services? Draw up a set of clear brand guidelines to ensure you are portraying a consistent brand image whatever channels you are communicating through – from your social media branding to your physical signage. It should all be in-keeping and be instantly recognisable.
Having a strong digital presence is key – this includes your website, social media and emails. The marketing of your business does take up a fair amount of time, which is why many dentists outsource it to an external individual or agency. Posting on social media and your website regularly is important in helping build your SEO and improve your google rankings. Paid search or PPC is another tool to help improve your visibility online, which can also be outsourced to an expert. Most marketers will recommend using an approach which adopts a combination of the two.