28 May 2017  •  Practice Management  •  5min read By  • John Clarke

Top tips for investing in your practice

Fulfilling rising patient expectations and adhering to evolving legislation, such as the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), means that dental practices must continually invest in IT systems and specialist equipment to remain ahead of their competition.

Whether you are looking to refresh a single surgery or make extensive improvements to the whole practice building, refurbishing a dental practice can often require a sizable upfront investment. It’s therefore essential to choose your design layout, new clinical equipment and tradesman carefully to create a welcoming environment that instils confidence so that patients want to keep returning.

The following tips highlight how to ensure your dental surgery refurbishment progresses smoothly and why investing in your practice may not be as expensive as you think.

Get permission – if you don’t own the freehold of the property you must obtain approval for any refurbishments from your landlord before proceeding. Even if your proposed changes are relatively minor, for example updating the décor or altering the layout of some rooms, it’s always best to keep your landlord ‘in the know’ so they are fully on side. This may make them more likely to be receptive should you wish to make more drastic changes to the fabric of the building in the future.

If in doubt, it’s always worth approaching a solicitor who has a comprehensive understanding of the dental sector for trusted legal advice.

Know your customers – are you targeting private patients who might be willing to pay for cosmetic treatments which require the use of innovative technology such as 3D printing and computer-aided design solutions. Or does your dental practice offer more standard NHS procedures to a cross section of the community? Defining your strategic plans will help to determine your refurbishment goals and allow you to focus on the right types of improvement for your patients, which will in turn drive your business’s growth.

Plan ahead – diligent planning is critical to ensuring your practice refurbishment progresses on time and to budget. Do you intend to appoint reputable tradesmen and manage the work yourself or will you outsource the project to a specialist design and re-fit company? Whatever you decide, it’s important not to cut corners which may negatively impact the end result.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the costs involved and always include a contingency budget for any additional unexpected expenses which can quickly add up. Get two or three quotes to compare and contrast. Finally, make sure you involve your members of staff in any discussions so that everyone is working to the same objective and feels part of the practice’s long-term goals.

Leverage the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) – the AIA allows businesses to write off the costs of certain assets against profits in the year of purchase. This helps to bring quicker tax relief against capital expenditure and preserves vital working capital. From April 2016, the maximum amount of the AIA was set to £200,000 and most assets purchased for business use qualify, including IT investments, specialist dental equipment, furniture and cabinetry, flooring and lighting.

Choose the right finance partner – funding though an unsecured loan facility can assist dental practices to spread the cost of refurbishments, practice relocations, as well as specialist equipment and technology in a convenient and affordable way without impacting your cash flow. Once the funding has been obtained, you have the flexibility to pay builders and other tradesman over time as opposed to a one-off lump sum. Such an arrangement may suit everyone’s requirements and ensure your refurbishment project is a success.

Specialist finance providers are also able to negotiate best value by dealing with dental equipment vendors on a practice manager’s behalf, allowing them to concentrate fully on running their business to increase revenues and profitability.

A case in point – Southcot Dental builds for the future

Established in 1983, Southcot Dental situated in Aylesford, Kent provides the highest standards of dental care to over 4,000 patients. The practice’s co-owners, Braham Durov and Tim Wakerley, decided to make refurbishment improvements to the practice building and update the toilet facilities. They also wanted to create a downstairs administration office.

Having received quotes from local builders for the work to be carried out, Braham contacted Southcot Dental’s business bank and other finance providers to obtain funding. Wesleyan Bank was able to provide an unsecured loan facility over a term of three years to enable the practice to spread the cost of the refurbishments.

‘The feedback from our patients has been excellent. Disabled people and those who struggle with their mobility now find accessing the practice via the new entrance much easier, so the project has been worthwhile and we are delighted to have done it,’ said Braham Durov.

Dental treatments and services are evolving rapidly which means that deciding to modernise your practice should not be considered as a one-off. If you want your business to flourish, it’s important that new investments form part of a rolling programme towards continually enhancing your patients’ experience. The competitive landscape in dentistry is undoubtedly getting tougher but with the right financial support, staying ahead of the game doesn’t have to break the bank.

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