Is your dental office a gravel pit or gold mine?

There is a gravel pit I pass on my way to work every day. Curiosity got the best of me, so I did a little research and found that a train of two engines and 86 cars moves 8,600 tons of gravel almost every day to Anchorage at $9 million a trip. Yes, that is $9,000,000.00! From highway base and construction foundations to decorative architectural boulders, everything that comes out of that pit is sold.

By contrast, a gold mine sifts through tons of gravel and pay dirt—estimates are that a trainload of gravel may net $250,000.00 to $1 million in gold. It takes a lot more effort and resources to sift through all that dirt for gold. What’s more, all the leftover gravel is just a pile of waste that has to be disposed of or left.

Some consultants advocate massive marketing to get tons of new patients and then sift through the mass to glean a few gold nuggets—the A patients. After all, isn’t that what you want? Just “A patients,” based on a demographic that “they” claim will assure success, longevity, and an environment in which you can do your best dentistry at a high profit margin.

I am more comfortable treating all of the patients who flow through our office. I don’t see piles of rubble that have no value. Instead, I see value in the day-to-day flow with fillings, surgery, root canals, dentures, cleanings, and the occasional diamond in the rough or gold nugget. All social and economic strata contribute to my bottom line, including repeat business and referral sources through reviews and social media.

Improving communication skills to increase your case acceptance rates provides huge returns. If you are only getting one-third of the patients coming to your office to say “yes” to your proposed dental treatment—versus two-thirds saying “yes”—you are creating lots of “rubble” versus rubles in your bank account. Improving the services you offer in-house, rather than referring patients out, can also keep the train rolling—especially during economic downturns.

Oh, and one more thing. Do you know what gravel pit owners do after the pits are either spent or have hit natural springs and filled up with water? They sell them off to a developer and retire in a nice house on the lake they created. They may even have a golf course for a back yard.