When planning an investment in a new venture, such as a new practice, dentists have tons of work ahead of them. There are staff that need to be hired and trained, equipment that needs to be bought or leased, a facility that must be designed for an easy flow of work and patients, and grand-opening parties to be planned. These are all things dentists should consider when building a new practice, but none of them should be the doctor's primary concern. Dr. Nate Jeal of Fast Growth Practice would argue that honor should go to selecting a location.
Nate is one to know. Having bought, built and sold six practices, he and his partner Dr. Bao-Tran Nguyen are a power couple who have been in every conceivable practice situation. When Nate says it's "location, location, location," dentists would do well to pay attention.
However, the location itself encompasses several factors that could play a vital role in a practice's ability to attract customers. Let's try to break them down a bit.
Street visibility is always a good start. When scouting locations and identifying those that might end up on a shortlist, paying special attention to how it appears from the level that traffic passes by matters. More precisely, it's not as much how good it looks, but how easily it is seen.
The practice should be easy to find from the street or level of passing traffic, either vehicular or foot. If the location itself can't be seen, then signage needs to be visible from all major directions that could bring patients.
The other important feature is access. How easy is the new location to access? Can people drive up reasonably close to it freely? Do they have a place to park their car nearby? In cities with developed public transit, how close is the nearest stop? In some cities, being close to traffic infrastructure for bikes and pedestrian traffic can make a big difference, too.
There are also common-sense requirements that have to do with competition. All things being equal, dentists will find it more difficult to leave a mark and attract customers if there are already dentists with a strong presence in the area. This demographic consideration is very important since the number of dentists competing for patients will play a significant role in how long it takes to break even and reach profitability.
Overall, dentists would do well to approach the choice of location as one of, if not the most important one they'll make when buying or building a new practice. If selected wisely, a good location can provide opportunities to engage with prospective patients with minimal effort and cost. The opposite is also true when a poor location is selected. All the signage and marketing in the world will struggle to overcome a location with poor visibility or which is difficult to access. Taking time, scouting, and choosing on the basis of quality and visibility rather than merely cost is the way to go.