One of the most critical decisions to make when opening a new practice or a satellite office is choosing a location. Take the time to do your research and get to know the community. Drive around the area, visit various businesses and shops, and get to know local residents. Chambers of commerce are great resources for free information about the local business climate and quality of life.
To choose a specific location, narrow your search by using important criteria such as competition, demographics, visibility/accessibility, and convenience.
Competition: Ideally, you’ll want to open an office in an area with a high ratio of population to orthodontists, and if you find one, be certain to examine why there is so little competition in the area. Due to demographic or economic factors, the area may not be able to support a new orthodontic office. On the other hand, if this is a new growth area, you’ll gain an advantage by moving in before potential competitors do. Talk to local manufacturers reps to find out if another orthodontist is in the process of opening an office in the area.
To get a complete picture of the area, use maps that clearly mark the locations of general dentists, competitors, and schools and look at these in relation to transportation routes and commercial areas. These maps will prove invaluable in your site selection process.
Demographics: Your prospects for success will be much greater if your new location is in an area where orthodontic care is considered a priority rather than an incidental expense. Beware of recently developed areas where younger families are paying a premium for their new homes and lack the discretionary income to pay for orthodontic care. A favorable community profile contains the following attributes: population growth (especially at young ages), family formation, affluence, high educational attainment, and a high proportion of professional occupations.
While you may not be able to find all of these in an area that is not already overrun with competitors, the more boxes you can check off the better. Free demographic data for specific areas can be obtained from chambers of commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau. Market research companies can provide specialized analysis and mapping based on key demographic information. (To request a quote or sample report from Valmont Research, click here)
Visibility/Accessibility: Visibility and accessibility are two of the most critical factors in site selection. You want your new location to be noticed, easy to find, and provide ample and convenient parking.
In smaller towns, it may make sense to be located near a church or other important community center. Choosing a location near a middle school will make it easier for parents to transport their children from school to the office and back.
In some areas, being located in or near a commercial district provides the added convenience of one-stop shopping. But look at your neighbors and be certain you’re alongside appropriate company.
Some communities shy away from going to doctors’ offices in shopping centers rather than in dedicated dental/medical complexes. On the other hand, being located in a complex can help with referrals from general dentists and other specialists, but you run the risk of “getting lost” among all of the other doctors’ offices. She recommends finding a visible location next to a medical/dental complex.
Because there are so many possibilities and not all of them are feasible in every area, the importance of knowing your community cannot be overemphasized.
Convenience: To avoid headaches and added stress, consider the convenience of the new location. No one can be in two places at once, and the constant rotation between two or more offices poses some major challenges, especially if your satellite office does not include all of the amenities of your main office. Patients and parents may be inconvenienced if they have to travel to your main office to have X-rays taken. Furthermore, they may become upset if your main office is a nicer facility, as they may feel that their fees are supporting the main office rather than the satellite where they make regular visits. Transporting paper records from location to location is also a risky inconvenience. A “paperless” office may solve this problem, but factor in the added costs of software and hardware as well as the potential pitfalls of having your internet connection go down in the midst of a busy day.
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