Your New Dental Office: 12 Ways to Prepare for What’s Ahead

by Kathryn Gaysinsky, De Style Design

You are excited to start making your dream of ownership a reality and already see yourself welcoming your very first patient into the practice – but how do you get there?

After the first information session we hold with our potential clients, I see many overwhelmed faces and get a lot of requests for some form of a check list to follow. As it turns out there is a lot of preparation for a properly executed construction project then initially meets the eye.

So, by popular demand, I present to you a list of 12 steps which you should take when planning to open a new dental office:

1) Have a Business Plan

  • Who is your target client?
  • What services are you looking to provide?
  • How big of a practice you would like to have in five to 10 years?

2) Research Your Start-Up Budget 

Pull up statistics for dental construction projects in the area of comparable square footage. If you need financing, speak with a lending institution to discuss what is required in order to get a loan for the project. If possible, speak to dentists that already own practices and talk about their experience with construction and start up costs.

3) Research the Area You See Yourself In 

What is your demographic? What stage of life are your potential clients (young adults/ young families/ established households/ empty nesters)? This will help define the aesthetic (and to some degree, preliminary budget) for your upcoming practice.

4) Source Potential Units (you may want to ensure you address the following)

  • Does your unit support your business plan: Can you fit all of the elements you need in the new space? For this you may need to contact a designer or dental equipment company in order to provide you with a preliminary layout for your office based on the specific unit you are thinking to get.
  • Speak to the landlord and get confirmation, in writing, on whether or not the unit is zoned for your use. Alternatively, factor approximately six months into your schedule for a re-zoning process.
  • Are there limitations imposed by the landlord on the use of the space? Are there elements in the unit – such as roof top work, sprinklers or trenching work that the landlord will require to be done by their own trades?
  • Is there a design criteria guideline you need to adhere to (mostly applicable if your selected unit is in a mall).
  • What is the time frame of unit possession? This is critical, as timelines for obtaining plans for approval are sometimes more extensive then the construction period itself.

5) Contact Designers

If you read my previous blog, you can see the benefits of having a designer on your project. To summarize: a designer will help you focus your efforts in areas of the practice that will yield the most impact. This is as equally important for a start-up practice as for an established operation. Chose a competent designer, as well as one that you feel comfortable with. Don’t forget, this is the person/company you’re trusting to interpret your dreams and turn into a physical space!

Side note: You may have the designer take care of all the permit drawings on your behalf, or you may hire engineering consultants separately. In this case, you will need to engage the following: Mechanical Engineers / Electrical Engineers / Information Technology / Security Consultants

6) Finalize Your Dental Technical Drawings & Apply for Radiation and Building Permit

Finalize all the equipment specifications and technical drawings in order to process the building and radiation application.

7) Start Working on Your Company Identity

Register a business name and hire a web designer or marketing company. Start working on your logo design. All of these items need to come together with the interior of the space in order to present a cohesive branding image to your client. This will also be a good time to procure a signage company to help you with outdoor and indoor signage when the time comes.

8) Research General Contractors

Once you have the drawings and specifications ready, or even prior to that, get recommendations for reputable construction firms that specialize in the market. Start contacting them and looking at their past projects. Whether you chose to do a formal tender or engage a general contractor to apply for a permit on your behalf, and then provide a cost plus budget, you still need to see their past work to get comfortable with the GC’s approach to projects and their personality. These are the people that you are likely to have on speed dial for the next few months.

9) Obtain Quotes and Select a General Contractor

Send copies of all the drawings to GCs (including requesting a target schedule for executing the work) for pricing. A good average is to obtain three to four quotes.

10) Secure Funding for the project

Ensure to arrange your financials prior to signing on the dotted line with any contractor, review the quotes and tweak the scope of work as you may need in order to be within budget. Remember to allow a 10% contingency from the overall budget for any unforeseen conditions that may come up during the project.

11) Commence Construction

From the point of commencing construction, your GC should provide you with a schedule for project execution. As well, the designer and dental equipment supplier should be able to guide you through any further decisions you need to make in order to follow the project through to completion.

12) Don’t forget to celebrate your success! 

Any construction project can be frustrating and daunting to take on. Prepare for some rough times ahead, but if you have done your research, picked a proper plan of action, and were careful in selecting the right group of professionals to help you through this process, you will be left with a successful product. Make sure to throw an office opening party, invite all your potential clients and don’t forget to pamper yourself for all the hard work you have done in achieving this great milestone!