Monthly Bills Most Dental Offices Pay and Three Ways to Reduce Each Bill
As with running any business, dental offices have their fair share of bills each month. Budgeting isn’t something you want to worry about when you’re focusing on your patients. Here is a list of four monthly bills you likely encounter and tips & tricks on how you can keep some of that cash from flying out of your pocket.
In an industry that runs on electric devices, saving energy can be a hard task. You can’t eliminate this use, but you can find ways to help you save with these simple office upgrades:
- Air seal your office. This simply means reducing the airflow in and out of your office so that you’re losing less heat to the outdoors in the winter and less cool air to the outdoors during the summer. This is a weekend-long project and can be pricey, but it’ll help your energy bill all year round. Air sealing can also reduce noise, lessen the chance of any allergens or critters getting inside, and lower the chance of any roof dampness during those stormy seasons. Check out tips on how to air seal your office here.
- Put devices on a timer. There’s no need to allow devices to eat up energy while they’re not in use. Put them on a timer! This will save you money by eliminating the phantom energy drain. If you want to be even more efficient with your electricity, invest in motion sensors for each room of your office. This way when you’re not using a particular room, you don’t have to worry about turning off the light. After a long day at the office, you don’t want to worry whether or not the bathroom light was left on! And the best part? These timers can be easily installed without a professional, and they aren’t expensive.
- Make the switch to LED lighting in your office. LED light bulbs have gone down significantly in price – they’re now typically less than the cost of halogen or incandescent light bulbs! The benefit of LED bulbs is that they use about 90% less energy than halogen or incandescent light bulbs. A standard incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of energy compared to the same lumens (brightness) of the 4-6 watts of energy used from an LED bulb. In addition, the LED bulbs barely emit any heat at all, which means lowering your electric bill by using less wattage bulbs and by using less air conditioning in the summer.
Bonus Tip: Stream your television needs through your internet connection instead of paying for cable. By this, I mean streaming services, which provide television-like services straight into your operatories. Many people have made this switch over the last 10 years. Streaming this service can provide your patients a distraction without breaking the bank.
You can save big by keeping your dental supply bills to 5% or less of your collections. Here are some tips to help you lower this cost:
- Implement a budget of 5% of the prior month’s collections, not production. Always set your monthly collection goal at 100% of all production, net-to-net. The more you collect, the more your percentage of overhead is reduced. If you produce $112,000 a month, but only collect $80,000 and your overhead is $55,000, your percentage of overhead to production is about 69%. That is way too high! If in that same example you collect $110,000 and your overhead remains the same, your percentage of overhead drops to 50% and the money in your pocket goes from $25,000 to $55,000 a month. Simply collect what you produce.
- Assign one person in your office to be responsible for all supply orders. You need someone (not you!) to take ownership of this responsibility; if multiple people are ordering it’s harder to keep track of this monthly expense. Consider giving a performance-based bonus to the person who is keeping this expense in check. Keep in mind, a 1% savings on a $1M practice is $10,000 per year! Check out more easy budgeting tips here.
- Always shop around for the best pricing. Dental and medical supplies are heavily marked up! We obviously recommend buying instruments from Berman Dental Instruments. This alone will save you over 50%!
And, of course, keep your inventory sufficiently stocked. Never let yourself get into a situation where you could easily run out of necessary supplies. If you don’t have enough instruments, the flow of your day will be held up by the working time of the autoclave. Once again, assign one person with the task of making orders, and be sure to get reports from them on a consistent basis on supply needs.
‘Swish and spit’ is a common phrase in the dental office. While the need for water is obviously a necessity, there are definitely ways in which you can use less water on a daily basis:
- Install faucet aerators. These are perfect for faucets where you do things like wash your hands or brush your teeth, because they reduce the water flow by adding air bubbles into the stream. It doesn’t help if you’re trying to fill a large pot with water, but in a bathroom sink, it can certainly help improve your water efficiency.
- Invest in digital imaging in radiography and photography. Most dentists have already made the digital transition with it comes to photography, which saves a ton of time, ink, paper, and money. But what about radiography? The same applies to this aspect of your imaging too, but has enormous ‘green’ benefits when it comes to water. The average film processor for radiography uses up to $66 per month in chemicals, but more importantly – it consumes around 30 gallons of water per hour of use. By investing in digital imagery you’re saving both the environment and your budget.
- Use a waterless and variable speed oral evacuation system. Did you know that most wet-ring vacuum systems use between 60,000 and 90,000 gallons of water per year? At the average U.S. cost of sewer and water of .0071 cents per gallon, the annual cost ends up being somewhere between $426 and $639 per year. By adding a water recycler to the vacuum you can reduce the water consumption by approximately two-thirds – all the way down to 20,000 to 30,000 gallons per year. Besides not having to pay for the water, you do not have to pay the sewer fee to process the water either. You can learn more about these evacuation systems – like the Midmark PowerVac G – here.
There’s no question that the biggest source of overhead in an office, other than staff wages, is office rent. Making these lease payments worse every year is that most annual lease payments increase 1-3% a year. Sometimes this is adjusted annually; sometimes it is increased every 5 years. The benefit of this goes to the landlord, who is hoping to keep up with the comparable and reasonable leases in the area. However, this escalation is often excessive after many years.
So what can you do to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck in your office space?
- Always negotiate before signing a lease. Whether it’s your first time leasing a space or you’re renewing your lease, remember that you’re the one in control. Most people tend to think that the landlords are the ones with ALL of the power, but it definitely doesn’t have to be that way. Most commercial landlords own multiple properties and aren’t going to care as much about cost as a small business owner does. So, put in the work to level the playing field the same way you would when looking for a house. Look at multiple properties, locations, and price ranges. When you’re armed with all of that information, you can easily make negotiations based on your own research and knowledge of the space you want. Check out more tips on negotiating your lease here.
- Be sure to double check your region and square footage options. These are the two biggest factors in your budget range if you’re opening or moving to a new space. Setting up shop in a low cost area can save you up to 20% of your budget. But be completely sure your region is a match with your growth goals. Your future success depends on whether or not this region will attract patients. Are you on a busy street in a reputable neighborhood? Is there direct competition nearby? These are all things to take into consideration for the location that will serve you best. Want to spend a LOT less? Build or lease a smaller office. But make sure that space matches your vision. Can you grow your practice the way you hope to in a small office? Is the cost savings worth it? It may be tempting to lease or build a smaller office at first because of the price tag, but make sure you don’t get stuck in a space where you can’t expand if necessary.
- When in doubt, you should always consult with a real estate attorney. Especially before a lease renewal, work with a real estate attorney in the hopes of negotiating a lower lease payment. This could save thousands of dollars annually.
YOUR BIGGEST ADVANTAGE? TEAMWORK
When you’re working as a unit everything in an office will move smoother. And this doesn’t just pertain to handling patients and daily clerical or administrative work. This is a huge asset in keeping track of all of your expenses.
“What I like to do is put my team in charge of different expenses – after setting what those expenses should be in terms of percentage of the total budget. For example, utilities like water and electricity are watched closer if the doctor isn’t the only one watching those expenses. In general, it’s a team effort and when everyone is working together, you’ll have a much better outcome.”
– Dr. Matt VanderMolen
When it comes down to it, budgeting and teamwork should go hand in hand. So, work together with your team to create a budget, review it monthly, and be consistent in how each individual contributes to keeping it in check.