In our latest installment of the SBC’s monthly small business feature, we meet Dr. Marianela Cardenas D'Hers, an orthodontist in Kendall, Florida. In a recent interview, she spoke about starting her practice and why keeping an eye on the business side is so important.
When did you first start your practice?
I obtained my license in the [U.S.] in 2011. I worked for a practice starting in August 2011 and then was able to purchase it in June 2012.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to own a practice rather than remain as an associate?
Oh, definitely, I knew that. If you really want to grow a business it’s the only way to control all the variables and at the same time tailor the practice to your needs. I think it gives you motivation when it’s your own.
What are some of the challenges of being on your own?
It’s a little more difficult. You have to be on top of your employees and the accounting. When you work for someone else, you are an associate and the office takes care of payroll, collection, and everything human resources related. You come out with your paycheck but don’t have worries on the human resources part. As an owner I have to be on top of all these things. You do have more worries when you’re on your own but the satisfaction is greater.
How many employees do you have?
I have six employees: One to handle the front desk, one to handle insurance and accounting, one to handle payroll, and three dental assistants.
It is growing but it takes time. One of the most important things when going out on your own as a specialist is to check out the area before. Visit some general dentists to get referrals. I get a lot of business from general dentists because they don’t do braces.
How else do you promote the business?
The second step is to use marketing tools. When you’re buying a practice start with the patients you already have. Then do the external marketing. I find that with external marketing it takes contact through two channels to get a new patient. They may see a magazine ad but unless they also hear about you from someone else, the ad alone isn’t enough.
Yes, I’m already approved for another loan to start another practice but haven’t opened it yet.
How will you handle both?
I would hire associates to work at the second location and split my time. I have to be ready because I can’t be at both places at once.
Any advice for a doctor looking to strike out on his or her own?
You have to have the mind of an entrepreneur and some leadership otherwise you won’t get to the point you want. You’ll have more headaches than happiness. If you don’t want to deal with the accounting part or the leadership part, then you should stay an associate.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Note: Bank of America, along with the assistance of a personal Small Business Banker, helped Dr. Cardenas finance her initial practice and recently approved financing for a second location.