running a business

The near-total worthlessness of Relying on on-line reviews

It is rare that a week goes that I don't receive a solicitation by some company to boost the number of my online reviews to help me grow my business.  Of course, this help comes with a contract committment and monthly fees - adding several $1000 to my cost of doing business annually.  As a healthcare provider, I know that my patients are price conscious and do not want to spend their healthcare dollars on unnecessary stuff, I always ask myself "how will this purchase help me deliver better orthodontic care?", before adding expenses to my (already pretty steep) overhead.  If the answer is "yes - my patients will benefit from this purchase!", then I either make the purchase right away or begin saving up for a future purchase.  Believe me, not all new toys make the cut.   High quality brackets that make treatment more efficent and are easier for me to use - YES!, I buy those.  Costly promises of more Google review - NO!, that adds nothing to the quality of the orthodontic care found at Ellis Orthodontics.

Not only does focusing my attention on my on-line reviews drive up overhead, they also take my attention off patient care and put it on something I call "how to game the system".  What do I mean by "game the system"?  Well, that would be the age old idea that you can short cut the tried and true method of orthodontic success - persistent, consistent, committment to your patient's orthodontic health and wellbeing, with a get-rich-quick sceme via a lot of on-line reviews.  The more I worry about what is on-line, the less time I am able to spend focusing on my patients.  (what an ironic thing to post in a blog!)

The idea that healthcare businesses can game the system to get rich quick thanks to the internet  is very popular propaganda with lots and lots of self-proclaimed marketing experts, these days.  I have found that the best ROI for my business is delivering really good care and treating my patients like I would want to be treated.  If you want to leave an on-line review, great.  But I refuse to buy into the idea that Google has more influence on the success of my business than I do.

SEO and Google - friend or foe of small business?

As a the owner of a new orthodontic office, I am always on the lookout for new ways to increase the patients seeking orthodontic treatment at my business.   Many other new dentists and orthodontists seek the same thing.  When we talk about what can be done to increase business the one thing that constantly comes up is SEO - search engine optimization - which is needed to drive a website to the top of Google searches.  Blogging new content apparently helps do this.  Numerous businesses are available to do the posting for me; of course with a fee.  I've considered it but have not pulled the trigger yet. 

I haven't pulled the trigger because the posts that I have seen are of no real value to anyone other than the paid for SEO optimizers and Google.  The information posted is common sense stuff that you already know like brush your teeth, flossing is good, smoking is bad, mouth-guards protect teeth and tons of dental humor.  Paying money to appease Google while adding zero valuable information to the public, other than a dental humor inspired giggle, just doesn't make sense.  Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot and all that my business needs is a steady stream of goofy teeth comics and dental platitudes posted daily to Facebook and on my blog to really take off.  Somehow I doubt it.

So valued patients and curious blog readers, know that I respect your intelligence and value your time.  Ellis Orthodontics presently considers Google more foe than friend of small business and will feed the beast with regular postings that I hope you find fresh, interesting and valuable.

Straightening teeth, running a business and blogging some thoughts, oh my!

In the post, I am going to blog a little about what it is like to be a business owner, particularly an owner / operator of a start up orthodontic office in an established (and awesome!) area of Dallas.  After opening Ellis Orthodontics in the Fall of 2015, I have been surprised at how many people are intrigued and curious about my experience "sticking it to the man", also known as becoming self employed.  So this blog is here for posterity, and to encourage others who may be considering or doing the same thing.

First of all, my experience with business ownership runs to all ends of the spectrum of feelings.  It is fun and exciting one day, and anxiety provoking and frustrating the next.  As a start up office, the anxiety provoking days are many, but the fun, exciting and rewarding days increase with time.  I believe that I feel a greater thrill with each success of my new business that those felt by seasoned business-people.  I suppose this is much like the way it is thrilling to see a baby take their first steps, but hardly a second thought to watch a 10 year old run down the sidewalk to visit a friend.  The newness of each success stands as proof that my business is making that slow but steady progression towards maturity.  In order to enjoy each success, I have come to realize that it is best to look at my practice and it's growth as an adventure and a project, not as a business plan.  While the plan is important, if I only judge my office on whether or not I meet a metric, that takes all the fun out of it.

 I've also come to realize that being a business owner is not something that is just one part of who I am, it has profoundly effected all of who I am.  Let me explain....because this sounds a little crazy and I don't what to leave any reader with the impression that business ownership will diminish the other areas of life like family, community, spiritual, etc.  Rather, as a business owner, I see things differently now, and consequently I participate differently and think differently in settings outside of my office.  For example, I have become much more patient with the struggles others are going through, as I have a very real knowledge of just how difficult and challenging and scary life can be at times.  Of course we all KNOW these things, but that knowledge is with me quite acutely now, as opposed to buried somewhat deep in my memory. 

For anyone considering opening a business or any new dentists/ orthodontists considering hanging out a shingle, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I am happy to share the good, the bad and all the stuff in between with you about what it really is like.  

Back to school!

I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing summer.  The Ellis family stayed busy with swim meets and trips to visit relatives.  It was fun but we are ready to get back to a routine - bring on the 2016-2017 school year!

For my patients returning to school, I wish you all success with your return to class.  Great things await you and I'm excited to hear all about it at your next orthodontic appointment!

As a reminder, Ellis Orthodontics loves to support our local schools and is already gearing up for this year's fundraisers.  Last year we sponsors the following:

  • The Long Run, benefitting JL Long Middle School
  • The Trek for Tech, funding technology at Lakehill Prep
  • The Community Partner Program at St. John's Episcopal School
  • The St. John's Episcopal School Carnival and Auction Party
  • The St. Thomas Aquinas School's Fall Carnival and Spring Auction Party
  • The Carnival at Stonwall Jackson Elementary
  • The Fall Carnival at Lakewood Elementary
  • Homecoming at Woodrow Wilson High School

If you would like Ellis Orthodontics to assist with fundraising at your child's school, please let us know!