A Business Startup to “Sink Your Teeth Into” Steinbeis expert helps a startup on the road to becoming a consultancy for dental professionals
Many dentists dream of enjoying a wonderful retirement funded by the sale of their dental practice, but their dreams are shattered when they can’t find a buyer. One dentist this happened to is Doris Alexandersen, who pivoted the experience to develop a business concept for a consulting agency for other dentists. She was supported by Doris Deichselberger, director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Change Management and Business Coaching.
How does one go about showing dental professionals the best way to sell their dental office? Doris Alexandersen has first-hand experience of the process, so she knows all the right things to look out for. She now helps other dental professionals develop their businesses and prepare them for selling on to others. Alexandersen does this by giving speeches and offering individual advisory services, outlining feasible courses of action and the key success factors of expedient business development.
She set up her consultancy in 2018 following her own exhausting experience looking for someone to take on her dental office. She first attempted to find a successor in 2012, but the people who contacted her weren’t willing to pay the asking price. She quickly realized she would really have appreciated having someone to turn to for advice. “There was nobody to answer my questions,” she recalls. She did manage to find business coaches, but they were often young and not specialized in her field. So she went about investing more money in her dental practice and upgrading it. By raising its value, she was able to ask a lot more for the business. Then, in 2017, she found a successor.
“The ‘consulting gap’ I found myself in motivated me to become self-employed, and my goal was to fill this gap,” says Alexandersen, who captured her experiences in a master’s thesis titled “The Integration of Mobile Specialists into a Small Dental Office.” This took her into the core field she specializes in today. The pitfalls of the dental market are fueling a constant growth in demand for “mobile specialists” and coaches. Many dental professionals are intimidated by the prospect of setting up their own practice, with inspections by the Quality Care Commission (CQC) to think about, not to mention a requirement for offices to be fully digitalized by 2020, EU data protection directives, and of course the financial challenges. This problem is exacerbated by the growing number of large dental offices financed by investors (dental care centers), especially in German cities. And finally, there are the Generation Y dentists – who can’t envisage a career after setting up an independent practice. They think it will become a hamster wheel, which they have no intention of getting into in the first place.
Targeted advice – professional advice
These days, Alexandersen accepts she was once running in that hamster wheel herself. Independent dental offices offer tremendous potential, and there is strong demand for more know-how and specialization within the profession. And this is where Alexandersen wants to help dentists herself by offering professional advice. She also found help setting up her business by cashing in a Steinbeis EXI Startup Voucher and receiving the support of Steinbeis expert Doris Deichselberger. EXI vouchers are offered under a European Social Fund (ESF) initiative of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing. Deichselberger helped her pinpoint the right strategy, conduct market research, develop an acquisition strategy, and draft a detailed action plan. She also provided invaluable support in approaching the specific target group.
The first step was to conduct a thorough analysis. Based on what they knew about the market and the target group, Deichselberger and Alexandersen then drafted a marketing strategy. “If you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition, it’s important to highlight your USPs. Not only is this much more effective, you’re also much more likely to succeed,” says Deichselberger, with conviction. The next step was to design a professional-looking website to appeal to customers and bring them on board. “Ms. Deichselberger helped me add structure to my ideas and put them into the right words on the website,” reports Alexandersen. But these days, having a good website is no longer enough if you want to make a strong impression in the market, so the duo took a close look at the overall concept and, based on this, acquisition ideas and a social media strategy (e.g. Google rankings, internet positioning). Then came a whole host of useful and practical tips on printed materials and digital advertising (press advertising, flyers, calling cards etc.), administration issues, and the back office.
None of this advice was “off the shelf” but was tailored to the customers of a dental office. “I can’t recommend the advice given by Steinbeis enough. From the moment I started planning my idea for a startup to the point of implementation, Deichselberger stood by me and helped me with each individual step,” concludes Alexandersen, adding the words of shipping magnate Aristotle Socrates Onassis (1906-1975), who was once asked if he regretted anything in life: “I would do everything I have done the same again, with one exception: I would have found better advisers sooner.”
The Steinbeis EXI Startup Voucher
The EXI voucher is targeted at anyone interested in setting up a business or anyone still toying with the idea of starting a business in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Phase 1: Short consultation session (free)
- Individual assessment of your startup idea
- Initial evaluation of intentions and information on financing and funding options
Phase 2: Fast-track consultation (subsidized daily fee, €160 net)
Based on the short consultation session, a fast-track coaching session can be organized for startups, looking at topics such as:
- Business model, the strength of the business plan, organization
- Customer acceptance/market entry strategy/sales
- Funding/financing (especially risk capital)
For more information and an application form, go to the website: www.steinbeis-exi.de
Doris Deichselberger (author)
Steinbeis Consulting Center, Change Management and Business Coaching (Stuttgart)