Anton Nebbe reviews the Braemar Finance research to see how dentists are coping post-pandemic.
As dentists begin to better understand what the post-pandemic world looks like, Braemar Finance – part of Close Brothers Asset Finance – commissioned wide-ranging independent research to determine how dentists are dealing with the new challenges facing businesses, ranging from coping with rising costs to filling the skills gap.
A short case study also demonstrates how Braemar Finance has helped a client fit out their practice and purchase new equipment.
How optimistic, if at all, do you feel about the survival and/or success of your business:
- Very optimistic – 17.50%
- Somewhat optimistic – 69.00%
- Neither optimistic nor pessimistic – 9.50%
- Somewhat pessimistic – 4%
- Very pessimistic – 0%.
Despite the many setbacks of the past 18 months (and more), positivity about their future prospects is running very high among dentists, with only 4% pessimistic; 17.5% are ‘very optimistic’ and a further 69% ‘somewhat optimistic’ about what the coming months will hold.
From a turnover perspective, 86% of dentists expect their income to either ‘significantly’ (31.5%) or ‘somewhat’ (54.5%) improve; 14% think it will stay the same with none anticipating a decline.
Government loan schemes
Dentists are equally as bullish about being able to repay their government loans, with 92% either ‘very’ (22.5%) or ‘somewhat’ (69.5%) confident about being able to make their repayments; only a small minority (3%) are unsure.
It’s instructive to note every dental practice that took part in the research participated in at least one of the government-backed loan schemes.
Despite the skills shortage being felt in many sectors, dentists are bullish about their investment plans, with a strong response to our question ‘are you considering investing in your business in the next 12 months’ – 85% answered ‘yes’.
But what will dentists be investing in? A lot, as it turns out, ranging from hiring additional staff and capital equipment to refurbishments (we asked respondents to select all options that applied):
- Additional staff – 36%
- Training – 36%
- Capital equipment – 31%
- General business expansion/acquisition/new sites – 31%
- Refurbishment – 22%
- IT – 22%.
Dentists are largely unconcerned about accessing the funds their practice needs for investment in the next 12 months – 97% are either ‘very’ (23%) or ‘somewhat’ (74%) confident of getting hold of the finance they need.
Investment funds are likely to come from a range of sources, including – in order of most selected:
- Cash reserves – 43%
- Funding from a high street bank/overdraft – 35%
- Finance from a specialist professions finance company – 29%
- Finance offered via an equipment supplier – 28%
- A loan from family/friends – 24%.
Rising fuel and inflation
In spite of the positivity about their prospects and accessing funds, nearly all (92%) dentists surveyed expressed significant concern about the impact rising fuel prices and the increase in inflation will have on their clients’ incomes.
However, how to deal with these extra costs is split between absorbing them or passing them onto clients:
- Absorb these additional costs – 66%
- Pass on some or all of the cost onto your client – 32%
- Don’t know – 1%
- I don’t have any plans in relation to the impact due to increased fuel/inflation cost – 1%.
When borrowing for general business purposes, dentists have a number of main priorities when selecting who to borrow from with the most important being ‘a lender that provides personal, face-to-face service’, followed very closely followed by ‘a lender with a strong brand and reputation for customer service’ and ‘a lender with the simplest online application process’.
The wide variety of equipment needed by dentists can be a significant capital expense and a key decision is which supplier to choose.
We asked dentists what was most important when making this choice – and it was a close-run thing, with a ‘good brand/reputation for reliability and aftersales service’ edging out ‘choosing a local supplier able to offer fast reliable service to customers’.
Filling the skills gap
Much has been said and written about filling the skills gap in the UK’s labour market – including in dental practices – with 86% concerned about attracting employees to their business.
Tax bills can be, for many firms, difficult to afford – 73.5% of dentists said they expect to need to borrow funds to pay their 2022 tax bill.
It is well known the pandemic affected many people’s mental health, and our own research strongly supports these findings – only 3% of respondents stated: ‘During the pandemic my mental health has not been impacted’.
All other respondents said the pandemic had had a significant impact on their mental health, ranging from – in order of their impact (respondents could select more than one option):
- I feel lonely – 44%
- I have low moods more often – 35%
- I feel more anxious – 27%
- I have had sleepless nights – 25%
- I find it harder to switch off – 25%
- During the pandemic my mental health has not been impacted – 3%.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce has been near the top of many firms’ agenda and dentists, for the most part, believe their workforce is as diverse as it should or could be:
- Yes, definitely – 34%
- Yes, somewhat – 62%
- No – 3%
- Unsure – 1%.
Dentists are also convinced about the proven creative and associated financial benefits of a diverse workforce. 93% of survey participants agreed.
Quick case study
Finding appropriate surgery rooms and then fitting them out to the required standard.
After reviewing the financial projections and a detailed business plan, Braemar Finance provided an unsecured business loan to fund both the fit out and purchase of the equipment.
The client is today the proud owner of a flourishing dental practice fitted out to the highest standard and equipped with the latest technology.
For more information call 01563 897195 or visit www.braemarfinance.co.uk.