Bill.com takes the pain out of payments for Stepping Stone Dental Partners, a six-practice group in Wisconsin.

Running a dental practice is an administrative chore. Imagine running six practices. Sounds like a scary proposition, right?

Not if you have the right tools.

Stepping Stone Dental Partners operates six independent dental practices in Wisconsin. It buys practices from retiring dentists, then partners with aspiring practice owners, taking on administration of the back office so its partner dentists can focus on their job.

Stepping Stone can focus on its job because it has help from Bill.com.

“Our mission is advancing private practice by preserving the quality of care that an independent clinic provides,” says Stepping Stone cofounder Tim Mathison. “We support the day-to-day business operations. Our dentists are then able to do what they enjoy most—practice dentistry.”

It’s a noble pursuit. And it’s a good business. Stepping Stone plans to add two to four new practices a year as it continues to grow.

But, early on, it was a serious logistical headache. The biggest challenge was paying bills, which, as every independent dentist knows, is a time-consuming task.

“We were using QuickBooks online but we had multiple geographic locations from which we had to collect the bills and paperwork, then bring it all back to our parent office for processing,” Mathison says. “The logistics of that became overwhelming as we grew. Bills were getting paid late, things were lost in translation.”

The process was this: Stepping Stone dental offices would get invoices in the mail and they’d be approved by each office’s practice manager. They’d then be couriered back to the parent office, where Mathison would need to find back-up documents, confirm invoices, print checks, stuff envelopes and file receipts.

It was time consuming, labor intensive and error prone. “It was becoming an unmanageable system,” Mathison says. “It came down to either scaling with more people or scaling with technology, which is always our first choice.”
 

Mathison chose Bill.com, on the recommendation of his accounting firm. He started with a pilot test at one Stepping Stone practice and quickly saw the system would give his company the financial control it needed. He made the decision to implement Bill.com in every office and rolled it out in the space of a few weeks.

Stepping Stone primarily uses Bill.com’s bill-pay feature. The tool enables practice managers at all Stepping Stone offices to upload the invoices they receive into Bill.com. Mathison then automatically gets a notification saying there are bills to approve and pay. He logs in on his smart phone or computer—wherever he happens to be—approves the bills and pays them instantly.

Stepping Stone gets about 50 invoices per month per practice, from clinical suppliers, dental labs, utilities, landlords, etc. It processes all of them through Bill.com. It has cut its paper stream and now has an electronic record of all invoices, which it can easily track.

“And I love that it seamlessly integrates with our accounting system,” Mathison says. “I was amazed how easy the integration was. The user interface is intuitive. We can use the system with little or no user training. Bill.com is a huge time saver for us but it also gives us the flexibility and control we were looking for. And it provides a long-term solution for growth.”

He estimates that, without Bill.com, Stepping Stone would now have at least one full-time accounts-payable person and another accounting person to oversee the process—and an additional accounts-payable person for every four practices going forward. He guesses that invoicing with Bill.com takes the practice manager at each Stepping Stone office about 20 minutes a week.

“It saves us hours and hours each week at every single practice,” Mathison says.

Bill.com also gives Mathison visibility and control of the cash flow at every office. Practice managers only enter a bill at Bill.com if it’s been approved by the manager or a dentist, so Mathison knows that, if the bill is in the system, it’s been OK’d. But it can’t be paid unless he reviews it first.

If there’s a question about a bill, Bill.com has a “notes” feature where a manager can enter a question—how to code a particular invoice, for example—and Mathison can answer it.

Bill.com’s console feature enables Mathison to manage the financials of all Stepping Stone practices in one place. He enters his log-in and the six practices are visible on one screen, with a summary of bills to be approved, what they’re for, when they’re due and whether they have questions attached.

“I think many dental offices could benefit from Bill.com,” Mathison says, “not only those offices with a model like ours. Sole practitioners have time constraints but they still want control over what’s being paid and when. There’s definitely a role for Bill.com in the dental community.”

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