I have talked to many dentists over the last several weeks and noticed that recent conversations have taken on a new tone as we all navigate the COVID-19 situation.
Some are stoically muddling through, using the downtime to deep clean the office and prepare for eventual reopening, while others are facing really tough decisions right now.
Regardless, don’t try to make major decisions by yourself. Reach out to other professionals who can help you think through all your possible scenarios, and review all the available information. (And check out our recent webinar, Selling Your Practice in the COVID-19 Era: Advice from Accounting Experts.)
You may find yourself wondering:
- How can I practice safely?
- Will my patients return? When will I have a “normal” schedule again?
- Will my staff return? How can I make them confident in doing so?
- Which new measures should be implemented? How?
- How long can I make ends meet?
The ADA keeps adding resources at ada.org/virus to help plan for re-opening and make important operational decisions, including a Return-to-Work Toolkit and several on-demand webinars. Start there and also look to your state dental society for local guidance.
Should I stay or should I go?
When you find yourself facing uncertainty, you may have a moment (or two or three) when you wonder if it might be time to step away from dentistry entirely – particularly if you have already been planning your retirement.
However, before you make such a big decision, weigh several factors:
Are you financially ready to walk away?
Are your personal finances in good order? Would you have to compromise your lifestyle? How would you access health insurance for you and your family? Reach out to your financial advisor to discuss what’s realistic and whether you need to reprioritize your wants or wait a bit longer to ensure your long-term financial stability. (See the second scenario in this post about retiring before being financially ready.)
Are you willing to take the time to find the right buyer?
All too often, a quick sale does not result in a long-term solution for patients and staff. When you do not sell to someone who will care for your patients and staff as you have, things may eventually fall apart. For example, patients used to your hands-on, one-on-one approach may not like it if the new dentist focuses on increasing volume by fully utilizing EFDAs or hygienists. Staff may also be put off by a major shift in how the office runs. The result could be a failed transition in which the practice eventually closes. (See examples of why finding the right buyer is so important for a successful transition.)
Finding the RIGHT buyer can take longer, but it can ensure your patients are cared for in the long term.
Finding the right buyer can take time, but it’s time well spent if you can ensure continuity of care for your patients.
Are you ready to give up dentistry? Really?
Retirement can be a tough transition even when you have had years to prepare yourself. It’s even harder if you jump into it. Make sure you have a plan for your free time. And be honest with yourself. If you think you may miss dentistry, consider ways to stay involved by working part-time, volunteering, or teaching.
Most importantly, make sure you have fully discussed your plans with your family. Your partner can be your biggest source of support and help you make the best decisions for your family. (Check out our guide to starting these conversations.)
If you don’t want to re-open for health or financial reasons
For some, COVID-19 may mark the right time to stop practicing – particularly if you are concerned about a health condition that puts you at a higher risk of COVID-related complications. But make sure you have all the information you need to make such a big decision. Consult your physician for a frank conversation about your health and safety.
I have also heard of cases where an owner believes that the practice’s financial situation has deteriorated so far that it will be unable to function in a post-COVID world. If that’s the case, reach out to your financial advisor about your practice’s health to determine the best course forward. In addition, the ADA’s Center for Professional Success has a series that can help. The Guidelines for Practice Success (many of the modules are free to ADA members) are loaded with great practice management advice and solutions that may help you to become even more successful than you were pre-COVID!
ADAPT is here to help
The advisors at ADA Practice Transitions are here to help you think through all your options. If you are considering selling a practice in one of our participating states (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin), submit your profile today to begin the conversation.