You have probably been thinking about it for years: being your own boss. You have put in the work and built your skills. You are ready. Practice ownership means so much more than finding the right practice and ironing out the finances, which are significant challenges unto themselves.
Before you start hunting for the right practice, do your homework and make the decisions that will make your practice transition easier.
What does your ideal practice look like?
Once you own a practice, you can adapt some aspects to your liking. But you simply cannot change some things, like location or general feel – and if you do, you might alienate existing patients that you do not want to lose. (Remember that a successful transition includes a plan to retain those very patients – they are the practice’s most valuable asset!)
How do you prefer to practice dentistry? Do you like a fast-paced office where you see lots of patients every day, or do you prefer to spend more time with fewer patients? Which procedures do you want to do in-house, and which do you want to refer out?
Urban, suburban, or rural? Big or small? Family-oriented or adults-only? Will you accept PPOs or DMOs? What about Medicaid?
Do you want to be a solo practitioner, work as part of a collaborative team, or share office space and overhead with other independent dentists?
There are no absolute right answers – think about what will satisfy you professionally. Consider developing a practice vision that encompasses your personal, financial, and clinical goals. Especially if you are looking to join with an existing practice, make sure you share this vision right from the start.
How are your finances?
You have probably run some numbers, but have you considered how your personal financial situation and budget will be affected by purchasing a practice? Your personal finances must support the initial purchase or partnership, plus the ongoing operation, while leaving you enough to support your preferred lifestyle. Have you determined how you will get health insurance for your family and staff? A financial advisor can help you segregate your personal and business finances and build a household budget that includes saving for the future.
Your finances may also dictate your approach. You might enter into a multi-year buyout plan, where you buy an additional stake over time until the entire practice has been transferred. Maybe you want an equal partner so you only take on half the practice. Or maybe you want to purchase an entire practice, all at once. Just remember that owning 100 percent of the practice means taking on 100 percent of the risk. Make sure your personal finances are protected accordingly. If you are an ADA member, learn about preferred loan rates and other available support.
Are you ready for the responsibility?
Just because you own a practice does not mean you have to handle 100 percent of the work – but you do have to ensure that things get done. Think through all the parts of the business – legal, financial, insurance, supplies, staffing, patient management, and so on – and decide which you feel comfortable handling. If your vision is to work with another dentist, for any period of time, discuss how you will divvy up responsibilities. If you do not have the skill set you need, you may need to recruit someone who does, or learn how to do things yourself.
Prepare for the transition – and beyond
Closing day is the beginning of a new set of relationships with patients, staff, and the community. If this is a full buyout, consider whether you want the current dentist to stay on for a while – several weeks, months, or even a couple of years – or if you would prefer him or her to exit right away.
Learn about your new staff’s strengths, interests, weaknesses, and goals. Build and motivate your team through timely, specific feedback and coaching. Look for opportunities to recognize success or milestones, and seek teachable moments where you might work together to improve a process. But take the time to build trust before rushing to make drastic changes. Your staff and patients will appreciate the continuity.
Get the support you need
Finding the right practice takes time. ADA Practice Transitions will help you at every phase of the search, from identifying your philosophy of care to helping you navigate the purchase or partnership agreement and build a solid working relationship with your new team.
When you work with ADA Practice Transitions, you will be assigned a dedicated Advisor who can answer questions, offer guidance, and share the right resources. You will get worksheets, practical guides, and assessments that help you think things through.
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