For any recent dental school grad or dentist early in their career who is thinking of purchasing an existing dental practice, a retiring dentist is a great resource who can help guide you through a smooth transition.
When taking over a dental practice with an established client base, ideal location and new equipment can be a great way to streamline your career. However, the transition of ownership can be an arduous process that takes time, effort and patience … not to mention help.
For example, the existing dentist might have patients who are extremely loyal ̶ to him. Also, it is likely that dentist spent years creating partnerships, nurturing relationships, supporting and engaging with the community and establishing his practice. That isn’t something you can necessarily buy. So, while you may purchase an “established” practice that doesn’t need to be built from scratch, you might have a long way to go before you can be considered an “established” dentist. Don’t worry though; there is help to get you through the transition.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression
Your first impression is crucial. This needs to be a positive experience and a solid introduction strategy should help make this a seamless process. Ask the retiring dentist about the best way to introduce you to the existing clientele and community leaders. Will the initial introduction come from the retiring dentist or you? Starting with a simple letter is a good way to make to a first impression – but will it be from you or the current owner? Keep in mind the importance of this correspondence. You should consider hiring a professional to write it, and it should include a hand-written signature. Should you follow up afterward? Will you have meetings or an event at some point? The existing dentist should know what will work best for his circle of influence.
It takes a village
Remember that this transition will not only affect you, the retiring dentist and clients of the practice, but it will also deeply impact the current employees. The majority of the employees may be uncertain of their jobs or their new role in the practice. The existing dentist should have a good grasp on what will get through to his staff. Ask him for guidance. It is important for you to start the lines of communication early and be open and honest with all the employees. Having their cooperation and understanding will be key to a successful transition. One suggestion is to develop a FAQ (frequently asked questions) sheet and schedule a meeting to answer any questions the staff may have. Expect clients to question your employees about the transfer, their feelings and you. By creating an environment of safety, transparency and understanding, employees are likely to feel better about the transition, positively represent the practice and work harder to help you.
Working 9-5 is not the way you make your living
Owning a dental practice comes with responsibilities that reach far beyond the technical skills you learned in school. In addition to serving your patients, the books need balanced, employees need managed and the practice needs to grow. All of these duties will take you beyond regular work hours – for learning, tackling tasks and networking. You will likely mingle with the community and local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or other business-friendly organizations or clubs, which is a great way to make valuable connections and building your client base. You may be able to take the place of the exiting dentist, consult with him or her to find out in which did that person fish.
Develop an advertising budget and stick to it
Advertising is a powerful tool to let the public know of the change in ownership with your practice, but it can be costly. So while preparing an advertising and marketing plan is great, staying within that budget is even better. Ensure you strategically target the audience you want to reach. Before the first ad rep knocks on your door asking for your business, do your homework – what worked for the previous dentist? How much was spent before? Oftentimes, media outlets are willing to negotiate price.
Save for a rainy day
You likely conducted a thorough inspection of all equipment prior to your closing date, but it always good to be prepared just in case. Whether your equipment is six months old or purchased 10 years ago, it is a good practice to set aside some money in the event something breaks. You don’t want to diminish productivity, quality and employee or patient satisfaction. Make the effort to save for any upgrades that may be needed in the future.
Who owns what?
Your contract should spell out who owns, and who is responsible for, the practice’s receivables, debts and patient records. Typically, there are three choices:
- Retiring dentist keeps original records, and the buyer gets copies
- Buyer keeps originals, and the retiring dentist keeps copies
- Buyer keeps originals and grants access to retiring dentist in the event of need
If you are thinking of buying an existing practic, there are many things to consider. Beyond relying on the experience and knowledge of the current dentist, having a knowledgeable practice transition consultant is a must. To learn more about the role of a new practice owner and what you should know before purchasing an established dental practice, give us a call. We would be happy to guide you through the process.