Are you a recent dental school graduate? Do you have plans to take over an existing dental practice – one with an established client base, ideal location and new equipment? Taking over an existing practice allows you to start your career, in your own right, while utilizing the perks of an established practice. However, taking ownership of an existing practice requires much more work than just hanging your degree on the wall.
One of the major benefits of starting your dental career in a pre-existing dental practice is having clients that are readily available. Yet, you still need to consider how you will build trust and loyalty with those patients- your purchase price probably doesn’t include the price of those contacts and relationships. So, while you may not have to build your dental practice from scratch, you still have a long way to go before you can consider yourself to be an “established” dentist. The good news is, following a few key practices can help propel your career in the right direction.
How to Master the Transition Phase
- Start Off on the Right Foot: There’s a reason they say that first impressions last. Consult with the retiring dentist about the best way to make this introduction to the existing clientele and community leaders. Will the initial introduction come from the retiring dentist or from you? Is it necessary to follow up with the client to provide additional information? Sometimes a simple letter is the best way to make to make a first impression, just remember that this piece of correspondence is incredibly powerful. Therefore, consider hiring a professional to write it for you. Just don’t forget to include your signature.
- Consider Your Employees: This transition will not only affect you, the retiring dentist and clients of the dental practice, it will also deeply impact current employees, many of whom are uncertain of their new role in the practice. It is important for you to be open and upfront with the employees who will make the transition with you. Consider creating a communications plan and try to answer as many questions presented to you by the employees as possible. If you create an environment of safety and transparency, employees are likely to feel better about the transition and will be more apt to positively represent the practice.
- Remember that Business Ownership Is Not a 9-5 Job: As a business owner, your responsibilities reach far beyond implementation of the technical skills you learned in school. Now, in addition to patient files, you have to balance the books, onboard new employees and become a networking pro. You will soon find out that the most opportune moments are the times you are outside of the office where you can mingle with the community. One of the best ways to target your efforts is to get involved in your local Chamber of Commerce or other business-friendly organizations or clubs.
- Develop and Stick to a Marketing Plan: Advertising and marketing are powerful tools when it comes to making people aware of the significant changes occurring within your newly purchased dental practice-but it can be expensive. Not only should you prepare a solid advertising and marketing plan, but research what options are best for you (virtually, billboards, print ads, etc.). Consider online options, like Facebook or Instagram Ads, and advertising on major search engines like Google.
- Keep a Rainy Day Fund: Hopefully you conducted a thorough inspection of the equipment prior to your closing date, but even so, it’s good to be over-prepared. Whether your equipment was purchased one year ago or ten years ago, make it a point to set aside some cash to protect against hardship and losses that could result if something were to break. The last thing you want is to diminish productivity, quality and employee satisfaction. This kind of hardship can leave a lasting blemish on your practice’s reputation. Make an effort to put a plan in place to save for any upgrades that may be needed in the foreseeable future.
- Consider Who Owns What: In addition to your typical buy-sell agreement, you contract should specifically spell out who owns, and who is responsible for, the practice’s receivables, debts and patient records. According to the American Dental Association, this matter may be handled in one of three ways:
- Retiring dentists keeps original records, buyer gets copies.
- Buyer keeps originals, retiring dentist keeps copies.
- Buyer keeps originals and grants access to retiring dentist in the event of need.
With the right tools and preparedness, your venture into taking over a dental practice can be a great move for your career. For more information about purchasing a dental practice or transitioning into an existing practice, contact us today!