dream practiceI believe that dentistry, when practiced at its best, is an entrepreneurial profession. It has always been my dream that every new dentist ends up owning his or her own practice.

Traditionally there have been three ways to go about doing this. You can build a new practice from the ground up, you can buy an existing practice in a brokered deal or you can transition into ownership over the course of a few years while the existing owner transitions out.

Any one of these methods can offer a path to success and each one comes with its own advantages and risks. It's no secret that I have spent a good portion of my career counseling dentists—both new and retiring dentists—on how to do a prosperous transition. That's because I have seen the great results that can happen for everyone when taking this kind of systematic, measured approach to transferring ownership.

What are the risks?
The greatest risk of going the transition route for a new dentist is the possibility of entering into an agreement with an owner who isn't in the right position of abundance or who is unable or unwilling to offer the right support to the incoming dentist. However if you make an arrangement with someone who has the capacity to be a generous mentor and you get proper coaching from a third party on executing the details of that arrangement, a transitioned approach can deliver great reliable results.

Think about it.That exiting dentist has probably spent 30 years or more building that practice and figuring out what works and what doesn't. Why wouldn't you want to spend some time absorbing that knowledge before you take over?

Then there is the question of the transfer of goodwill. An older, retiring doctor is likely to have older patients and older staff members who are less inclined to stick around for a change in ownership—unless you are given the opportunity to become part of the family and earn their trust before taking over complete ownership. There is also less pressure on a young dentist to produce at a high level right out of the gate in order to service a large debt.

Will I be successful after the transition of ownership?
By structuring a buy-in over three to five years, you have the opportunity to build goodwill over time and to really get to know the patients in a low pressure situation. You build strong working ties with the staff. Best of all, you buy yourself time to increase your productivity as you grow under the guidance and mentorship of the established dentist. When the time comes for the final transfer of ownership, you and the practice are ready for each other and the transition is practically guaranteed to succeed.

In my experience, the transitioned approach greatly improves the new dentist's chances of getting the practice of their dreams. Let's face it, the most sought-after practices—the ones with the best technology, a thriving patient base and a proven capacity for generating growth—are out of reach for most first-time buyers. The only way to get into this kind of practice is to work your way into ownership over time through a process that provides the economic support you need and protects the value of the practice for everyone. It may take a little longer, but in the end you'll be way ahead of others who settled for less just to get their name on the door right away. And three to five years is not too long to wait if it means getting the practice of a lifetime.


Commenter's Profile Image Anmar Obaidi
June 9th, 2014
Great Article .... only shortcoming is the how ..... who can help in locating a practice that is interested in hiring a lead dentist that is looking to make the transition into ownership in the next couple of years ???
Commenter's Profile Image Imtiaz Manji
June 10th, 2014
Good question, Anmar. For a young dentist looking for a good transition opportunity, there are a few avenues I suggest trying. First of all you can go online to a forum like Dentaltown or own Spear Talk and let it be known what you are looking for. There is also a website called Transdent.com, which is affiliated with Mercer, that specializes in matching up buyers and sellers. I would also suggest speaking to dental specialists and dental supply reps in your area, as they tend to be "plugged in" to what is happening with a lot of practices in their orbit and often can give you good inside information on who is looking to exit and who would make a good mentor in a transition.