7 signs you’re ready to own a dental practice

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signs you're ready to own a practice
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The leap from associate dentist to practice owner can be a daunting one. It’s going to take thorough research, expert support and some seriously hard work. Tick these boxes, and you’re well on your way to success. By Shane Conroy

1. You’ve done your homework 

Running your own dental practice requires more than good clinical skills; there’s a lot to learn about business management that wasn’t covered at dental school. Ameena Basile is the founder of Dental Management Expertise and co-founder of Dental Business Mastery. She says your journey to finding success as a practice owner begins in your current role as an associate dentist. 

“Learn as much as you can while working as an associate dentist,” she says. “Get your hands dirty in the practice, invest your time outside the clinic to find out how things are managed in the practice, and think about what you would do differently.

“For example, gain insights from the team regarding leadership and management. This can put you in good stead for the journey ahead.” 

2. You have a business plan

You’ll need to get that new knowledge down on paper and refined into a thorough business plan. This is really about making sure your new practice is financially viable.

Your business plan should set out the organisational structure of your new practice, your expected set-up and running costs, and financial projections. Think about questions like: Are you going to bring in partners to help finance the practice? What is your service offering? What equipment and technology do you need to deliver that? How much are you going to charge and is that competitive? 

Julie Parker is an experienced dental practice consultant and coach at Julie Parker Practice Success and co-founder of Dental Business Mastery. She says tapping into your professional network can be a good way to answer those questions. “Use your network and social media forums to ask questions of existing practice owners and learn from their experience, wisdom and insights.” 

3. You have the start-up capital

Whether you’re buying an existing practice or starting a new one from scratch, you’re going to need plenty of money behind you. Banks and private investors are both going to want to see a strong business plan before they back your vision. And if you’re going to bring a partner into your new business to help shoulder the financial load, you’re going to need to have a good partnership agreement in place that protects your interests. 

Also include equipment financing into the equation, and remember that it often takes time to establish positive cashflow, so you’re likely going to need enough in the kitty to cover your early operating costs. 

Not getting the right advice can cost you enormously later. Getting a good consultant on board for the establishment process—and ideally for the long haul—will see you grow and reach your goals at a much faster rate. 

Ameena Basile, founder, Dental Management Expertise 

4. You’ve scouted a good location

Location is everything for a new business. Parker says many new practice owners make the mistake of choosing a business location that is convenient or desirable for them, rather than finding an area where they’ll have a high likelihood of success. 

“Many dentists choose the location of their practice from a convenience-to-self perspective,” she explains. “However, such a location might not have the other elements that are needed to be successful, such as appropriate competition, ease of access for patients, capacity for growth, and the right market for the unique services that you wish to offer.” 

Basile adds that seeking a property advisory expert to conduct good demographic research can help to reveal the best location for your practice. 

5. You’re ready to lead a team

You can’t do this alone. At the end of the day, your practice is only going to be as good as your team. But putting the right team in place is only half the struggle. Retaining your team is the other half, and Parker says you’ll need to put a lot of thought into how you’re going to establish and maintain a positive workplace culture. 

“Be as interested in how to make team members happy as you are in how to make patients happy,” she explains. “Your dental practice team plays a substantial role in not only your customer service and productivity but also your personal stress levels. A great team and appreciated people can propel you forward.”  

6. You’re ready to do the hard yards

Be under no false illusions—becoming a practice owner is going to be a hard slog. Basile says that you’re likely going to have to shoulder much of the workload in the early days, so you’ll need to ensure your productivity is up to par.

“Make sure you know how to be productive. Usually in the early days of practice ownership, the practice is mostly dependent on the production of the principal dentist,” she explains. “Knowing how to plan your days and your appointments, good case acceptance, and rapport building are all crucial elements of being productive in a dental practice.”

7. You have a consultant on call

Last but not least, it always pays to have an expert consultant you can turn to for the right advice when unexpected challenges arise. A trusted solicitor can help ensure your partnership agreement and employment contracts are above board, and a practice management consultant can help get all your operational processes flowing smoothly.

“Not getting the right advice can cost you enormously later,” Basile says. “Getting a good consultant on board for the establishment process—and ideally for the long haul—will see you grow and reach your goals at a much faster rate.”  

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