When sales become nightmares

This this month`s cover obviously employs a little science fiction in creating the "big screen" TV effect. But it`s not really that far off into the future, is it? Imagine delivering a treatment plan with the aid of such technological breakthroughs. Steve Seltzer`s photography article is a must-read for anyone wanting to be on the cutting edge.

Apr 1st, 1998

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor

e-mail: joeb@pennwell.com

This this month`s cover obviously employs a little science fiction in creating the "big screen" TV effect. But it`s not really that far off into the future, is it? Imagine delivering a treatment plan with the aid of such technological breakthroughs. Steve Seltzer`s photography article is a must-read for anyone wanting to be on the cutting edge.

It appears that the article by management consultant Dr. Jim Pride and attorney Bill Prescott in last month`s issue was very timely. A consolidation company in the Boston area has gone belly up. First New England Dental, Inc. declared bankruptcy in Delaware on Feb. 10. The company owned and managed approximately 30 dental practices in the Boston and New England area. Many creditors are listed in the bankruptcy filing, including dentists (some being owed as much as $50,000), dental supply companies, utilities, accounting firms and the lawyers ($720,000).

Many questions are being raised, and the Massachusetts Dental Society is trying to help find answers for its members.

The questions are plentiful. Who owns the patient records? Who is responsible for finishing a patient`s treatment in progress? Who is responsible for paying the laboratory bills? Who pays the office staff? How do I get the practice back? Do I want it back? Can a nondentist own a dental practice? What happens to the relationships that the dentist and staff have spent years developing? Do these types of practices have relationships with their patients? What about the money still owed the dentists on the sales contracts? Will the bankruptcy court sell the practices? Is the stock worthless now? Is there any recourse?

A practice sale often is a dream come true - the answer for funding retirement. But this dream has turned into a nightmare for many of the dentists involved. One of the problems with a scenario like this is that, often, the principals of the company have done a CYA and do not lose anything. Years ago in St. Louis, when I was looking for a contractor to build my swimming pool, it amazed me that many of the contractors had previously operated under another name. They would declare their old companies bankrupt and then set up again under new names. The same thing often happens in the home-building industry. I wonder if this will be a trend in dentistry?

The "dental meeting season" has begun and I have spent the last four weekends on the road. The first weekend out was spent at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting, which, as usual, had terrific programs. Next was the first Dental Advantage Meeting in La Costa, where El Nino cooperated and the weather was wonderful. The resort facilities were great and the program allowed time for lots of one-on-one time with the speakers and attendees. Every one was able to do a lot of networking.

The next meeting that I attended was the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration (AADPA for short) in Tampa. The weather was bright and sunny, a real relief from gray weather at home. Program chairman Dr. Tom McDougal put together an outstanding group of speakers, who shared life-changing information with the attendees. This is a program you should consider attending next year. It always is scheduled during the first week of March.

I am saving the best for last! I am writing this piece as I fly back from the Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta. The weather was cool, but the meeting was hot! The Hinman Dental Society moved its annual meeting to a beautiful new site this year, the Georgia World Congress Center. All meeting rooms and exhibits were on three floors under one roof. The programs were terrific - with something for everyone. The exhibit hall was very user-friendly. The members of the Society hosted the meeting with their usual wonderful hospitality, which sets this meeting apart from all other dental meetings. Nobody does it as well as the Hinman!

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