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Is your practice ready to show?

March 1, 2009
Making the decision to sell a dental practice is a major event in a person's professional life ...

by Max Wilson, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: ADS, Dr. Max Wilson, prepare dental office for sale, buyer appeal, “eye wash.”

Making the decision to sell a dental practice is a major event in a person's professional life, and when someone becomes committed to the process, there are some things that he or she, as the seller, can do to increase the chances of a rapid and successful transition. Whether the seller decides to retain the services of a professional practice broker, or attempts the endeavor alone, there are some essential steps that need to be taken to prepare the practice for showing to prospective buyers.

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If you were advertising your car for sale, you'd probably wash it before having someone look at it. An attractive car is far more desirable than one that has just been down a muddy road. It is the same with dental offices. We as dentists are more acutely tuned to aspects of patient care than we are the appearance of things, such as our waiting room furniture.

However, when a potential buyer enters your office, the things that you may overlook on a daily basis are exactly the things a potential buyer will be looking at. The wise seller of a dental practice does not present his or her office with mud on it. I never recommend that selling doctors remodel their office, or that they undertake major expenses for alterations, but there are some basic and inexpensive things that can be done to prepare a practice for showing.

Take the “tour”

I was told that people often judge the quality of an airline by the cleanliness of the pull-down tray at their seat. If the tray is covered with coffee stains, passengers may wonder about the maintenance of that airline. Before showing your office, it will be time well spent if you and your staff plan a “coffee stain” tour. Give every staff member, including yourself, a pad and pen. Begin with everyone in the same room and have each person write down everything that can be improved in that room. Nothing should go unnoticed.

Now turn the page and do the same thing in the next room. Continue until every room in the office has been thoroughly examined by many critical eyes. Next, the doctor should collect all the pads and make a master copy containing each item that was written down, no matter how trivial.

These items will consist of such things as peeling wallpaper, stained upholstery or carpet, piles of boxes or papers on the floor, scratches on chair legs or doors, and of course, the perennial bug in the light fixture. You'll be surprised at the number of things that have been unknowingly overlooked for months and maybe even years.

Now that you know what your “coffee stains” are, do yourself and your broker a favor by cleaning or fixing them. Schedule a day without patients and have everyone show up while “on the clock” in their grubby clothes to go through the list. The doctor should go to the hardware store a few days before the workday to purchase the soaps, paint, and furniture stains and polish necessary to get through the job. A carpet or upholstery cleaning company may need to be hired to do the heavy work in some areas.

When you finish, your office will have a fresh appearance that hasn't been enjoyed for a while. I call this “eye wash,” and eye wash has great appeal to a buyer. We all know that we have only one chance to make a first impression, and that goes for the physical appearance of the dental office as well as for the person selling the practice. When potential buyers arrive at your office for their first test drive, be sure they don't have to look over any rural road residue to find the dream machine of a practice that lies beneath.

Max Wilson, DDS, is the founder of ADS Professional Practices, a full-service practice brokerage firm doing business in Oklahoma and Arkansas. He is a member of American Dental Sales, American Academy of Dental Practice Administration, American Dental Association, and Oklahoma Dental Association. He may be reached at (405) 720-2093 or [email protected].

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