The problem with most dentists’ exit strategies is that they don’t exist

When you are ready to turn over the keys to your practice, Dr. Chris Salierno says there are more paths that lie ahead than there were before, and the mistake is to take one of those paths unprepared.

Salierno Chris High Res Cropped

I’ve always fantasized my practice exit like I’m a retiring sheriff riding off into the proverbial sunset. Grateful townsfolk wave farewell behind me while I sit atop my faithful steed; we slowly trot to some destination beyond the horizon. Memories of years of faithful service wash over me.

It’s a romantic idea and, no doubt, there are dentists who are able to achieve some version of this when they retire from their practices. A young dentist works with them for a year or so, a sale price is negotiated, and one day they throw the younger dentist the keys. They are surrounded by grateful patients and team members at a retirement party, and they walk out of the office one last time as an owner. The next chapter of their life begins.

Unfortunately, as we all know, transitions aren’t always that picturesque and serene. There are more paths that lie before you today than there were before. You may choose to sell to a group practice or DSO. You might want to work for a few years with a new partner before you hang up the handpiece. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Complex deals have more nooks and crannies; more opportunities to lose money and control that you thought you would have retained. The mistake is to take one of these transition paths without being prepared.

In this issue, we explore some of the legal and financial decisions that are available for your transition. They can be a safeguard for or a threat to your successful transition, depending on your diligence. Gerard Gruber, CFP, CDFA, explores a creative option for associates to build equity while selling dentists build wealth. In the beginning of a three-part series, William Prescott, Esq., MBA, discusses legal and tax strategies for different types of sales. And in our Transitions Roundtable column, Edward Challberg, CPA, and Tom Snyder, DDS, tell you what to do if you have an outdated practice and only a few years to sell it.

Whatever you envision for your practice transition, you should go beyond just picturing it and start making plans to see it through. There are more ways to sell a practice these days and some of them are pretty complex, but fortunately we have CPAs, attorneys, and other dental transition specialists who can guide us. You’re not alone, even when you’re riding off into the sunset.


Chris Salierno, DDS

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