Transitioning out of clinical dentistry is on the horizon for every dentist. Some will practice longer than others, but the day comes when we all hang up the handpiece. Stopping clinical care and selling the practice may sound the same, but these are two very different moves with different dynamics. If you stay in your clinical mindset, you’ll miss the entrepreneurial perspective that impacts the success of your transition. You can stop cutting preps tomorrow, but you can’t create a stellar brand, reputation, and team overnight.
Most dentists have a vague vision of their transition plans. Owners who capture maximum appraisal value, protect their legacy, and enjoy stepping into the next phase of life start their exit plan years in advance. With an eye on the future, you can set your sail to end up exactly where you aim. Consider refining these four elements for a practice sale that maximizes your profit and joy.
Build a brand that buyers want
Brand power carries weight with today’s consumers, and we can learn from well-known companies. Amazon, Uber, and FedEx bring immediate name recognition, and they all use a multiplatform approach to marketing that can apply to health care. Big brands tell their stories by integrating user-optimized websites, digital convenience tools, social media campaigns, email marketing, paid search, sponsorships, and more to develop a cohesive strategy. We can do the same in our communities.
Effective digital marketing demands a multifaceted approach that weaves a story across the complex consumer landscape. Today’s young dentists, primarily millennials, recognize and value authentic brands. Focusing on creating a solid dental brand pays dividends when it’s time to list your practice.
Fine-tune your business
Many dentists find clinical procedures less daunting than managerial duties, but practices demand a complete business skillset. In many organizations you’ll find a CEO, CFO, and CMO with interconnected systems and support staff. But dentists fill all the roles in their offices while also restoring implants and placing composites. Most buyers expect to find a well-run enterprise with a clear vision, organization, systems, and financial management.
A systematic approach to small business development helps impress the kind of buyer you want to attract. Like everything of value, your practice’s framework takes time to develop and customize. A potential buyer should find a written vision, organizational chart, systems notebook, and critical patient metrics at their fingertips. Numbers that keep overhead at or below targets appeal to buyers.Related reading
Nurture a team culture
Dentistry is all about relationships, and employees are your first customers. A loyal team that believes in your mission carries more value than any technology. As a leader, you’re responsible for developing a culture that gives the best people a reason to stay. In my practice, we focused on two big ideas: deliver exceptional experiences for patients and leave fulfilled as a team every day. The strength of our team created an environment that my associate told me underscored his desire to stay and own the business.
A transparent culture that values everyone’s input and ideas sets the tone for a future transition. When the time approaches, a well-defined plan that honors patients and staff helps turn a stressful experience into an opportunity for growth and excitement. A well-executed transition can lead to a brand’s next upward trajectory. But a fumbled practice changeover will see patients and teams walk away.
Design your life plan
Some dentists want to practice until they can’t anymore, and others want to explore other interests. I started planning my transition from dentistry in 2011. I found an associate and created a partnership that led to a complete sale, and at age 53 I now serve my colleagues as a coach and strategist. But my father practiced for nearly 50 years; we all have different visions.
The best exit plans involve a team of trusted advisors who help you put complex pieces together for a seamless move from practice ownership on to your next goals. Investments and savings matter, but a tax-efficient income replacement plan is best formulated several years in advance. If there’s a move in your future, some real estate purchases may make sense earlier rather than later. If you’re considering developing new career interests, working on some of them before retiring creates momentum. A trusted team helps you take wise steps at the right time.
Look ahead and imagine the possibilities
The past couple of years left many dentists reassessing their goals. Most will continue practicing, but others will adjust their career trajectory and retirement plans. Regardless of the year, young buyers or corporate entities look for well-run practices that display profit potential. By focusing on branding, organization, culture, and overall planning, you can realize the return on investment you deserve after caring for patients for many years. With a cohesive plan, the legacy you leave will ripple toward future generations.
It’s never too soon to consider your next move; life doesn’t slow down, and the future usually arrives before we’re ready. Comprehensive resources from trusted advisors can help with branding and marketing, financial planning, practice organization, and communicating change to patients and staff.
Start now and discover how much more your practice can mean after you step away. Whether you stay and care for patients part-time or leave and work through your bucket list, a transition can set the stage for the best that life has to offer.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.