The path to multipractice ownership Part 1: Planning

March 22, 2016
In 1950, more than 99% of dentists were solo practitioners.1

Eric Nuss, MBA

Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series on expanding your practice to multiple locations

In 1950, more than 99% of dentists were solo practitioners.1 Today, the ADA places that number closer to 60%, and trends indicate that number will continue to fall.2 While many dentists are choosing a dental service organization (DSO) or another form of "corporate dentistry," it seems many are choosing to build their own group practices. Over the next four months, we'll explore the four phases of expanding your practice to multiple locations, starting with the most critical: planning.

The planning phase includes three stages: (1) Clarifying your vision and mission, (2) drafting a business plan, and (3) developing the leadership and communication skills to implement your plan. Let's look at each of these stages more closely.

Clarifying your vision and mission

As I have heard CEO of Jameson Management Jess Webber say, "Your vision defines what you want to be when you grow up." It is something that can never truly be attained, but it creates the inspiration behind your work-your purpose or personal "why." Your vision for your business should be future-focused with clearly defined parameters of what you consider ideal. Write down your vision and share it with your team members so that they, too, can be motivated by it.

Your mission is how you want to achieve your vision. A mission can be captured in a mission statement, which clearly defines who you are and what you have set out to do. A mission statement reflects the values that are vital to your business, and it should include a summary of your core competencies and competitive differentiation. Consider what sets you apart from other dentists, why you are in business, and what value you bring to patients when you define your mission.

Drafting a business plan

A detailed business plan is critical for dentists expanding to new practice locations. More than just steps to follow, a good business plan establishes benchmarks for documenting progress toward goals.

Your business plan should be written down with all potential audiences in mind-you, your team, your investors, your supply partners, and your equity partners. As Bob Grey of the Academy of Dental CPAs has said, a dentist's business plan should include the following components: executive summary, company overview, business description, product or service, market, marketing, management team, operations plan, financials or projections, and, if appropriate, exit strategy. Wherever possible, eliminate dental terminology within your plan to improve comprehension for those outside dentistry. Include a thorough detailing of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, with an emphasis on your customers and your competitors.

Developing the leadership and communication skills to successfully implement your plan

Team leadership is often taken for granted in dental practices. As a dentist and practice owner, you are the de facto leader. However, dentists who want to achieve greater success and efficiencies within their practices must use communication and leadership skills to inspire the dental team.

Katherine Eitel, a leadership expert, has explained to me that there are six critical communication points with your team. These include vision alignment, an annual retreat, monthly team meetings, morning meetings, growth conferences, and crucial conversations. Vision alignment will help you determine if you have the right team in place. Once you do, use an annual retreat to unite or reunite your team around the vision, mission, and strategies of the practice, and to drive business growth.

Monthly team meetings should be used for updates on progress toward long-term goals, to share suggestions, and to discuss any obstacles or conflicts. Brief morning meetings keep the team on track with short-term goals. Growth conferences provide learning opportunities for the team. Crucial conversations are used for individual performance management. When combined, these communication points keep the team connected and moving forward.


1. Solomon E. Dental workforce trends and the future of dental practices. Dental Economics website. Published February 26, 2015. Accessed February 7, 2016.

2. 2010 Survey of Dental Practice: Income from the Private Practice of Dentistry. American Dental Association research brief. Page 5. Published June 2011.

Eric Nuss, MBA, leads the Business Solutions department of Henry Schein Dental. He developed and now leads the Dental Business Institute, an educational program for dentists. You can contact him at (414) 290-2542 or [email protected].

Planning for multiple practice locations is taught in greater depth at the Dental Business Institute. This program, designed for dentist-owners in the early stages of group practice development, educates, trains, and helps entrepreneurial dentist-owners to successfully lead, manage, govern, and grow dental practices of any shape or size. To learn more, visit

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