Practice purchases and mergers

Feb. 1, 2006
Dr. Chris Mueller looks too young to be producing $1 million.

Dr. Chris Mueller looks too young to be producing $1 million. He’s only 33 years old and four years out of dental school. While he is smart and personable, he is definitely not slick. The most important thing in Chris’ life is family. Today, he has successfully combined two practices, overcome numerous obstacles, and reached a healthy balance between office and home.

“I still have moments when I’m not 100 percent sure I’ll be successful,” Chris says. “I purchased a practice that produced $250,000, and chose it over another practice that produced $600,000. My decision was based on personal meditation and was against logic. Starting out was very intimidating and success was far from assured. I couldn’t even get a bank loan, and I had to ask my father to loan me the $180K purchase price.

“In 2003, with the coaching of Dr. Bill Blatchford, the practice collected $433,000 on $480,000 in production, and I felt we had reached a comfortable level,” he continued. “But the dentist across the street passed away unexpectedly, and life became complicated again. I was absolutely sure I didn’t want anything to do with his practice and I tried to convince a friend of mine to purchase it. Weeks passed and Dr. Blatchford heard about the practice across the street and saw it as a possibility for me. But I wondered how I, a relative rookie, could handle the patient load of two mature dentists. It seemed overwhelming, with staff issues, office moves, paperwork headaches, and more.”

After extensive consultation with me, Chris put his hat in the ring. The daughter of the deceased doctor felt Dr. Mueller was the one her father would have wanted to take over his practice, which had collected $450,000 in 2003. The selling price was $260,000 for the practice and $250,000 for the building. Dr. Mueller’s goal was to bring his production up to $600,000.

The challenges Dr. Mueller faced owning a second practice included:

The deceased dentist’s wife was the office manager and ran the business on a pegboard system.

Chris thought busy equaled profitable. He treated patients as though he’d get the money someday, and he chose to stay busy. He feels he should have had a staff meeting, gone home early, or just read a book.

Chris didn’t have a clue what the receptionist at the second office was doing and assumed she was doing what he envisioned. He was too busy to actually check. He should have had weekly meetings to discuss the numbers from the start.

He tried to save pennies on supplies.

His staffs were less than enthusiastic about joining together and making changes. “At the first staff seminar, the groups began forming ‘camps’ and teamed up on me. It wasn’t long before many quit or were shown the door,” he said.

On the other hand, Dr. Mueller’s practice highlights were purchasing his first practice, purchasing the second practice, and eventually acquiring a staff that supported his vision and was loyal to him while implementing techniques he learned from Blatchford coaching.

“Getting a group around me who respects me as a dentist and a person and really sees my vision of what we stand for and where we are going has by far been the hardest part,” he says. His staff is motivated by the Blatchford bonus system. The first one was about $200.The first bonus more than $1,000 really got them moving! Dr. Mueller is amazed and impressed with his staff members, who even want to come in on their day off for team meetings so as not to lower the bonus potential.

In 2004, Dr. Mueller and his newly reorganized team collected $797,000. In the first six months of 2005, his production/collection was marching towards a $1.2 million finish for the year. His team consists of three full-time people and one part-time person. Overhead is 51 percent. His practices attracted 30 new patients a month and his staff worked 180 days. In his first practice, a crown was $796. It is currently $850 plus $175 for a buildup.

“When we are playing our ‘A’ game, the days flow quickly, and all of a sudden it is 5 p.m.,” Dr. Mueller says. “We’re happy, our dinner conversation is not about work, we feel good about the services we provide, and our patients are happy. We look forward to going to work each day. The best business decision I made was buying the second practice and asking Dr. Blatchford to help me manage it. I never thought I would be this successful this young.”

Dr. Bill Blatchford’s Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with more than 1,100 offices, he focuses on leadership, systems, case-presentation skills, communication, and profitability. The program involves maximum personal time with the coach and interaction with other doctors. This is an excerpt from his new book, “Playing Your ‘A’ Game - Inspirational Coaching to Profitability.” Contact him at (800) 578-9155, or visit his Web site at

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