Add another practice

April 1, 2003
As the marketplace changes, the best marketing opportunity may be near your front door. Be ready to purchase a practice to add to your existing practice.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

As the marketplace changes, the best marketing opportunity may be near your front door. Be ready to purchase a practice to add to your existing practice.

In the past booming economy, some dentists prepared for retirement to "manage their portfolio." With the now-weakened economy, the exit opportunities have changed and some dentists are talking again about practicing another 10 years. Could these changing economic times actually become the best 10 years of all? What factors can make success happen?

Current dental demographics indicate a real change is occurring in the value of practices. Dentists are hopeful, as in the "days of yore," that their practices will be a major part of their retirement package. This probably won't be the case, because the dentists nearing retirement today were part of a federal program to solve a dental shortage. Dental schools accepted federal money to double the size of their classes in the 1970s. So, we have the actual pig in the python of those boomer dentists.

On the buyer end, we have fewer dental schools with fewer graduates. Fifty percent of graduating classes are now women who balance family and a professional life. Associateships and the opportunity to work part time abound. Thus, sellers outnumber buyers, and the purchase price diminishes. The lesson here is to not count on your practice value as an important part of your retirement package.

In many areas, retiring doctors cannot find a buyer. What an opportunity for existing dentists who are crying for new patients, have systems in place, and skills ready to deliver. The value is a sure number of "new-to-you" patients who already value their dental health, even if their work does not meet your standard. This excitement, energy, and a great potential influx of new stories and personalities will keep you in the game for another 10 years.

Even the "retire-as-you-go" dentists may consider purchasing additional practices, not to become larger, but to acquire new faces who will provide them with the opportunity to do more treatment.

Continue to market and brand yourself as the best. With organized systems in place, clearly defined leadership, enthusiastic communication, and a skilled staff, your new patients will stay. Maximize your marketing dollar by mastering your presentation skills.

Adding an additional practice to your existing practice is an excellent marketing path for an organized dentist. A good practice could become available in your area for reasons other than illness or retirement. With licensure by credentials in most states, dentists are much more mobile than they used to be.

Be wise in structuring the purchase or sale to take advantage of tax savings. In any decision, there are pitfalls to avoid. Here are some of them:

* Not believing there could be a practice-purchase opportunity in your area and, therefore, not being ready for it or even hearing about it.

* Seller not savvy or prepared for sale. Then, you don't know the questions to ask and or what documents are necessary to make a wise decision.

* Purchaser not seeing the big picture — i.e., being disappointed with office décor and equipment and not seeing the patient potential.

* Allowing the selling doctor to pick and choose the dentistry he or she does for an unlimited amount of time, by falsely thinking there is enough work for two.

* Purchaser failing to complement existing dentist on having a solid practice and reassuring selling doctor that his patients will receive equally good care.

* Purchaser prejudging the treatment potential, up or down.

* Purchaser discovering the practice is primarily welfare and PPO patients.

* Purchaser not asking for gross/ net verification of monitors, p&l, statement, and tax returns.

* Purchaser being afraid to make a decision because of the unknown.

By maximizing the marketing opportunity of adding a new practice to your existing practice, you can create a more meaningful practice situation for another 10 years.

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with over 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case presentation skills, communication and profitability are emphasized. Dr. Blatchford is speaking at Genr8tnext in Miami, Discus Dental in Las Vegas, and Ross Nash's Extravaganza in Williamsburg July 31 to Aug 3. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at www.blatchford.com.

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