Sell, buy, or move!

Jan. 1, 2004
Our dental demographics are changing quickly, with boomers nearing retirement and •3 states that now have license by credentials.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

Our dental demographics are changing quickly, with boomers nearing retirement and •3 states that now have license by credentials. Opportunities abound! The old adage of "Hang your shingle, practice, and retire in one community," is no longer the norm. The question is, are you in the right community for you? It now is possible to have a successful professional career in different areas. The average American worker changes companies every six years. Change is now a real choice for dentists.

Why would you move? Possibly you want to be closer to your aging parents, or your children all live on another coast, or you have always dreamed of teaching restorative dentistry at a dental school, or you want to "go back to rural living." Whatever the reason, you can sell and buy another practice.

Your practice should sell for about 1.5 times your net. That also means you would be purchasing a practice in a new locale that should sell for 1.5 times net. This is all a numbers game and you want the practice you are selling to be as healthy as possible. Because it is possible to change the nature of a practice in 18 months, you can prepare your practice for selling by keeping your overhead at 60 percent or under, with staff costs at 20 percent and lab costs at about 10 percent. With these numbers, you would be:

• Demonstrating a mix of treatment, rather than a highly-niched practice with only large cosmetic cases, 50 percent orthodontics, many pain patients, or not accepting any dental-insurance plans.

• Showing healthy new-patient flow, with clients not tied to PPOs or government programs or one or two specialists.

• Separating your practice from the building. If you own your building, sell it to another investor, so the dentist who buys your practice can lease the facilities and not have to purchase both a practice and a building. You want your practice to be salable!

In selecting a location for your new practice, visit your life's vision. Project where you will be in 20 years, then 30 years. Is this move a way to escape where you are now? Are you trying to run from yourself or the way you are presently practicing dentistry? Remember, when you move, you take yourself with you. You may need some counseling to get yourself happy.

In moving, keep in mind that in some parts of the country, the ratio of patients to dentists is 10,000 to one. The national average is about 2,000 people per dentist. Do you want to be busy with a wide range of services or do you envision living in a highly desirable resort community where patients are transient and possibly more selective? There are incredible opportunities available, but are they right for you?

In purchasing a practice, evaluate the community for growth, economics, and demographics of age, wealth, and health. Do people support local businesses or do they shop in the larger city once a week? Can you create a niche doing the kinds of dentistry you enjoy?

There are dental practices that attract over 50 new patients a month and do no marketing. A good choice might be to select an area for beautiful geography, climate, and lifestyle. Consider working smart for three weeks a month and then taking off the fourth week. You might choose to spend that week in your home area or vacation out of the area. I also would consider taking off one month a year.

If you do your homework right, you can create a practice where you are needed and where you are delivering excellent dentistry in an area you appreciate with the hours and a mix of treatment you enjoy. With excellent scheduling, well-designed systems, and good team skills, you can have the practice of your dreams in the location of your dreams.

Should we be discussing big moves in a short column? It doesn't take a lot of words to start your wheels spinning. Once you start thinking about the big picture, the specifics will come. As Goethe said, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

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. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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