Let’s Talk: Daydreaming about private practice ownership?

By: Treloar & Heisel — 

In this edition of Let’s Talk, Christian Pearson, national director of dental partnerships at Treloar & Heisel, Inc., continues the conversation with Stephen Trutter, director of consulting and partner at Ideal Practices, a national consulting firm focused on the needs of private practice dentistry.

Christian: Students worry about practice ownership, even when the reality of owning a practice is far off in the distance. What advice do you have for these students and newly minted associates?

Stephen: The path for ownership and private practice ownership is open and thriving in this industry, provided one follows the right sequence of steps to get there. A lot of times students get caught up in the logistics of opening a practice without thinking about the process of building a practice. What I mean is anyone can set up a few chairs and open their doors, but that’s not the same as having a thriving practice. If a proper process is put into place in the creation of a business, then they will get results. You can’t just focus on “how do I produce ‘X’ millions of dollars in my practice?” You have to dig into what it is that defines a seven-figure producing practice, and that starts with having a vision. Then you need to work backward from there to figure out step by step how to get to the end goal. None of the great practices out there were built by accident: Their success was intentional and planned.

So students will need to write out their vision and objectives as a starting point, and I presume then they need to find the right people to help them. But what can an aspiring practice owner do today to plan for taking the leap?

You’re absolutely right about getting the right people to help you with translating your vision into reality. Aside from that, there are things that a young dentist can do now to help prepare for that transition.

One of the most important things an aspiring practice owner can do is know what they want, which you can figure out by paying attention to your current environment. If you’re working as an associate in an existing dental practice, pay attention to the details. Think to yourself, “When I own my own practice, I want it to be like this…” or “When I own my own practice, things won’t be this way.”

As an associate, you don’t need to worry about how to design a protocol or process, you just need to know how you want your patients to experience your practice. It starts with making an inventory of things you like and want to have in your practice, and things you absolutely do not want and won’t have in your practice.

This sounds so simple and is yet so powerful. What about students who are still in school?What can they do?

When you graduate, plan to try out as many different work environments as you can. Get into a corporate model and see what that’s like. Get into private practice, and see what that’s like. If you go into Medicaid, that’s a totally different environment versus PPO or fee-for-service, but experience these different models so you can formulate what you would like to have.

In our experience, people go into private practice for control and freedom. Dentists want to direct how their practice is run, how their patients are treated, how their team is managed and led. And they also want to have their freedom. The biggest complaint I hear from associates is that they have little autonomy.

To determine what’s right for you, you will need to put in your time as an associate in a variety of work environments. Then you will understand the pros and cons of private practice ownership, of corporate settings and other business models.

You get to decide what you want. And, ultimately, not everybody is made out to own their own business. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just the way it is. So, this decision will take looking into the mirror. Ask yourself: Who am I, and what would make me most fulfilled as a practicing dentist?

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