From dental student to private practice owner: What you must master to succeed

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The Journey of a Dental Student turned Business Owner

Becoming a dentist requires years of intense education and training, but those years in the classroom and in pre-clinics only prepare you for so much. The business side of dentistry is often overlooked, yet it is an essential part of being a successful dentist. The memory of experienced faculty chuckling as they mentioned that the clinical aspect; all consuming as a student would be the easiest part of the profession reverberate in our brains. Shortly after I was a dental associate, I decided to take a leap of faith and purchase my own dental office. This decision taught me many valuable lessons and allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. In this blog post, I’ll share my journey and what I learned along the way.


Starting Out

When I first decided to purchase my own dental office, I was excited. There are numerous factors one must consider when purchasing a practice, such as location and patient demographic. I spent months researching and scouring for any available practices in the area I wanted to work in. This was a difficult and tedious processes to keep up with numerous agencies. As a new dentist I also faced some obstacles I never expected. I remember sitting through a banks practice loan conference call it “lunch-and-cram for the next quiz” and hearing that of all businesses currently dentist have one of the lowest defaults on borrowing. I figured that would make it a no brainer for banks to assist in the purchase of an eager dentist’s new to them office. However, as I prepared to purchase the office, I was met with some challenges. One of the biggest challenges was securing financing. I reached out to financial institutions and presented a sound business case however realized quickly that they required commonly 1-2 years of consistent job experience to ensure you could perform well. While understandable this was a setback to my plans. This required creative financing to workaround as the practices I wished to purchase had no interest in a purchaser without money. With persistence I found one dentist who would offer a partial seller financing until I hit the banks required timeline and metrics. The office was in the geographic area I had been searching for and that was all the opportunity I needed, only after did I realize that was just the easy part.


Learning on the Job

While dental school certainly taught me the technical aspects of dentistry, owning my own practice force-fed me the business side of things. Running a practice involves everything from billing and insurance to marketing and managing employees. I quickly learned how to juggle all of these responsibilities. The core principles of running a business in acquiring patients, making an amazing experience, planning and executing great treatment plans and ultimately creating a culture via your leadership that makes an enjoyable office were more effort that I realized. This is where you must grow the most or sink into failure.

Perhaps one of the most essential lessons I learned was that relationships matter. Building strong relationships with patients is the backbone of a successful dental practice. Patients come to me because they trust me and my work, and that trust is the foundation for a long-lasting relationship. When patients feel valued and cared for, they will continue to come back. This also means that maintaining relationships with my team is equally important. Happy staff members create a happy work environment. Creating an amazing environment leads to better reviews and public viewership leading to more new patients.


Building a Team

Speaking of the team, I quickly learned the importance of having a strong team. Strong individuals build great teams. One of the hardest moments is letting-go of a team member. I heard from one of my mentors saying “success can be judged by the number of uncomfortable conversations you have” That never felt more true after releasing someone from the team. Doing so by basing your decisions on core values makes it easer, but you never forget that feeling. Once I moved past the early stages of ownership, I began to slow down and focus on finding the right people to join my practice team. I placed an emphasis on finding staff members who shared my values and shared a genuine interest in giving patients top-notch care. Training new employees is easier when they share a passion for the work and the care they provide.


The Rewards of Ownership

It goes without saying that owning your own dental practice is hard work. However, the rewards of ownership are worth it. Being your own boss allows for flexibility, creativity, and independence. There are benefits financially in a greater income percentage, the ability to deduct business expenses and the biggest one was in building equity in my practice. I find great satisfaction in knowing that I have built something from the ground up. There is a tremendous level of pride and satisfaction one feels in owning a business. It is challenging, but the reward is more than worth it.

Owning a dental practice has been an incredible journey. There have been ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being a dental student gave me the technical skills, clinical expertise and the passion to care for patients, but owning my dental practice gave me a new set of skills and taught me a great deal about entrepreneurship, business management, and leadership. Not only do I now have a successful practice, but I also have a skill set to help me continue to grow. To any dentist contemplating whether to take the leap of faith into ownership, it is a challenging but rewarding experience that I highly recommend. PracticeLister makes the ability to sort and find dental private practice offices easier than ever. You’ll be miles ahead of me, forget trying to keep track of, and in touch with 6-20 brokers constantly in search of the right office. Everything you need is at your fingertips, all you need is the time and courage to choose which one is right and get ready for the ride of your life.