Making the jump from Associate Dentist to Dental Practice Ownership


Practice Transition

On graduating from dental school, dental surgeons are posed with the fundamental decision of whether to start their own practice or become an associate or a partner. Customarily, most dentists work as an associate for a  few years before transitioning to practice ownership. Being an associate is more of a stepping stone for gaining experience, honing your skills, and obtaining financing in order to reach professional and financial independence but the ultimate goal for most is owning a practice.

However, the pandemic situation has created a dilemma amongst associates and a pervasive feeling is prevailing within the dental community about the uncertainty of the economic outlook for making a jump to practice ownership.  So even though practice ownership is the natural progression for long-term growth, it is vital to first analyse all the possibilities and potential pitfalls involved before moving on to becoming a practice owner.  

Associate vs Ownership

Being new in the profession, it is always wise to begin as an associate as not only is it an incredible learning opportunity but it also provides a lot of liberty to just focus on practicing dentistry and developing relationships with  patients without worrying about managing the business.

However, most associates will agree  that while you are in charge of the hand-piece and performing the procedure, you may not always have a say in the treatment planning and have to play by the rules of the office. Sometimes, an associate is not free to make even trivial decisions like which cement or impression material to use.

Benefits of Ownership

Every clinician who is in this field likes to practice on their own terms. When you have your own practice, you have a better opportunity to do so. Since you have better control over the quality of care you’re providing, practice environment, operations and customer service, you can properly build a practice that you have always dreamt of. This freedom empowers you to reach your full production and financial potential, beyond what you could have achieved being an associate. You can choose to equip your practice with cutting-edge technology or the highest quality of dental materials that you couldn’t have done as an associate. There are no limits to what you can achieve in order to build your dream practice.

It has also been noticed that associates generally succeed on becoming a practice owner. This can be attributed to the initial energy and enthusiasm reflected as due diligence in providing the highest standard of patient care. This translates to increased revenue and a good reputation with patients.

When planning to transition towards practice ownership there can be 2 ways in which this can be accomplished:

Practice Acquisition

You can choose to acquire an already running or flourishing establishment instead of building a practice from scratch. This not only furnishes you with an established patient base and income flow but also saves you the hassle of marketing. However, it is important to remember that when you acquire a practice you inherit the good and bad both of the existing practice which may be faulty equipment, insufficient infrastructure, inefficient staff, etc. You have to be ready to deal with these.

Practice Start-up

Building your own practice from zero gives the ultimate control over everything from the infrastructure to employees. You are completely engaged in the creative process of planning every detail of your dream practice.  However, this is time-consuming, capital intensive and involves a lot of planning, prior market research, analysis of locality, building a financial profile for obtaining a loan and CQC approval. You must be mentally prepared for a tremendous amount of hard work, patience, and perseverance.

Building a successful practice

Practice ownership is a lot more than just great clinical and professional skills as you need to perform beyond that to manage your business efficiently. Building a practice not only involves creating the dental practice and equipping it but also recruiting the perfect team and developing a strong marketing plan for attracting and retaining patients. Just like any entrepreneurship or business, administration of your practice involves efficient management of cash flow, employee efficiency, and great customer service, among other things. For this strong leadership ability and effective communication enable you to influence and convert patients, motivate your employees, and create a cohesive practice. But you need not panic, these skills are acquired with time and honed with experience. You can receive first-hand experience in picking up these business skills while being an associate. Additionally, it is paramount to have high-emotional intelligence to handle emotions in the face of any adversity and use your people skills to get through difficult situations in your practice.

It is imperative to have a good network within the dental fraternity as this will immensely help you in your practice especially when you need help. So start using your networking skills to build a good rapport and relationship with your colleagues, co-workers, staff, technicians, labs, and others, while you are an associate dentist.

Remember that everyone who starts is a beginner and doesn’t know it all. So you must essentially reach out to experienced people in the dental community for advice and professionals who can guide you like lenders, lawyers, consultants, accountants, practice management experts, etc. They can assist you in various aspects of your transition and impart you with valuable inputs that would help your practice in the future.

Final words

This is an exciting time to be in the dental profession as we are witnessing the metamorphosis of dentistry with the advent of new technologies every day, helping us practice in a more predictable, faster, easier way and with more precision, making it, most importantly -making it more enjoyable. There is a myriad of options to choose from and a multitude of opportunities at your disposal to create a practice that you envisioned. So do not let the fear of the unknown hold you back and take the first step towards building your dream practice already. Talk to experts so that you can confidently stride into the realm of your own practice. 

For Associate Dentists looking to buy a practice there will be many challenges to overcome. To ensure that the right choices are made at every stage you need to be able to rely on a dental practice brokerage and team of solicitors with a comprehensive knowledge of the dental sector, as well as a firm that is commercially minded.  

For a firm that will support you every step of the way, you need to look no further than Goodman Grant.  As one of the largest dental specialist teams in the country, we will ensure you will be in safe hands!

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