Prepare to Buy a Dental Practice for Sale: First Steps

At ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition specialists who focus on matching the right buyer for doctors who have placed a dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico. We believe that the right match is important because a successful practice transition is one where the practice continues to thrive, protecting the legacy of the selling doctor and providing the buying doctor with a solid foundation on which to build their own legacy. Because of this, we believe it is important for the buyers in the practice transitions we facilitate to be well prepared and well informed, with everything they need to have confidence in both the practice they are buying and the fairness of the transaction. 

To this end, we will be posting a short series of articles about how to best be prepared to purchase a dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico. In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the first steps of the dental practice transition process, from the buyers point of view, and some general principles to keep in mind. 

Assemble a Team of Advisors

After you have decided the time is right for you to buy a dental practice, and have an idea of where you would like that practice to be, you should identify and retain a small group of trusted advisors to counsel you through the process. This should include, at least, a dental CPA, a dental attorney, and a banker with experience lending for dental practice purchases. You may also want your own dental practice broker.

You may wonder why you can’t use your family member who is a respected attorney or a friend who is a CPA. While these types of contacts may be great for general purposes, you need advisors who understand the particulars of dental practices and the accounting and legal issues that are unique to your industry. You don’t want something important overlooked because your CPA didn’t recognize its significance. And you don’t want to pay an attorney’s hourly rate while they get themselves up to speed on an issue. You’ll save money and time by retaining specialists with experience.

Before you get anything but the most cursory information about a dental practice for sale, you will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement will protect your personal and financial information, as well as the selling doctor’s, and will protect the dental practice from staff and patient concerns if knowledge of a transition is leaked too soon. It’s a good idea to have your own dental broker or attorney to help you review and understand the agreement.

Have a Realistic Idea of What You Can Afford (and Need the Practice to Earn)

In 2018, the average dental student graduated with over $285,000 of student loan debt. When you are buying a dental practice, you have to consider both what you can afford to buy and what you are going to need to earn to cover the practice’s expenses, pay off the practice loan, keep paying on your student loans, and still have enough for your personal expenses and savings.

Depending on the practice, you may need some operating capital to keep things going in the early days after the transition. You may also need to compensate the selling dentist if you both agree it will be mutually advantageous to keep the doctor on for a period. A dental CPA and a dental practice broker can help you better understand how to look at a dental practice for sale and see its potential—or its problems. A banker with dental practice experience can also discuss with you how much you might expect to be lent for the practices you are considering.

Know the Value of the Existing Dental Practice Staff

When you are buying a dental practice, you are also getting the existing employees: hygienists, billing staff, receptions, etc. Although you will be the doctor, they are the ones that really know the patients and how the practice runs. Their institutional knowledge will be invaluable to you, both during and after the transition, to keep the operation running smoothly and help the patients feel comfortable with you, the new doctor. It is imperative to show them respect to help the transition be as smooth as possible. It’s a big change for them as well!

See It for Yourself

Every dental practice is different. You won’t really know what the practice is like until you can experience it in person. You also will want to look closely at details indicating the health of the practice: how many patients have visited the office over the past 18 months, whether the practice is appropriately staffed, patient flow, and cash flow. Those last two items, in particular, can show you whether a practice is growing, stable or shrinking. If the practice is underperforming, there may be some untapped opportunities for growth.

Look Closely at the Practice’s Financials

The asking price may not reflect the actual value. Many people tend to overvalue their assets because of their emotional attachment to them. Dentists are no different. The price of a dental dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico should be a reflection of its value based on sound accounting and valuation methods, not a reflection of what a doctor has put into the practice. Have your team of trusted advisors review the financial information with you to help you understand what it really says about the practice and whether its in line with what a business of its type should be doing.

Understand What Is and Isn’t Part of the Deal

If a selling doctor is asking $750,000 for a practice, you need to understand what you get for that amount. That may not include the equipment. It probably won’t include the accounts receivable. If the doctor owns the building, and you want the building as part of the deal, that can be a separate transaction and will definitely be a cost in addition to the practice sale price. If you have to purchase a lease, that will also have to be negotiated.

The selling price is a good place to start, though. If you and the selling doctor can reach an agreement on the sale price, usually negotiations on the other aspects will be smoother as both parties are motivated to complete the deal.

Be Wary of Owner Financing

Simply stated, a bank is more objective. Banks certainly have an interest in the money they lend—they want it back with a return on that investment. But this means they will perform a thorough due diligence relying on independently verifiable information. In a seller-financed deal, the seller is less likely to have a third-party valuation of the practice and asking price. They are likely looking to finance their retirement out of the sale and want to capture the interest as well as the principle. This can result in them trying to get a certain number rather than the true value of the practice. 

Consider the Value of the Seller Staying On After the Transition

It is common for the selling doctor to remain working in the practice for a period after the transition. This can be useful for helping to ease the transition for the patients, the staff, and the new doctor. It can be an attractive option for a doctor who is not ready to fully retire but wants to be rid of the business responsibilities and just focus on patient care, perhaps with reduced hours, before fully stepping away. Occasionally, however, it can indicate a seller who wants to have their cake and eat it too: sell the practice but not really have to give it up. Discuss this with your advisors. But be wary of a doctor who is proposing a period in terms of years, rather than weeks or a few months.

We Have Available Dental Practices for Sale in Texas and New Mexico

As stated, as ddsmatch Southwest, we focus on finding the right buyer for dental practices we have available for sale in Texas and New Mexico. If you are ready to make your move into practice ownership, check out our listings. If you see any your are interested in, or have any questions, please contact us— it starts with a conversation.

Should I Sell My Accounts Receivable when Selling a Dental Practice?

When selling a dental practice, there are a lot of things to consider and details to manage. Among those are how to value your practice. However, one thing that is generally not factored into the selling price is the accounts receivables. Accounts receivable are the amounts owed by patients who have been provided service but either they or their insurance (or some combination of the two) have not yet remitted payment. Accounts receivable are generally handled as a separate item as a transitioning dentist may or may not want to make them part of the deal.

Similarly, when buying a dental practice, the buyer might not want to buy the accounts receivable because they can impose an unwanted administrative burden and cost. Typically, however, it may be to the advantage of a buyer to try and get them. They are usually sold at a discounted rate (for reasons explained below) and can provide a source of operating capital from day one as opposed to borrowing additional funds from a bank.

In this article we’ll discuss the three basic options you have when and the advantages and drawbacks of each. Whether you ultimately decide to sell or not sell your accounts receivable will depend largely on the particulars of your practice and, importantly, the counsel of your financial adviser and dental practice transition specialist.

Sell the Accounts Receivable

If you include the accounts receivable when selling a dental practice, you are doing two things. First, you are releasing any claim you have on payment for work you did prior to the sale. It now belongs to the buyer. Second, you are also getting rid of the responsibility of trying to collect those outstanding payments. Under this scenario, you get to walk away with no further responsibility with regard to the accounts (except having to possibly endorse some checks over to the buyer).

As mentioned, this can be advantageous for the buyer who can use the funds as operating capital. If your buyer has reached the limit of their borrowing capacity, this can be a good way for them to make sure they have funds to keep the practice operating in those early days after the dental practice transition. If they need the accounts receivable for this reason, it may also be to your advantage to sell them, to ensure that the sale closes.

And while you will receive some compensation for the sale of the accounts, it will not reflect their full face value. This is for two reasons. First, simply stated, an agreement by a patient or insurance company to pay for your services is not the same as cash in hand. There will always be risk involved in collecting payment and this risk is reflected in the discounted rate. If you use dental accounting software, you probably know that it groups your accounts receivable into different categories, 0-30 days outstanding, 31-days days, 61-90 days, and so on. The longer the account is outstanding, the less likely you are to collect, and the more expensive it will be to do so. So a buyer may offer 85% for accounts that are due in 30 days or less, 75% for 31-60 days, 50% for 61-90 days, and so on.

The second reason, acknowledged above, is that there are costs involved with collections, costs which increase with each billing cycle. This will be discussed in more detail below.

Don’t Sell the Accounts Receivable and Have the Buyer Collect Them

If, when selling a dental practice, you and the buyer choose to not make accounts receivable part of the overall deal, you still have to have someone collect on those accounts. Basically, this can be either you or the buyer. Administratively, this is a more complicated option, but it means you get to keep the payment for the work you actually did.

Two things have to be considered. One, how the buyer will keep your accounts separate, making sure you get the funds that belong to you. The administrative staff will have to keep track of your accounts and the new doctor’s accounts separately. This will become increasingly complex for patients with ongoing treatment that you started and that the buyer is completing.

Second, when buying a dental practice, the buyer may not relish the idea of running a collection and accounting office for a retired doctor. The new doctor will be incurring the costs of collections and will rightly expect you to compensate the practice for this work out of the money being collected. Some of the expenses (in terms of either employee time or actual money spent) may include: electronic statements or paper statements, electronic claims (or in rare cases manual insurance claims), postage, labor, phone calls, secondary insurance submission, and communication time with patients or account holders. These costs can take between 5-12% of the revenue being collected, with an additional 5% convenience fee (that is, you are paying for your convenience and the practice’s inconvenience), and an uncollectable debt percentage of 3%. Therefore, you could reasonably expect about 83-85% of the money that is actually collected.

Whether this is more advantageous than simply selling the accounts receivable along with the dental practice will depend on how much you have outstanding, how long its been outstanding, and who is obligated to pay (insurance companies likely being more reliable than individual patients).

Keep the Accounts Receivable and the Responsibility for Collecting

Under this option, your only costs are your own and you get to keep everything that ultimately gets paid out, less whatever administrative costs you incur. This option is really only best in circumstances where you have a minimal amount of accounts receivable and from sources that are likely to pay.

Resources are also a factor. You may be able to do it all yourself. You may also be better off just paying your (former) administrative staff to work on the project on their own time. It is also most easily done in circumstances where the person selling a dental practice is staying on in the practice for a period of time after the dental practice transition.

Get Expert Advice on Selling a Dental Practice 

A big takeaway you should get from this article is that there are a lot of factors particular to your dental practice that will determine whether selling the accounts receivable is the smart move. For help in navigating this decision, you should rely on expert advisors with experience in dental practice transitions who can help you identify and weigh your options. 

Here are ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition specialists with experience in hundreds of successful practice transitions from across the country. We find out what your goals are for your transition and bring that experience to bear to help you meet those goals. If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment, including advice on how best to prepare your practice. It all starts with a conversation. Give us a call today and find out what we can do to help you. 

Dental Practice in Rural Areas: Better for You and Your Bottom Line

Typically, the plan for a recent dental school graduate is to practice in a suburban area around an urban city. A dental practice in a rural area is seen as less appealing. However, what young doctors are finding out is that these areas are already at or over capacity for dental practices and doctors. This means more competition for jobs and patients, lower salaries, and limited opportunity for growth. More often, practices are resorting to extended and weekend hours to try and capture more patients. Costs of living are higher. Participating in PPO plans may be necessary if the competition is doing it (especially when considering student loan debt, practice loan debt, and overhead and personal expenses).  So while the urban area may appear to offer more in terms of lifestyle, dentists practicing in these areas may not be able to enjoy those supposed benefits as they imagined they would.

Below we discuss some of the advantages of dental practices in rural areas. But don’t just take our word for it, read what a recent satisfied ddsmatch Southwest client has to say about his career in a Texas small town.

Dental Practice in Rural Areas Provide More Economic Opportunities

While high-density areas leave dentists scrambling for jobs and patients, and established dentists may have deferred retirement due to economic conditions, dentists in small towns are experiencing the opposite. Most small town dentists are doing quite well because they don’t have the same kind of competition. In fact, many rural areas are underserved, making patient demand for dental services high in comparison to urban areas. 

Dr. Bill Dean, recently used ddsmatch Southwest’s dental practice transition specialists to help him sell his practice. In a recent interview about his practice transition, he noted this benefit of small town dentistry,

“We’re a town of about 3,500 people, but we’re about 50 miles from Lubbock. It’s the nearest town, large town. And, I have a drawing area of probably 20,000 patients and coming from three or four different counties that don’t have dentists, and it’s hard for young dentists coming up to realize that they can come to a real community and have an instant practice when they start out.”

“Particularly if they’re buying a practice. There’s a ready-made client base that they can go to work from day one and be busy. They don’t have to try to develop a clientele, and they get to know their patients and the patients . . . Once they’ve won a patient over they will tell all their friends, and it just is an ongoing process of good people.”

Small Town Overhead with Urban-Level Fees

Fees charged by dental practices in rural areas are comparable to those charged in suburban and urban areas. But the overhead is much lower. A small town practice typically has its overhead expenses in the 50-55% range. Two major factors are lower wages and lower real estate or lease costs. Combined with less competition (meaning you save in your marketing costs as well), this means higher profits for your practice, and more money in your pocket. The faster you can accumulate wealth, the sooner you can retire, and the easier it will be to do on your own terms.

Dr. Dean also addresses the belief that being in a small town might make you feel isolated. To the contrary, given the realities of transit in sprawling urban areas, his access to larger city amenities wasn’t an issue, and the increased opportunities to earn and own a practice are accelerated by the built-in clientele and lower overhead:

“Lubbock is a town of about 200-and-something-thousand people, Texas Tech University is there, and they’ve got everything you could want. It’s 45 minutes away. If you’re living in Houston you may drive an hour to go eat somewhere and if you’re living in Floydada, you could be anywhere in Lubbock within an hour, and you’ve got anything you want. You got a major airport that’ll get you where you want to go, and, as I said, you’ve got an instant practice the day you open up your doors and in a large city you have to work to get people to come in. Or, go in as an associate and work for five years before you can actually become a partner.”

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Because many rural areas are underserved, some state agencies have established loan forgiveness programs based on the number of years a doctor practices in one of the underserved areas. So, in addition to earning more, you can also work to reduce your debt faster than otherwise, accelerating your savings. Some of the programs may require participating in Medicaid. Visit ADA.org for more information.

Small Town Life Style

Many dentists who do practice in more densely populated areas grow tired of the tough economics of urban life, the competition, and the stress. These are factors that are intrinsic to city life. We’ve discussed above how a dental practice in rural areas can increase your income. It can also greatly decrease your stress while increasing job satisfaction. 

The slower pace of life allows to you both be more flexible in your schedule and to get to know your patients better. Creating a personal bond who those to whom you provide care adds an additional dynamic to your work day that can make it more enjoyable, and less of a chore. You also will have more time to enjoy the things that make life worth living, like friends and family, and hobbies and recreation. The ability for better life balance will reduce the likelihood of burnout.

Additionally, you can enjoy the esteem of your community. A dentist is a valued member of the community, providing a valuable service. You can be seen as a respected professional whose advice is valued. Diagnosis and treatment plans are more readily accepted by patients who know and trust you. 

Dr. Dean confirms these benefits. Speaking of the doctor who bought his practice, Dr. Dean noted that he was looking specifically for 

“[s]omeone that would be a part of the community, that was more than just drilling and filling and seeing patients. And, [Dr. Shively, the buyer, has] been with a corporate firm in Lubbock for the last six months and it wasn’t a matter of getting to know the patients, it was a matter of production, and Dr. Shively didn’t like that, didn’t want that. He wanted to be a part of the community. . . .

“He said when he came out there was little league baseball playing, and he said that’s what he’s looking for, and, you know, that’s what I’ve had for the last 27 years. We’ve known for two months . . . that Dr. Shively was taking over, and that I would be leaving. And, the last two months with patients have the most humbling and rewarding of my entire career. The patients just saying, ‘we appreciate you and love you,’ and that’s what dentistry’s all about. It’s getting to know people. . . . 

“Probably half of my patients call me Dr. D., the other half call me Bill, because I go to church with them, or I’m on the school board. I’m just one of them. Particularly for these that, like the Davidsons, where I see their kids and grandkids and great grandkids, they’re really more family than they are patients. And that’s the beauty of working in a small town. When you leave the office you may see them at the grocery store, you’re going to see them at the football game, or the basketball game.”

ddsmatch Southwest Has Rural Practices Available Now

The dental practice transition specialists at ddsmatch Southwest have dental practices in rural areas in Texas and New Mexico ready for buyers. If you are looking to start your career, or are looking for a change of pace where you can own your own practice and enjoy the benefits of that ownership, take a look at our available practices

If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment during which we’ll our experience to work for you, advising on how best to build value and get ready to transition on your terms. Contact us today.

Ten Years of Success in Assisting Doctors with Dental Offices for Sale

2019 marks ten years of ddsmatch providing expert dental transition services. Over that time, we have helped hundreds of doctors all across the country achieve their dental practice transition goals. With each successful dental practice transition, we only get better at providing the kind of care and service ddsmatch has come to be known for as we bring that experience to bear for each new client. Your transition goals are our transition goals and we are never satisfied unless our clients are also. If you are thinking of putting your dental office for sale, you can’t do better than with a ddsmatch dental practice transition specialist.

About ddsmatch

In 2009, our founder, Thad Miller, had a vision of a better way for doctors to transition their dental practices by combining technological advances with the human touch to find the right match for your practice, both on a professional and personal level, to better serve your patients, your staff, and give you the peace of mind that they were being provided for. Each of our dental practice transition specialists, and the outside professionals we refer (such as attorneys and accountants), serve our clients at the highest level.

Our specialty is in connecting those putting a dental office for sale with the right buyer by using a process we call “The Trusted Transition Process,” which focuses on integrating relationship capabilities, supported by our technical platforms, and advise based on our extensive professional expertise.

We can assist you with: 

  • Practice sales
  • Practice mergers
  • Dental partnership agreements
  • Associate placements
  • Dental office appraisals
  • Dental Real Estate sales

We are able to achieve a high level of results with our specialized tools, including:

  • The Trusted Transition Process
  • An in-depth clinical practice analysis created by Dr. Charles Blair & Associates PracticeBooster®
  • Fair, dependable third-party business valuations and practice appraisals supported by accredited professionals
  • An interactive website that allows you to search for a practice buyer or partner for your practice
  • Kolbe testing to better assess the nuances of potential matches between dentists and their associates

About the Trusted Transition Process

The key to our Trusted Transition Process is what we refer to as the Conceptual Transition Experience. This begins with a comprehensive interview with, you, the doctor wanting to put a dental office for sale, in order to determine your financial goals and personal requirements about what kind of match you are seeking to take over your practice, attend to your patients, and work with your staff. We understand that these personal relationships have developed over time and are important considerations—a dental practice transition is not just a financial transaction, it’s also about protecting your legacy.

We work directly with you to set your objectives, identify your transition (based on your individual circumstances), and create a plan to meet your objectives. At every point, you are always in control of the process.

About the Trusted Valuation Analysis

Our appraisal process is designed to determine the most accurate fair market value of your dental office for sale. The analysis is based on the financial and other information you provide about your dental practice, along with the economic conditions of your local market and how those relate to your practice and the dental industry overall. One aspect unique to ddsmatch is that we only rely on Certified Valuation Analysts at Blue & Company to provide the most comprehensive appraisal of your practice. These analysts are all CPAs, specifically trained to evaluate business with a specialization in medical and dental practices. This means you are getting the most industry-specific appraisal possible.

Blue & Company has over 40 years experience in providing business valuations. Their staff are recognized for their skill and are regularly retained as valuation experts in both business transactions and litigation, and are certified as valuation analysts (CVA) and accredited senior appraisers (ASA). They are also business valuation members of the American Society of Appraisers and have specialty designations for business valuators (ABV).

This means the appraisal of your dental practice for sale will be fair, based in fact, and detailed with information on the scope of work performed, how the calculations were completed, and the calculated value. Additionally, our team will provide on-site inventory and valuation of your equipment, and, if necessary, we can arrange for a real estate appraisal though our professional partnerships.

Our aim is to provide you with a fair market evaluation of your dental practice that is both realistic and as thorough as can be, based on the experience and knowledge of trusted and qualified professionals.

About our Clinical Opportunity Blueprint

The more information you have, the better positioned you are to make good decisions that further your dental practice transition goals. As stated above, your goals are our goals. To assist you, we will provide you with a forecast for your practice in the form of a 70-page, customized report detailing your practice opportunities, based on Dr. Charles Blair’s Clinical Treatment Analyzer. The Clinical Treatment Analysis can reveal:

  • Over 50 clinical procedure tendencies of the practice’s procedure mix
  • 15 areas of potential within a hygiene department
  • 12 doctor procedure ratios
  • At least 16 monitors that reflect the dentist’s service mix intensity level

Potential matches for your practice will benefit from this information by:

  • Understanding your practice mix from the beginning
  • Assessing their practice philosophy in relation to yours
  • Identifying areas for potential growth
  • Making a fully educated decision based on the facts of your practice

When you are ready, your practice will be posted on our website. By that time, you will have a thorough understanding of your practice transition options, better enabling you to choose your direction on the best way to proceed for your to meet your transition goals.

ddsmatch Southwest Can Help You Put Your Dental Practice for Sale

ddsmatch Southwest focuses on matching available dental practices in Texas and New Mexico with potential buyers. Our success speaks for itself. One satisfied client said 

“It was a pleasure doing business with [ddsmatch Southwest]. You were able to sell my practice when three other brokers failed . . . Selling one’s dental practice and retiring from 48 years dentistry is not an easy, painless decision, but through your guidance (and a bit of counseling too), you made it happen with a buyer to whom I feel very comfortable turning over my practice . . . Your professionalism was absolutely critical to the successful sale and transition of my dental practice, and I am deeply grateful.”


Bill Wolfe, DDS

Contact ddsmatch Southwest today and find out how we can help you meet your dental practice transition goals.

Don’t Fear Patient Attrition When Buying a Dental Practice

A universal concern that arises in dental practice transitions is patient attrition: how many of the selling doctor’s patients will remain with the buying doctor after the transition. And while it’s smart to think about this, the fears about patient attrition can be out of proportion to the risk. When buying a dental practice, if you work with the selling doctor and take a few simple steps, you can keep nearly all of the existing patient base.

Likewise, when selling a dental practice, a doctor shouldn’t be overly concerned about their personal connection to their patients. While its true that over the course of their career, a doctor has spent a lot of time with the patients—in some cases having treated them and their families for years—a quick review of the circumstances surrounding a dental practice transition show why most patients are not inclined to look for a new treatment provider.

Why Patients Stay with the New Doctor After a Dental Practice Transition

Its well established that most of the value of a dental practice is its goodwill. According to one dental practice transition expert, “Goodwill refers to the intangible assets that either restrict or enhance the future earnings of the practice, and includes patient charts, recall systems, staff longevity, noncompete covenants, and the owner’s reputation within the community.” That is, it’s the patient base and whatever keeps them coming back to the treating doctor. More than anything else, this is the value of a dental practice.

When buying a dental practice, the goodwill is the major factor that can make an existing practice more attractive than starting a new practice from the ground up. In order to start a new practice, a doctor will have to go hundreds of thousands dollars in debt, find space, furnish and equip it, hire staff, and have sufficient capital to pay the staff and themselves, while having no existing patient base. When a new doctor is buying a dental practice, however, they take on a substantial amount of debt to be sure, but they typically get a fully operational office with staff, and a built-in patient base with a quantifiable record of collections. Even if the practice loses 20% of the patient base (an untypically high number), the buying doctor is still retains 80% of the patients, which is a whole lot more than zero, which is what the doctor starting a new practice has.

Consider this from the patient’s point of view. They have been to the office. They know where it is and what the experience is like. They have interacted with the receptionist and other administrative personnel. If they are returning or longtime patients, they have an established trust in the doctor, hygienists, and staff. If the transition is properly explained, the buying doctor gets the benefit of the patients’ trust in the selling doctor. And the patients can continue going to the office that they know and trust, saving them the hassle and uncertainty of finding a new provider. Patients won’t make a change without a compelling reason to do so.

Steps to Minimize Attrition when Buying a Dental Practice

While the risk of patient attrition may be overstated, that is not to say you don’t have to worry about it. It just means that you have to have a sensible plan. Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition experts and bring the experience of hundreds of successful dental practice transitions from all across the country to bear for our clients. Based on this experience, there are a few, simple steps you can take to ensure you retain as many patients as possible when buying a dental practice.

The goal a seamless practice transition, so  the patient to see no changes in the practice, except for the person doing the dentistry.

1 – Send a Transition Letter and Follow-Up Email

As soon as is appropriate, the selling doctor should send a letter to all of their active patients explaining the practice transition (including the selling doctors reasons for selling, if they are neutral or positive reasons such as retirement or relocation), introducing the new doctor, and, most importantly, giving the new doctor a strong endorsement. This letter is trading on the trust and goodwill that the selling doctor has accumulated and, to whatever extent possible, transferring that to the new doctor. The heart of the message is that the selling doctor has put their trust in the new doctor and so should the patients. It can be helpful to include personal touches in the letter such as a photograph of the new doctor (and perhaps their family) and details about their personal life. It’s also useful to follow up by sending the same information in an email to all active patients, in case the letter is overlooked.

Additionally, staff should be trained on how to discuss the transition with patients. The buying and selling doctor should come up with the language they want used if patients inquire about the transition or new doctor either, over the phone or in person, always with an eye toward instilling confidence in the buying doctor.

In short, if the selling doctor and staff trust the new dentist, the patients will too.

2 – Keep the Office Staff

Losing the selling doctor is enough change for the patients. Also, they have generally spent more time interacting with the front of office staff than the doctor. The receptionist sometimes is the person with the most influence over how patients perceive the new doctor. As addressed above, they need to communicate confidence.Just because patients are putting their trust in a new doctor doesn’t mean that trust can withstand sweeping changes in the office. That may make patients nervous.

There are lots of reasons why it may be smart to keep the staff on. Regardless of your plans for staffing the office, you’d be well served to keep the staff on for at least 90-180 days after buying a dental practice, and to keep them on with the same compensation and benefits package that they’ve had. The staff will have their own concerns about the transition and you need to keep their morale high during this critical period. If patients see more unfamiliar faces in the office, detect a change in previously friendly demeanors, or sense uncertainty from the front office staff or hygienists, you risk spooking them into looking for another doctor.

3 – Maintain or Increase Office Hours and Services

Again, this is about not making too many changes at once. A patient may think that a change in who is performing their dental work is acceptable. That does not mean they will tolerate shorter office hours, which may make scheduling appointments difficult or cause them to wait longer than they are comfortable for treatment, or not being able to get the treatment they are accustomed to. The goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible—to not restrict anything that made them initially choose to get treatment from the office and keeps them coming back.

This doesn’t mean you are locked in the prior doctor’s way of doing things forever. It just means that changes are made gradually, not all at once.

If, however, the changes you want to make include extending hours or expanding services, these changes may be implemented sooner, as they can be seen as positive additions by patients (staff may be a different issue, though, especially with regard to extended hours).

4 – Keep the Same Branding

There are two points here. First, as above, you want the transition to be seamless—you don’t want patients to notice any change other than it’s you on the stool beside them. Second, the public’s perception of the dental office—that is, the goodwill—is bound up with the office’s brand. This is not just about what the existing patients think about the practice, but the community in general. If the selling doctor has done well to establish a good reputation in the community, keeping the same branding will help transfer that reputation to you.

5 – Whether or How Long the Selling Doctor Stays On in the Practice

Having the selling doctor stay on can be useful for in-person introductions to the new doctor and to ensure a smooth transition as the new doctor becomes more familiar with the staff and office practices, policies, and procedures. However, staying on too long can negatively impact the buying doctor being able to establish themselves as the new head of the office. Therefore, when buying a dental practice, if you are considering having the selling doctor stay on, carefully consider how much time is really needed. Some people will say it should be three-to-six months but the truth is that the average time is closer to two-to-four weeks (specialty practices may require more time).

ddsmatch Southwest has Available Dental Practices in Texas and New Mexico

If you are considering buying a dental practice, we have several quality practices available throughout Texas and New Mexico. For more information, contact us today.

Should I Buy the Building when Buying a Dental Practice?

One of the most common questions about buying a dental practice is whether to buy or lease the space. And, as with many things in life, the answer is: it depends. It depends on the real estate market where you are looking to practice, whether the practice space is owned by the selling doctor or not, your plans for growing the practice, whether you foresee moving the practice, whether you want to deal with the additional responsibilities of real estate management, what kinds of risk you are comfortable with, just to name of few considerations.

Most advisors will say you should always buy. Some will say you never should. The fact is, that there is no consistent rule. Some doctors have bought their property and lost their shirts when the property devalued. Some doctors have built lucrative practices in leased space. So, ultimately, the question is really what will be best for you and your practice. Below we discuss some of the factors you should think about.

Return on Investment

When you lease, you are paying for someone else’s investment. When you buy, you are paying for your own. When you lease, your monthly payments will increase over time. If you are buying with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payments will stay the same (unless you refinance or there are other loan terms that impact the payments). If you lease, you will pay rent every month until you someone else buys your dental practice. If you buy, depending on where you are at in your career, you may pay off the building and own it outright.

Conversely, when you lease, your landlord is responsible for maintenance and upkeep. When you buy, these are your expenses. When you lease, you have more flexibility to relocate if you need to expand beyond the available space or there are other reasons to move. When you buy, it’s much harder to relocate and cannot be done as quickly. When you lease, you are insulated from the factors that cause property values to drop. When you own, you take the brunt of any economic downturn.

If you choose to acquire real estate as part of buying a dental practice, you have the option of thinking beyond the needs of your practice. If your practice requires 2,500 square feet but are looking to expand, you can buy a 10,000 square foot building, divide it in half, and rent the other 5,000 square feet to another tenant or two or three. This creates an income stream separate from your practice. But it does mean increased costs in terms of managing the space, dealing with tenants, complaints, and repairs.

Also, when you decide, “it’s time to sell my dental practice,” you can choose to sell or keep the real estate, either getting the equity out of the building or an ongoing income stream as part of your retirement plan.

In the end, however, a lot of this comes down to whether you want the risk and responsibility of real estatement ownership.

Control Over the Property

For an entrepreneurial doctor who is buying a dental practice, buying the building (or constructing a new building) can have some real advantages. First, it gives you much more control over your brand, which is a significant asset. You can make the property look how you want. You get to choose your signage. And you get to choose who you share the property with, if there is space for other tenants. These things can add significant value in unexpected ways.

If you lease space in a medical plaza, you might get your name on small sign along with all of the other tenants. You also might not get a sign at all. If you are in a retail space, you might get a sign over your entrance. Or you might not. And you have no control over who is in the spaces around you. If the property is not managed well, you could end up with questionable business as neighbors, or in a space that has high turnover and frequent vacancies. None of these are good for your brand.

By owning the building you can do something such as install a highly visible LED sign at the street. While this can be a significant outlay, you need to consider what you are buying. If you pay, for instance, $17,000 on a sign, assuming you get ten years out of it, that works out to $1,700 per year for 24-hour a day advertising visible to every person who walks or drives past. Some dentists have reported that these kinds of signs have, on their own, increased their business—simply by being there.

Additionally, if you have space to lease out, you get to choose which kinds of business you rent to. There are opportunities for cross-promotion and strategic partnerships. If, for instance, you have pediatric dental practice, you can look for business that also cater to families and children. If you present the opportunity for cross-promotion (having marketing materials in each other’s locations, splitting costs on advertising, etc.) and the exposure from foot traffic, you can end up with a tenant who feels more like a partner and may be willing to pay over market value for the benefits.

It May Pay to Lease when Buying a Dental Practice

If you are a young doctor at the beginning of your career, you may have ambitions beyond those that the selling doctor had realized. If you see room for growth in your new practice, it might make more sense to start out with a lease, with an eye toward buying or building your own space later on.

It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to buy a dental practice and immediately move its location. The move, along with the change in doctor, could have a negative impact on your patient retention (especially if the landlord ends up leasing to another dentist). Also, the perfect space that you envision might not yet be feasible for the practice. Under these circumstances, you may be better off leasing for the first few years as you establish yourself in the practice—and in the community—and put your effort into planning how to expand and and working toward that goal. Then, when you’re outgrowing your present space, you can begin looking at buying or building a new space.

Another reason to consider leasing is the real estate market in the area you are buying a dental practice. If you are in a dense urban area, property values may be so high that buying real estate is not feasible. Also, if you are in a market where real estate costs are peaking, that’s a bad time to buy, as the market will inevitably correct itself. And while real estate tends to appreciate over time, you don’t want to be the one who bought right before the crash.

Tax and Balance Sheet Implications of Leasing versus Buying

Whether you buy or lease space, either can have a positive impact on your tax liability, but in different ways. Lease payments are generally deductible as an ordinary business expense, however, deduction limits may apply. On a balance sheet, however, lease obligations will appear as liabilities (similar to equipment or other assets that you would finance with a traditional bank loan).

When you buy property, on the other had, Section 179 expensing (referring to the tax code section that allows a taxpayer to elect to deduct the cost of certain types of property on their income taxes as an expense rather than requiring the cost of the property to be capitalized and depreciated) and first-year bonus depreciation can provide a significant tax savings for the first year the property is used by your dental practice. In fact, recent tax code changes have enhanced these tax breaks such that you may be better off buying things you would have previously leased (such as equipment).

Whether it will be better for your particular practice to buy or lease your practice space is a decision that needs to be made with the advice of a qualified tax professional.

ddsmatch Southwest Has Dental Practices for Sale in Texas and New Mexico

If you are looking to buy a dental practice in Texas or New Mexico, here at ddsmatch Southwest, we have several great options for you to consider. If you are considering selling a dental practice, we are dental transition specialists and can help you prepare and sell your practice on your terms, getting the most value out of your practice. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

Asset Allocation and “How to Sell My Dental Practice?”

If you’ve ever gotten into the weeds of the question of “how to sell my dental practice?” you’ve probably heard talk about allocation. There are different ideas about how to handle allocation and sometimes people disagree. This might make it seem complicated. But it’s not, really. There is a fairly simple rule to follow and, if you work with your dental practice transition specialist and your dental accountant, you should be able to negotiate an allocation that will work for both the seller and the buyer. But first, what is allocation?

Allocation of Assets

Simply put, the allocation of assets is the process of assigning a dollar value to each asset being transferred in the sale of a dental practice (excluding the building, if that is part of the sale). These assets include all of the tangible items of personal property included in the sale and the big intangible that usually accounts for the bulk of the value of a dental practice: the goodwill. We’ll get to why this distinction is important below.

Generally when you put a dental practice for sale, you aren’t selling the business entity (e.g., your LLC or S-Corp), you are selling what the business owns.  That is, you don’t sell your shares of the corporation, you sell off all of the corporation’s assets, including your furniture, equipment, patient records, supplies, your trademark and logos, etc. All of these items are specifically identifiable and can be quantified in value. That is, your equipment is worth what you paid for it, less depreciation over time. How much could you sell your used equipment for? That would be the value its allocated. As far as the intangible of goodwill, the value there is harder to determine and is more fluid.

The Simple Rule for Allocation

The simple rule for allocation of assets is that you determine the value of the practice (for more information on this topic, see our recent post on methods of valuation for dental practices, “How Much is My Dental Practice for Sale Worth?”), negotiate an agreement between the buyer and seller on the value of each category of tangible assets (e.g., the furniture and equipment is worth $150,000, the supplies are worth $10,000, etc.), and whatever remains after that is allocated for goodwill. It’s a fairly simple arithmetic problem, once all parties are on the same page.

For instance, if you are buying a practice for $1,000,000, and the tangible assets are valued at $200,000, the goodwill is then allocated $800,000, or 80% of the purchase price. Some will say that good will should always equal a certain percentage, or fall within a certain range, such as 75-80%. That’s really the tail wagging the dog. There is no rule for how much should be allocated to goodwill. Rather, goodwill tends to fall within that range as dental practices are valuated.

Why Allocation Matters

As you are wondering “how to sell my dental practice?” you might think this sounds like a lot of trouble to go through. Why not just negotiate the overall value of the practice with the buyer and leave it at that? In a word: taxes.

For the seller, tangible assets are taxed at the ordinary rate, whereas the intangibles are taxed at the more favorable capital gains rate. This is why it’s so advantageous to have a high percentage of the purchase price allocated as intangible goodwill. The tangibles have to be allocated at a fair market value. Fair market value is essentially what the buyer and seller agree upon, but has to be within a reasonable range. The rest can then reasonably be called intangible.

If you are a buyer, you want to be able to gain back the maximum amount of the purchase price over as short of a period as you can, by expensing, depreciating, and amortizing the assets. Some of the tangible assets, certain pieces of furniture and equipment, for instance, can be depreciated over five to seven years. The goodwill, however, will take longer to depreciate, 15 years.

How to Sell My Dental Practice and Get the Most Out of It

To maximize the value of the sale of your dental practice, you need to be careful with your allocations to reduce the amount that the IRS will take of your proceeds. This is why it’s so important to have a qualified team of professionals, with knowledge and experience specific to dental practice transitions, to advise you throughout the process. At ddsmatch Southwest, as expert dental transition specialists, we recommend that in addition to a transition specialist, you have dental attorney and a dental accountant who will understand the legal and taxation pitfalls and how to avoid them. We also recommend that you use a Certified Business Valuator to evaluate every aspect of your practice to get it ready to put on the market. At ddsmatch, we partner with Blue & Co., for dental valuation consulting and dental accounting.

If you are considering a Texas dental transition or New Mexico dental transition in the next five years, contact us for a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment. We will discuss the current local dental practice transition marketplace, establish best transition options for your practice, and advise on potential practice investments to increase value. Contact us today and find out how we can help you meet your dental transition goals.

Don’t Let Student Loans Keep You From a Dental Transition into Practice Ownership

There is a lot of talk about how the landscape of the dental industry is changing, with DSOs, private equity investors, and rising student loan debt all contributing to the shift. While it’s true that these factors are more significant than they were a generation ago, it’s also true that the landscape hasn’t changed substantially. If you are in the final stages of your dental school education, or a young associate, student loan debt doesn’t mean that you can’t make a dental transition into practice ownership. In this post, we’ll discuss student loans and why they aren’t as much of an impediment as you might think.

Debt Compared to Potential Earnings

The first thing to consider is how much student loan debt you have, and how it will be offset by your earnings as a practicing doctor. If you are within the average range of dental students, you will have graduated with about $261,150 of student loan debt. If you borrowed at the Grad PLUS rate of 6.31%, you should have a monthly payment of about $2,940 and, over the life of the loan, will pay about $91,665 in interest. This means your education has a final cost of about $352,815 dollars. No question, that is a significant sum.

However, you have a lot of earning potential. In 2017, the median income for a dentist was $158,120. Now that doesn’t mean you’ll start at $158,000, but you’ll likely start somewhere in the range of about $118,000. Even as a first year associate, you will out-earn the average employee with only a bachelor’s degree by about $63,000. You can consider that $63k as the return on your $352k investment—and that’s just in the first year.

Using 5% salary increases, by year eight, you’d be earning about $167,000 while the bachelor-degree employee is only at $77,000. Your cumulative return over eight years would be $609,000—well over what you spent on your education and still fairly early in your career.

These numbers aren’t reflected in everyone’s experience, but, as averages, they show why its not unreasonable for a young associate to make the dental transition to practice ownership once they have the requisite experience and hand speed to keep up with the rate of production a practice needs from an owner doctor.

Types of Debt

You also need to consider the difference between consumer debt, student loan debt, and practice loan debt. Consumer loan debt (such as for a car, a house, or credit cards) doesn’t earn the borrower any money. Cars and other consumer goods either rapidly depreciate or otherwise lose value through use. A house may gain value over time but unless you are a real estate investor, it’s something you actively use, not something from which you would profit. Conversely, as shown above, student loan debt is an investment, the return on which is realized through your earnings over the course of your career.

A loan for the purchase of a dental practice is an investment in a business. The lender, while concerned about your debt load and earning ability, is primarily interested in the earning potential of the business, as it is the business that will pay back the loan. The question for the lender is whether or not the dental practice has a record of collections that will cover both its overhead, including the repayment of the practice loan, and still provide sufficient cash flow to pay you a salary sufficient to cover your personal debts including your student loans.  For more on dental transition loans, read our post, “Loans for Beginning a Dental Practice.”

As we show in the next section, owning your dental practice is actually a better way to pay your loans back faster than working as an associate.

Ownership Equity versus Employment Salary

The short version is that you are likely to earn significantly more if you own your practice than if you don’t. Let’s consider a couple of examples, one modest and one less so.

First, thinking modestly, let’s say you buy a practice with $600,000 of collections and 75% overhead at $450,000, with the entire cost financed by a bank. We’ll assume you have a few years of experience and have are up to earning $130,000 a year as an associate. With your new practice, you have a net profit of $240,000 a year. Now, you have a practice loan to pay back, which the seller probably didn’t have, so your net earnings will go down from there. A 10-year loan for $450,000 will have a monthly payment of about $4,700. This reduces your annual net profits to $183,000. However, that’s $53,000 more than you earned as an associate.

But let’s mix things up a bit. Sometimes an associate is paid a flat salary, but in other cases the salary is a percentage of their production. If, after a few years of experience, you are producing $800,000 each year, and your salary is 25% of your production, you’re earning $200,000. No doubt about it, that’s a great salary, especially if you are early in your career.

But what if you take your skills and make the dental transition into practice ownership? If you buy a practice that matches your $800,000 a year in production, even if the practice has 65% overhead, with service of your practice loan, you are still clearing over $250,000 in net profit. Plus, once you’ve paid back your practice loan (typically with a 10-year term), you get to keep all of the profits, which, with the given production rate and overhead costs, is $320,000 each year (consider this amount in the context of student loan as an investment, discussed above). If you remain as an associate earning a percentage, your salary only increase incrementally as fees are raised.

Dental Transitions: Texas and New Mexico

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental transition specialists with extensive experience matching individuals buying a dental practice with the right seller. Dental practice sales are predicted to increase in the coming years as doctors from the baby boomer generation decide to transition their practice and enjoy retirement.  Market conditions are excellent for those seeking to buy a dental practice or take advantage of partnership or associate opportunities. We have several available dental practices for sale throughout Texas and New Mexico, and always take your lifestyle and location goals, clinical skills, personality, and professional needs into consideration as we match the right buyer or associate with our sellers. For more information, visit our website or request a consultation today.

What Will Dentist Practice Appraisals Show about Your Overhead Costs?

One of the major factors that affects value in dental practice appraisals is overhead. Overhead is a term that represents the ongoing costs of operating a business. These are expenses you incur regardless of how many patients you see or how much you charge in fees. These include rent, employee wages and benefits, lab costs, materials, and so on. Simply stated, overhead is everything that isn’t money in your pocket.

Overhead is important for three related reasons. First, it tells you how much it costs to run your practice. Second, it shows the profitability of your business. For instance, if your overhead costs are 65%, which according to some researchers is about average for general dental practices, this means that for every dollar you collect, $.65 pays your overhead and you get to keep $.35. And, third, when you start to look at overhead by category, it shows you where you might trim some fat to make your practice more profitable.

Some overhead expenses are fixed, such as rent, meaning they don’t change from month to month. Some are variable, such as costs for certain materials or lab costs, which will vary depending on your patient treatments. And some are semi-variable, like utilities, where you may have a fixed base charge with additional costs that depend on usage.

While it’s important to look at your overhead costs as a whole, the real work is done by looking at each category, line by line. There are national averages which can be a rule of thumb on where you should be with each category, but these are just general guidelines. If you are over the average on rent but under on employee costs, it may balance out, as an example. But national averages can also be problematic. For instance, as noted above, the national average for total overhead may be as high as 75%, but 60% is really where most practices should be. Below, we’ll discuss a few categories where you can start to examine overhead, especially if you are considering putting your dental practice in Texas for sale or are considering dental practice appraisals.

Employee Costs

Number of Staff Members

If you are like most doctors, this is your biggest expense. The target here is for employee costs to be about 25% of your intake, and that should include not only wages and salaries, but also any benefits, bonuses, and any other compensation. If you are above that range it likely means one of two things: you either have too many employees, or you are paying them too much.

Over-hiring is a common problem. If your staff is busy and balls are being dropped, the easy solution is to hire another person. But you have to carefully consider whether you really need another employee, or if your present staff just needs more direction or training. Hiring additional staff doesn’t typically solve the problem, and in most cases, it just creates a new one in the form of higher overhead. If you’ve already made this mistake, you are faced with a tough decision. Eliminating staff is one of the most difficult aspects of running a business, but, at the end of the day, you need to have a dental practice that is running as efficiently as possible.

Managing Staff Members

If your office isn’t running smoothly, it may be because you haven’t been as effective in your role as CEO of your dental practice as you need to be. Being a good doctor doesn’t necessarily mean you are also a good manager. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to better support your employees.

If employees are not clear on their job descriptions and responsibilities, if they lack the vision to see where they fit into the whole of the operation, or if they are not as efficient or productive as they could be, more often than not, it’s a matter of training, supervision, and support. Having specifically delineated job descriptions, written policies, and clear instructions on office procedures can go a long way toward making sure everything is being done properly and on time. Employees benefit from performance measurements and frequent feedback, and your business will benefit in turn from the increased efficiency, which will be reflected in dental practice appraisals.

So, before you hire another person, look at, for instance, how patients are moving through your office. How long do they spend at the front desk? It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to check a patient in and out. If your offices sees 20 patients a day, that’s 200 minutes of time at the front desk. If there are 480 minutes in a work day, you shouldn’t need more than one person at the desk. If your front desk person can’t keep that time in line with where it should be, even with additional training and support, then what you need is a replacement, not additional labor.

Employee Compensation

There is a notion that employees should get some kind of pay increase each year. This is wonderful  if your practice is increasing collections each year. However, if your practice is stagnant or declining, you simply cannot afford yearly raises. Remember that every dollar of increased overhead is a dollar by which you decrease profits. If you can give raises and maintain 60% overhead, then it is fair to compensate your employees for the efficiency they bring to your practice.

If giving raises will take your employee overhead costs above the 25% target, then you should consider making raises dependent upon the practice’s performance. While stagnation or declining profits is not likely the fault of one employee, it’s unlikely, under these circumstances, that your employees are operating at peak efficiency. And if they know that they’ll get a raise each year regardless of performance, they will lack incentive to improve. Here is where performance standards can carry real weight— instituting a policy where raises must be earned on the basis of what an employee brings to the business.

Patient Recall

One of the many factors potential buyers of dental practices want assessed in dental practice appraisals is patient recall. Returning patients indicate that your monthly and annual collections are something that can be replicated in the future. When a young doctor buys a dental practice, they want future success, not past ones.

Unfortunately, many doctors don’t prioritize a patient recall system. If you haven’t already, you should set up procedures for your patient coordinator to contact past-due patients and schedule appointments, with a goal for making a certain number of calls and appointments each day. Recall patients bring in revenue you would not have otherwise collected, increasing profitability and reducing overall overhead.

Raising Fees

Many dentists resist raising fees because they think that higher costs for patients might drive those patients to other practices. The fact is, consumers expect prices to rise over time. If you regularly review your fees and make incremental increases, keeping in line with the market value of your services, it won’t surprise or upset most patients. The problem is waiting too long. Then you have to make bigger increases, which are harder for patients to accept.  Also, if you have an eye toward selling your dental practice in Texas, a potential buyer may be wary of a practice that has too low of fees. If the buyer wants to bring fees in line with market value, they don’t want to be the one to do it, as a change in ownership coupled with higher prices may increase patient attrition.

Other Important Overhead Categories for Dental Practice Appraisals

The other overhead costs you can count on for any dental practice will be rent, utilities, lab costs, materials, equipment, marketing, and accounting. There are industry standards for how much of your overhead should be allocated to these categories. For instance, rent should be about 6-7%, materials and lab costs should be about 6% each, marketing should be about 2-3% of your overall overhead costs, and account should be about 1-2%. Before you put your dental practice for sale, you may want to consider having a business valuator look at your practice and review where your costs can be reduced. When a potential buyer reviews a dental practice appraisal, they’ll be most interested in a dental practice that falls within these industry standard ranges.

But, remember, these are averages. If you are high in one category, making that reduction can bring you within the overall ideal range, then discrepancies in other categories will appear less problematic. Once you know where your costs are and make the necessary adjustments, keep an eye on each overhead category every month to watch for waste, inefficiency, or other ways your costs may be unnecessarily high.

At ddsmatch Southwest, we are uniquely experienced in helping clients who are selling a dental practice to achieve their profitability and lifestyle goals. We are expert dental practice transition specialists, and will help you identify a buyer with a strong skill set and personality match that will carry on the practice and legacy you have worked so hard to build. We ensure that every detail is covered, help you avoid common mistakes, and ensure no step is overlooked.  Plus, your confidentiality is always guaranteed. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment and find out how we can help you get the most for your practice.

What to Watch Out for When Buying a Dental Practice

Buying a dental practice will be one of the biggest—if not the biggest—decision of your career. It’s also the biggest risk, so it will pay, in both the short and long run, for you to be careful, get reliable professional advice, and do all of your due diligence. This is because, absent an ability to show fraud, once the practice keys are in your hands, there will be very little you can do about any overlooked details. And this landmark moment will cast a long shadow over your career.

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, while we represent the interests of our client, we view a successful transition as one where both the buyer and seller are happy with the terms and outcome of the deal. Most frequently we represent sellers (although we also have services for buyers and dental associates) but we think it’s important for those looking to buy a dental practice to know what they should look for, and what they should look out for, when considering a dental practice for sale.

What to Look for When Buying a Dental Practice

The Practice’s Financials

This might seem obvious, but it can also be complicated. It’s not just so simple as reviewing a profit and loss statement. You should expect to be provided with all recent financial statements and tax documents, along with the records of expenses for things like payroll, employee benefits, insurance premiums, continuing education, and reimbursements. You want to be able to know what percentage of collections is covering the practices overhead. That is, what does it really cost to run this practice?

The Practice’s Valuation

The seller will give you a number of what they think the practice is worth. You need to know how they reached that conclusion (the valuation method) and what are the bases of that valuation. Don’t be satisfied with the prior year’s cash flow, or a few recent years’ of cash flow. You should be prepared to review the entire history of the practice. That will tell you the whole story. For more on valuation methods, see our post “How Much is My Dental Practice for Sale Worth?

The Practice’s Brand and Goodwill

While the financial numbers are quantifiable, and easy to evaluate if properly recorded, the intangible assets—the practice’s reputation in the community and how closely it is tied to the selling dentist—are major factors in the practice’s overall value. This can be determined by looking at patient records which will show you patient retention, patient turnover, new patient referrals. These are indicators that the practice is viewed positively in the community.

Relatedly, when buying a dental practice, you need to know how the selling dentist intends to transfer that goodwill to you. This may or may not be something the selling dentist has thought about. It may mean that the selling dentist will want (or need) to stay on for a while to ease patients through the transition. How this works will vary from practice to practice. It’s a good idea to retain your own consultant or broker to help evaluate this and give recommendations of what will work best.

If the selling dentist is not retiring, you may need to obtain a non-compete agreement to keep the patients from being syphoned off.

The Practice’s Patient Base

In addition to what is discussed above, it’s a good idea to look at things such as the types of insurance the practice accepts and how many patients are with each plan, the patient demographics (older patients or young families, for instance), and how patients are retained. This information can help you project future cash flow.

What are the Seller’s Plans?

Is the selling dentist intending to stay on as an employee or contractor? If so, for how long? Does this match with your vision for the practice? While it is common, you should be wary of a selling dentist who may want to exert control rather that ease transition. However, if the selling dentist doesn’t want to stay on, you should consider whether you will have access to the doctor in case you need to consult regarding past patient treatment plans or accounts receivables.

What to Look Out for When Buying a Dental Practice

Pressure to Rush into Closing

While it may be understandable for a seller to be anxious, do not allow yourself to be rushed. Any step that is skipped will only run to your detriment, not theirs. It’s in your interest to be cautious and take the time necessary to complete all of the due diligence. A seller rushing you into buying a dental practice may be hoping that you’ll overlook a defect. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Seller Refuses to Disclose Information

If a seller refuses to make the requisite disclosures, or suggests you don’t need to see complete sets of records, or otherwise obscures information, it is likely there is something they don’t want you to see. While a dental practice can be a complex operation with legitimate issues of confidentiality, you have absolutely no incentive to overlook any detail, especially those being requested by your team of professionals (lawyer, accountant, business valuator, broker).

Declining Production or Poor Patient Retention and Recall

Sometimes selling doctors cut their hours in anticipation of the practice transition—looking forward to retirement, for instance. While this is not the best practice, it does happen. However, if there is declining production, be sure to determine the cause and make sure there isn’t a larger problem that you will be buying. The same goes for low patient retention and recall numbers. If you see this in the records, you need to know why. If the patients are going to another practice, you need to know where and why. You may want to ask the staff about this—often they have a good sense of patient issues. If the selling dentist won’t give you access to staff, that’s another red flag.

Employee Turnover

There are a lot of factors why employees leave (or are dismissed). But if the practice records indicate an unusually high turnover rate, it could indicate that wages are too low, meaning you may have to increase your payroll and benefits costs. It could also mean that the selling doctor is either poor at hiring or a bad manager. This can have an impact on the practice’s reputation and goodwill, if patients are having negative experiences with the staff.

Overreaching Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA)

You should expect to sign an NDA before you get anything but the most basic information about a practice. For a variety of reasons, the selling doctor has a strong incentive to not let it be know the practice is for sale. However, if the NDA includes terms such as trying to establish an exclusive relationship with you as a prospective buyer or imposes an unethical requirement prohibiting you from looking at other practices for sale, you should not sign. When buying a dental practice, you need to keep all of your options open.

ddsmatch Southwest has Experience Matching those Buying a Dental Practice with The Right Seller.

When we look for the right buyer for our sellers, we consider your lifestyle and location goals, clinical skills, personality, and professional needs before we present you with a confidential list of sellers seeking to transition out of practice or bring on a new partner or associate. The ideal ddsmatch Southwest buyer candidate will have a comparable clinical skill set as the seller, associate experience, a desire to reside long-term in the geographical area of the practice, and requisite financial qualifications. If you are considering buying a dental practice in Texas or New Mexico, contact us today to review our extensive network of dental practices.