Selling a Dental Practice

Why You Need a Marketing Plan Before Putting Your Dental Office for Sale

Marketing is not always something a busy doctor wants to spend their limited time on. Regardless of the relative success of your practice, without adequate marketing, you may see your busy practice become less so. Whether you are just starting out (looking to draw patients and build a reputation), are comfortably ensconced in your practice (looking to maintain or enhance your reputation and continue to draw new patients), or are preparing to put your dental office for sale (looking to bolster your practice before the transition to a new doctor), marketing is an important part of maintaining a successful practice.

Consider this: of the major brands out there—such as McDonald’s, Coke, Nike—how often do you encounter their advertising? Constantly. Is it because they lack customers? No. Its because they understand that by keeping their brand in front of consumers’ eyes, that recognition will translate into customers. People are drawn to the familiar, as it seems reliable. And when it comes time to choose a dentist, you want people in your community to see your practice as familiar and reliable.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is basically anything that you do to make potential patients aware of your practice and promote your expertise, reputation, and quality of care. It includes a wide variety of communication tools: signs on your building or on the street near your parking lot, advertising (increasingly this is online, however, depending on your market, it may also include billboards or other outdoor ads and local tv or radio spots), sponsorship of local events, social media, your website, email, direct mail, and in-office brochures. With a small business like a dental practice, your focus should be on targeting your local community. Advertising outside of the area from which you draw patients will be wasted money. Look around at other successful local business and see where are they putting their resources.

All of these “channels” make both your current patients and potential patients aware of your practice. The most effective way to make use of these channels is, first, be sure to have a strong logo with a consistent use of colors so that its recognizable wherever it’s seen (again, think of the McDonald’s yellow M, Coke’s red and white colors and font, the Nike shwoosh). And, second, consider what you want associated with that logo. What defines your practice? Quality of care? Sensitivity to patients’ needs? These two together are your brand identity.

Having a strong brand identity is particularly important when it comes time to place your dental office for sale. The brand should transcend simply the identity of the individual doctor, but represent something larger than one person: an idea of the practice, a philosophy to which the practice, as an institution, is committed. This way, when you have a change in doctor, or staff, your patient base can feel reassured that they’ll receive the same quality of care to which they are accustomed.

If you don’t already have a strong logo and practice identity, it may be worth hiring a local marketing consultant to help you develop them. This consultant will also have unique insights into your local market to help guide you towards the messaging and channels that will be most effective in your community. This will certainly require some capital, but, remember, this is money invested in boosting your practice. 

On that point, be sure you can track the effectiveness of your measures (for instance, ask new patients how they heard about your practice). If your marketing efforts aren’t bringing a return, you’re on the wrong path.

How Marketing Helps

The bottom line of marketing is getting patients into your chairs. This is done by making your community: 

  1. Aware of your practice.
  2. Aware of your particular services, skills, and other practice attributes.
  3. Aware of how these services, skills, and attributes will be of benefit to them.

You make people aware of these things by:

  • Building brand awareness – As discussed above, whenever a patient or potential patient sees your logo, you are making them aware of your practice and planting a seed in their mind.
  • Targeting specific audiences – This can be based on the location of the audience or it can be further targeted to sub-demographics such as more affluent patients, budget-minded patients, families, patients focused on obtaining the best services, etc. What audience you want to reach will largely determine which channels to focus on and where to place your ads.
  • Connection with Community – social media is a great way to communicate directly with your community. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms allow a back and forth with patients outside of the clinical setting in which you can express your practice’s “personality.” Don’t be afraid to be informal or funny if that reflects you and your practice.
  • Develop Your Practice Identity – As you identify your practice values, you can express these through your marketing efforts. Potential patients get a sense of what your practice represents and how they can connect to those values. You can emphasize these through consistent use of keywords such as “compassionate” or “gentle.” Your website and social media channels can also show what your office looks and feels like, so people know what to expect and can be reassured their making a good choice in choosing your practice.
  • Showing What Sets You Apart – Its important that you distinguish yourself from other practices in your community. Do you have technology or tools that are different? Do you have any promotions or pricing programs that might make you more attractive? Do you offer unique services or procedures? Do you have amenities that other providers don’t? Showcase these differences. You don’t have to be negative about it—there is no need to call anyone out. Just show what you have that patients want.

It’s never too early, or too late, to start a strong marketing program. As mentioned above, it will pay off when it comes time to place your dental office for sale, because you’ll have something of value that goes beyond just a patient base. You’ll have an identity that represents ideals that are valuable in your community.

ddsmatch Southwest Can Help Prepare Your Dental Office for Sale

At ddsmatch Southwest, we believe that the right buyer for your dental practice is not just one with financing, but a doctor who is the right fit for your practice. You’ve spent your career building a reputation in your community and the right buyer can help to protect your legacy. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment to help you get ready to place your dental office for sale. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

The Practice Optimizer Experience: A New Tool to Prepare a Dental Practice for Sale. in 3-5 years

ddsmatch has been successfully connecting dentists’ present with their future for ten years. A major factor in our success are our proven processes, which are continually revised with new information from each dental office transition that we facilitate. Continuing this tradition, we are pleased to announce our newest program, the Practice Optimizer Experience. If you are thinking about placing your dental practice for sale, this program can be invaluable to you as you prepare, plan and prioritize for your future transition.

Below, we’ll briefly outline each step of the process.

The Practice Optimizer Experience—Helping Dentists Plan and Prepare for a Future 

Step 1: Conceptual Transition Experience

In this first step, your ddsmatch dental practice transition specialist will help you visualize your future, set achievable goals for your transition and afterward, and devise strategies to start you in the direction of your post-transition dreams, well in advance of your intended transition timeframe.

Step 2: Trusted Valuation Analysis

Your dental practice will be analyzed twice by Certified Valuation Analysts with dental industry expertise. Their findings are fair, reliable, and, importantly, respected by banking institutions. At ddsmatch, we’ve partnered with the professionals at Blue & Co. to provide our valuation analyses. This step is an important part of your wealth management planning. The first analysis will be at the beginning of the process. The second analysis will be when you are ready to actually start your practice transition and move on to our Trusted Transition Process.

Step 3: Ideal Retirement Calculation

For this step, ddsmatch has partnered with HK Financial Services to conduct a Retirement Check-Up. This is a financial review of all of your investments and projected future income to establish security in the timing and planning for your future transition. This can be done in tandem with your current advisor or as a supplemental third-party opinion. However you prefer to approach it, it’s an important step toward your ideal future.

Step 4:  Estate Preparedness Gameplan

Your ddsmatch practice transition specialist will refer you to a local experienced and reliable attorney with expertise in wills, trusts, and estates, to update or create the essential legal documents that will protect your practice assets and value in the event of an unforeseen death or disability. 

Step 5: Dental Insurance Navigator

Before you place your dental practice for sale, ddsmatch will arrange for a comprehensive and customized consultation with Shelley DeGroff of Integrative Dental Solutions, a PPO Advisor on the current dental insurance plans in place in your practice. Ms. DeGroff will advise on new insurance plans to consider adding to your practice, or plans to discontinue to achieve your ideal payer mix. Ms. DeGroff and her company have established relationships with insurance companies and their representatives that allow them to be in a unique position to negotiate terms to increase your revenue, with established success nationwide.

Step 6: Clinical Opportunity Blueprint

Using Dr. Charles Blair’s “Practice Booster Clinical Treatment Analyzer,” we reveal your practice’s potential in a 70-page report. This report functions as a blueprint of opportunities, detailing production mix and intensity, new patient flow, and more. This step allows you to maximize the opportunities for growth in your practice.

Step 7: Critical Metrics Analysis

Importantly, the analysis of your practice is not static, but evolving. We will provide you with the Practice in Your Pocket Ongoing Report, a customized practice report on critical items conveniently delivered to your phone, tablet, or workstation. This report will be a guide to keep your practice producing at a high level. An annual review of the results is included as part of the analysis.

Step 8: The Trusted Transition Process

When the time is right, your ddsmatch practice transition specialist will start you on the Trusted Transition Process. This process provides a clear and consistent path to help you transition your practice, while maintaining the legacy you have worked so hard to establish. We offer a complete range of professional services, which includes a full business valuation, to provide reliable information and counsel from the start of your transition to the successful finish.

Let ddsmatch Help You Prepare Your Dental Practice for Sale

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we are excited about this new opportunity to better help doctors considering placing their dental practice for sale in Texas and New Mexico. The Practice Optimizer Experience will be of great value as you set your future goals and map out the path to achieve them. The Practice Optimizer fee will be refunded against any fees for the future transition. Contact us today to learn how you can get started.

Hot Trends in Dentistry for Anyone Buying or Selling a Dental Practice

Wherever you are at in your career—whether you are looking at buying a dental practice, selling a dental practice, or somewhere in between—it’s a good idea to stay informed about dental practice and industry trends. If you are just starting out, you want your practice to be up-to-date. If you closer to the end of your career, you may want to boost the value of your practice by making it attractive to younger doctors who may be more aware of current trends. And at any time, it’s smart to see how you can improve your practice—either with tools that boost efficiencies, new technology, or ways to provide better patient care. To help out, we’re going to discuss some of the hot trends for dental offices in 2019.

3D Printers

3D printer technology is a major innovation that can have a huge impact for dentists. They can slash the time and money that you have to spend on the production of aligners, veneers, crowns, and tooth replacements. Owning your own 3D printer will allow you to manage production of these things on your own, without having to pay a third-party lab, which keeps more money in your pocket. You may need to hire someone experienced with the technology to operate the printer, but, in the long run, you may save thousands of dollars by being able to keep the production in house.

Additionally, by being able to produce items in-house, you will be measuring wait times in terms of minutes rather than days. A patient can have treatment completed in a single appointment whereas, if you rely on an outside lab, they will need to reschedule another appointment. This will be better for the patient and for your practice. It improves patient satisfaction and reduces your administrative costs.

If you are buying a dental practice, this is a great piece of equipment that you should consider acquiring.

Natural Products

More than ever, people are concerned about the materials they use, especially those they put into their mouths. Products like bamboo toothbrushes and charcoal toothpastes are becoming more popular. Consequently, practices that have integrated natural product options will attract patients for which these things are important. It’s a simple, low-cost change, and can easily be added to your existing marketing techniques. 

Even if you don’t want to fully commit to this, it’s a good idea to review the products you do have for the inclusion of unnecessary chemicals and see whether there are better options for your patients. Consider whether you can provide options that are healthier and more sustainable. 

Digital Impressions

Any dentist with experience knows the frustration of dealing with cracked and deteriorating casts. You don’t have to put up with this. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software can be used to create more reliable impressions. The fact is, this is the way the industry is going, it’s simply a matter of whether you are coming along. New doctors are going to want this technology, so if you are looking to add a dental associate or considering selling a dental practice, you should consider this upgrade. It will make your practice more attractive. 

Laser Technology

Laser technology is a growing trend and for good reason. It’s a technology that has a major impact on the quality of patient care you can provide and its benefits are readily apparent to the patients. For this reason, it’s a good thing to consider if you are looking to add value before you sell a dental practice, if you are looking to expand your practice, and if you are looking for ways to add value after buying a dental practice. 

Among the many uses of laser technology, you can whiten teeth, remove tooth decay, repair enamel before filing, reshape gums, remove bacteria during root canals, and eradicate lesions. All of this makes your job easier and reduces the amount of time you have to spend on a patient. Less time in the chair also makes for more satisfied patients. Other patient benefits include less sutures, less reliance on anesthesia, reducing infections, less damage to gums for faster healing times, and less blood loss.

Group Practices

You don’t need to be told that consolidation of practices has been on the rise. However, the impending death of the individual practice has been greatly overstated. Group practices can be good for reducing costs but what makes you a good doctor may be lost in a more rigid corporate model.

That said, if you like the treatment side but hate the business end, you may want to consider selling your dental practice to a group practice. You can have a regular paycheck and lose the headache of running a business.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, however, you probably will still be best suited by buying a dental practice that you run on your own. 

Automated Patient Tracking and Management Software

Chances are you’ve already experienced this—getting appointment confirmation notices by text, pre-recorded follow-up calls, online portals for patients to schedule appointments and send and receive messages with your office, and using handheld tablets to complete forms. These things reduce the workload on your staff and, thereby, save you money. It also allows patients to manage their appointments and treatment on their own schedule, which is appreciated in an increasingly busy world.

ddsmatch Southwest Can Help You Know What is Best for Your Dental Practice

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition specialists and our nationwide organization has experience with hundreds of successful transitions from around the country. For ten years we have been advising doctors on how to best prepare for transition. If you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment, part of which is helping identify areas of investment that will add value to your practice. Contact us today to find out how we can help you—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. 

What to Consider When Selling a Dental Practice to a DSO

Our two most recent client testimonial interviews are with doctors at very different stages in their career, who sold their practices but either aren’t retiring or will continue to see patients under limited circumstances. If the idea of selling a dental practice is appealing to you but you don’t know that you are ready to retire or stop doing clinical work, a dental service organization (DSO) can be a good fit.

Some Pros and Cons of DSOs

For instance, if you are nearing retirement—just not quite there yet—the thought of being free of the business and administrative side of a dental practice can sound very appealing. If this sounds familiar, but you don’t think retirement is the next step, you probably are still interested in clinical work, just not everything that comes from running a small business. A DSO can be a good option because their goal is not to replace doctors but to take over the business and administrative side. Because of their size, they have economies of scale, which means that setting up their practice models around your clinical work can be mutually beneficial. They see the profits to be had from your practice and you don’t have to worry about the business side.

Even if you aren’t near retirement but have found that running a business is not something you are cut out for, a DSO can still be a good choice. You’ll make a good living doing what you do best—practicing dentistry—in the practice you’ve built, but without the headaches and extra hours needed to take care of the business side. Because of those economies of scale, DSOs can, under the right circumstances, do better than individual dentists with collections, strategic marketing, and reducing supply costs, all of which can increase the practice’s profitability. You may also have the option to transfer to other practices within the DSO’s network.

On the other hand, not all DSOs are created equal. Some have gotten in trouble with industry oversight organizations and regulators. Some have pressured dentists to work more than they agreed to. And if the DSO is not well managed, the lower costs won’t be realized.

Also, after years of being your own boss, you have to seriously consider how well you would do as an employee. You may lose flexibility in your scheduling or be compelled to comply with policies and procedures that you might not think are right. Before you sell a dental practice to a DSO, you need to be sure it’ll be a good fit for you and your practice.

Finally, you also have to consider your legacy and what it means to you. With any buyer, you are giving up control over your practice and how it functions in the future. But with a dental practice transition specialists, like those at ddsmatch Southwest, you can put the effort into finding the right buyer who will be the best fit for your practice, your staff, and your patients.

With a DSO, you are getting more of a one-size-fits-all approach to running a practice. The changes may have a negative impact on your reputation if they result in a lower quality of patient care, especially if you continue to work in the practice. That said, DSOs also can provide a number of features patients like, such as flexible financing, or expanded services and hours. 

What to Look For in a DSO

When you are selling a dental practice, whether to a DSO or private buyer, you need to look closely at who you are selling to. This is much more important when you are going to continue to work in the practice. You need to decide what is important to you about your practice and how to preserve that. The answer to that question will be quite personal. 

There are some practical things to consider and you’d be well advised to look and them closely as well. At ddsmatch Southwest, we always recommend that you retain a dental practice transition specialist, and that you have an attorney and accountant with dental practice-specific experience to review your documents and advise you on your decisions. 

Remember that no matter how well you get along with the buyer and their representatives, no agreement that is not in writing is unenforceable. Be sure that everything you need to have as part of the deal is recorded in the deal papers. Not only does this protect you, your patients, and your staff, it also makes sure everyone is on the same page about how you are moving forward.

Some things you should consider include: 

  1. Terms of payment. Will you be paid for the practice up front? Or will you be paid when you separate from employment? What is the impact of your current liabilities on the payment? What accounting methods are they using to calculate the sale price or commissions? Be sure that you are clear on these details to avoid unpleasant surprises and to be able to double check anything that seems off.
  2. Employment status. Its typical for a DSO to require the seller to stay on for a minimum of two years after the sale. You should have an employment contract that explicitly lays out how you will be paid your salary, whether commissions are based on your personal production level or the practice’s overall profit, whether those calculations are based on net or gross revenue, what the exit strategy is, and whether you will have any say in your replacement.
  3. Practice model. You won’t really have much room for negotiation here, if any. The practice model is what drives the DSO’s profitability, so they aren’t going to want to tinker with it to accommodate your preferences. You just need to make sure its a model you can work within. Do they use reliable vendors? Will budget restrictions interfere with your ability to provide quality care? How much freedom to you have to make clinical decisions and discuss the available treatment options with patients?
  4. Support services. This refers to the business and administrative side. This is what the DSO is supposed to be good at but you need to make sure it’s going to be a help to you and your staff, not a hindrance. Speaking of staff, be sure to be upfront with them about the changes that are coming and make sure the DSO is hands on during the whole transition process. Good support services will make it much easier to run and grow your practice.
  5. Capital resources. Because of the nature of the business, dental practices can experience significant fluctuations in cash flow since many services are not being paid for as they are provided. A well-capitalized DSO can alleviate the pressures from fluctuating cash flow. They can also advise on streamlining operations and other ways to increase profits.
  6. How helpful and flexible will the changes be? Be sure to have as comprehensive of an understanding of the changes that are coming and when to expect them. Have regular meetings (at least monthly) with your DSO support team to review performance and address any issues that arise related to the transition. You DSO support team should be helpful and flexible, not a thorn in the side of you and your staff.
  7. Exit Strategy. If you have an idea of when you want to leave the practice, let that be known up front. Be clear on the process and, if you want, ask to be guaranteed that you will have a say in your replacement. 

As with any time someone is selling a dental practice, you should take your time and research your options. Talk to other doctors who have sold to the DSOs you are considering and find out their experiences. A good DSO is one that gives you peace of mind that the practice is growing and well run while allowing you to focus on dentistry.

Considering Selling a Dental Practice to a DSO? We Can Help!

At ddsmatch Southwest, your dental practice transition goals are our goals. An essential part of our process is working with you to learn and define those goals so we can use our expertise to best help you. We bring the experience of hundreds of successful dental practice transitions from all over the country and put it to work for you, to get you the best match for you and your practice. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you.

“The Personal Touch”: Why One Doctor Used ddsmatch When He Put His Dental Practice for Sale

We sat down with Dr. Bill Dean, of Floydada. Texas, to discuss his dental practice transition, facilitated by ddsmatch Southwest. He had recently seen his last patients, who were, coincidentally, among his very first patients—they are part of a family, four generations of which, have been his patients. Dr. Dean makes the case for practicing dentistry in rural areas and for using the ddsmatch dental practice transition specialists. 

“ . . . they did everything that I needed help done. They supplied all the paperwork, all the forms. They did all of the listing and advertising, and all I had to do was be there to open the door when they brought someone out.”

When you first put your dental practice for sale, what did you have in mind for the type of person you were hoping for in a buyer?

Someone 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.

When he came out with Andy it was an instant bond with both of us, and we knew that this is what we were going to do.

It seems like it’s the kind of community that allows people to get to know each other as people, not just as part of commercial transactions.

Exactly. 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.

Do you feel that younger dentists coming out might not recognize the benefits of a rural community?

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.

You mentioned that the local newspaper ran a story about you putting your dental practice for sale?

The local newspaper came out probably three months ago now, and interviewed Dr. Shively and me, and ran an article in the paper, front page, half a page story about him coming in and wanting to be a part of the community. And, he’s been out a couple of times, shadowing me and then he came out one day when I wasn’t there and saw patients and then Wednesday will be his first day to see patients, and he’s got a full schedule for the rest of the week.

What is happening with your staff?

My staff will stay. My hygienist has been with me 16 or 17 years, Gracie, who’s the office manager’s been with me 13 and then [Kiera] is a new one, but they are all staying. And, they’re the ones that are going to make the transition for him. They’ve been building him up since the very beginning.

Was your staff involved in considering buyers or were they not really involved in that process?

They weren’t really involved, but some of the first ones that came out, they came out after hours, and it was obvious that they weren’t going to work, and so we didn’t do that. When I met with Dr. Shively, we brought him back out to shadow me, and I told them that he was coming and was probably going to be the one. And, there was a little apprehension until they met him, and then they were quite satisfied.

Let’s talk a little bit about the process with ddsmatch. If somebody came up and just said, “hey, you used a broker, why would you do that?” What would your thoughts be?

I’ve got a colleague in Plainview, that’s about 30 miles from Floydada, that’s tried to sell his practice, I think three times, and it’s all fallen through because he didn’t have the right, I don’t know, idea of how he needed to do it, what he needed to do, and with the ddsmatch they did everything that I needed help done. They supplied all the paperwork, all the forms. They did all of the listing and advertising, and all I had to do was be there to open the door when they brought someone out.

Did they help you out with getting your practice appraised?

They did . . . I supplied, I think it was bank statements and production figures for, I believe, three years. I don’t know now, but they went through and evaluated everything, and they came up with the figure of what they thought the practice was worth, and it was pretty much what I had estimated in my mind that it was going to be and took over from there.

How did that process work?

I supplied three years of bank statements and three years of production figures, and then they took production and expenses and came up with a percentage of office overhead, and lab fees and everything, and based their projected income off of that. They had one problem that they were concerned that my accounts receivable was very, very low. And, for 25 years or since I’ve been in Floydada, we’re a fee for service, we do file insurance but everything is paid by the patient and really the only accounts receivable we have is outstanding insurance.

At the time that Andy looked it was less than $5000, and they used that, and once they decided that that was legit, that we weren’t trying to pull something over, and then my office overhead is quite low for an average dental office. I had to justify the reason that we were doing that but we have a very low rent, or lease payment, and it includes everything, janitorial. They were able to take that and run with it. It’s almost a no-brainer to come.

Did you have a lawyer already in place or did you use one that they had referred you?

I’ve got a friend for the last 40 years and he looked over my part. They supplied or recommended a lawyer to Dr. Shively and he used a financial consultant that ddsmatch recommended, and they did most of the paperwork, and my lawyer looked over it. There were a couple of items that I wanted changed, took a week to do that, and everything was signed and ready to go.

If somebody were to say, “hey, I know of another guy who’s a broker, why shouldn’t I use him instead of ddsmatch?” Why would you recommend that they would use ddsmatch?

For the personal touch. Maybe it’s because I’ve known Andy for 25 years, but I’ve met some of the other consultants with the ddsmatch and I think they go above and beyond what has to be done to list a practice. I can’t say enough good about ddsmatch.

Did they help you with the transition with your staff? Do you feel like they saved you from anything?

They saved me from a disaster of trying to do it myself. Because if I had done that, there’s several things I would not have thought of that had to be done, and they helped with easing the staff into the transition, to assure them that they would be taken care of and supplying all of the necessary forms for state board, radiation board. There’s a multitude of things you have to do to quit practicing dentistry.

Did you send a letter out to your patients informing them about the new doctor?

We did. Right after we had the interview with the newspaper, Dr. Shively and I together wrote a letter and we took the active patients from the last two years and did a mail out to them. We actually used patient families rather than individual patients because some of those would have four and five patients in a family. But, we sent that out about a month ago.

Have any of the patients mentioned the letter or say anything about their impression of Dr. Shively since learning about you putting you dental practice for sale?

They were, most of the patients, when they came in, they were more interested in talking about me leaving than Dr. Shively coming. But, the fact that he has devoted the last five years to serving our country in the military with nine months deployment in Iraq, speaks volumes for his character and what he’s going to mean to the community. I have no doubt that Dr. Shively will be an instant success in Floydada.

If somebody doesn’t know Andy or ddsmatch, could you reassure them about his character?

Andy’s the most honest person I know. I have no . . . I’d trust him with my wife and kids to go somewhere, and I don’t do that with most people.

Having practiced for so long in a smaller community, you’re watching kids grow up, then you’re treating their kids. What that is like from your perspective?

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. The only problem I have is that we have patients coming from all the little towns around and at the basketball game, I forget and holler for the wrong team sometimes.

Dr. Dean and the Davidsons

It must be really nice to be able to regard your patients as neighbors and friends.

Exactly. I treat them like I would want to be treated because they’re coming back. Even though I’ve got a drawing area of 20,000 people, that’s a finite amount of people and if you don’t treat every one of them properly you’ll eventually run out and that’s what little towns are all about.

What is your case to make for doctors choosing smaller towns or rural areas over the city?

If you go to a small town, we are . . . 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. 

The nice thing about being in Floydada is, I am my own boss. If I want to take Thursday and Friday off, I take damn Thursday and Friday off.

What you’re looking forward to next?

Got my four grandkids here. I’ll have them for the rest of the week, and two are from Virginia, and two are from about two hours away. I’ll play with them. I’m going to do some part-time dentistry in Lubbock, doing dental sleep medicine with oral surgeons that I’ve worked with, but just slowing down, enjoying life. 

Ddsmatch Southwest can also help you with your dental practice for sale 

At ddsmatch Southwest, our team members are dental practice transition specialists. Our aim is to help you get what you want out of your dental practice transition. We meet with you to find out or help establish your transition goals and work diligently toward them. With our experience, we know to cover all the details. You can be as involved—or not involved—as you’d like. If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you.

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.

“They were very good”: Why You Should Let ddsmatch Southwest Handle Your Dental Practice for Sale

Dr. Gwen Eaker went through two dental practice brokers, each of whom left a bad taste in her mouth, before finding ddsmatch Southwest. Our team members are dental practice transition specialists who aren’t happy with a transition if you aren’t happy with your transition. Read more and learn why after letting our team handle her dental practice for sale, she considers Randy and Andy to be her “very good friends.”

How is it that you decided it was time to move on from owning your own practice?

I’m just tired of being an owner and having all that responsibility. I wanted to just take a job that had less responsibility but still good money. So, I found that.

How long ago did you make the decision that you wanted to make a change? Has it been quite a while?

I think it was about a year ago . . . Maybe about a year ago I decided. I signed on with [ddsmatch] maybe eight months ago. It took a little while to sell it, but it takes some time. It was less than a year for sure.

Had you worked with anyone else before you worked with Andy and Randy?

Yes. I’ve been with two other brokers. They were horrible. They were crooks. Really they were. It was really bad. One was way worse than the other, but they both were bad, very bad. Not trustworthy. Just in the end you felt like you were taken advantage of.

The second one, I felt he was working for the buyer in the end. You know? And he kind of is working for both, so it’s a tough line to toe, you know? In the end, I felt like he was more in favor of the buyer. I had bad feelings.

I didn’t feel that with Andy and Randy. They were very good. Very good. They helped me come to grips with even just making the decision. They helped me work it through and decide what was  . . . no pressure to sell it because you know that’s how they make money, is to sell my office. But they did not pressure me to do that. They would have helped me jumpstart it, and make it more of a success if that was the road I chose to take. They helped me decide. They were very good friends.

How did you even find out about them and ddsmatch Southwest?

Oh my gosh. I found out from a little dental equipment repair man, an independent guy who came to my office. He’s the one that told me about Andy.

By that time, I’m sure you had some trust issues there about using a broker to put your dental practice for sale.

Yeah. I let them know that. And, so, they were very good about my little roadblocks that I had from my previous experience. They were very helpful to help me overcome those hurdles because they knew I really did want to get out of this, and I needed to get out of this. But I was scared because of everything that had happened before, and the change is scary. So, they did, they helped me to make a good decision without pressure. That was important to me.

Where was your practice?

I was in Spring Branch, Texas. It’s north of San Antonio, about a half hour.

Did you have an idea of the kind of person you were looking to sell to?

Well, I love my staff. I still love my staff, so I cared about who bought it. I’m really pleased with who did end up buying it. So, yeah, I cared about that. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d come down to it, and it was somebody I didn’t really approve of. 

But they brought me some good candidates. They all were pretty good. And then, I really loved who ended up buying it. It’s harder if you don’t like whose buying it, or you’re questioning how they’re going to change the office, and how they’re going to treat your staff. That makes it more difficult, but I didn’t have that. I was lucky.

Did you have a part of your agreement where you had to work in the practice for a little while? How long was the transition period?

Well, we worked that out with the buyers. They wanted me to stay until the new doc out of dental school could get his license. So, you know, yeah, they were helpful with that. That just all depends who the buyer is. Some want you out right away.

You’re almost finished. What are your plans? What are you hoping to do now that you’re going to move on?

I took a job in Ohio, to just work for a company. A friend of mine . . . So, I know who I’m going to be working for. But I’ll be an employee, associate dentist.

You are basically saving yourself the stress of having to run a business, and do all the things on top of actually just doing the work in the chair, right?

Yes. Oh, it’s a huge headache. It’s a huge headache. It’s very difficult here in this area. It’s very hard for me. I’m very relieved.

If somebody was in your shoes in a similar situation, would you recommend ddsmatch Southwest to help put their dental office for sale?

Oh, I would definitely recommended ddsmatch, Andy and Randy particularly. I guess it’s regional, so it would depend where the office was. I have faith in the company and I really enjoyed the experience I had with them.

I mean, I would not recommend anybody else. And I’d never do it alone. I know some people do it alone, but I was like, ‘No way. I’m not doing it alone.’ So, for sure. I really, really enjoyed working with them.

What is it about doing it alone that you think you would never want to do that? Why you would really want a dental practice transition specialist?

Oh, I just think legally, something could come back and bite you. I just don’t know enough about business. I don’t think anybody knows all that, unless you’re an attorney and a dentist. You know, know all the things you have to think about to wrap things up.

Yeah. Too risky. I would never do it.

Was there anything specifically about the way ddsmatch Southwest handled it that you appreciated in particular?

Yes. I really appreciated, they had referred me to an excellent attorney out of Dallas, who I was very happy with. I had worked with an accountant that they told me about, who was excellent. So, they have a good referral base. They help you and have special people that they refer to that can really help you, and they’re the best at it.

So, that was really important to me because I don’t know people here. So, that was really great.

In terms of the transition over to your staff, did they help you with that transition or did they work with your team?

Oh, they did. Yes. He came to the office and talked with my girls. It was very smooth.

Any other advice that you would give to a dentist in your shoes?

Just let them handle it. Because I didn’t know how to do it, so he guided me the whole way. He was really good. He was very accessible. You know, text, phone, email, very responsive. I just don’t have any complaints.

Let ddsmatch Southwest Handle Your Dental Practice for Sale and You Won’t Have Any Complaints

Our team here at ddsmatch Southwest are dental practice transition specialists and your goals for your dental practice transition are our goals. For more about how our clients feel about us and how we’ve served them, check out our Client Testimonials page. To find out what we can do for you and your dental practice transition in Texas and New Mexico, contact us today.

Preparing Your Dental Practice for Sale: Efficiency Increases Value

If you’re at the point in your career when the time for putting your dental practice for sale is getting near but you’re not sure if you’re really where you need to be in terms of your collections, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are some pretty simple things you can do to help boost those numbers. And, you don’t have to figure it alone. Below we’ll share some tips on how to create more efficiency in your practice, which can help lower overhead and increase productivity, both of which impact your profitability and will make your practice  more attractive to buyers.

Many doctors think about the profitability of their practice in isolated categories. What are my overhead costs? What are my collections? What is my production rate? No doubt, these are significant factors. But the key to understanding how to boost profitability is in understanding all of the moving parts that contribute to these factors and how they relate to one another. That understanding leads you being able to make necessary changes that allow you to work smarter, not harder, to reach your goals.

Rethink Your Scheduling to Maximize Efficiency

One approach to scheduling is to break the day into time segments and try to fill them all up. If you’ve got a full schedule each day, that’s great. But how can you increase collections if you’re already at capacity? Remember that not every task you do during the day requires the same effort and skill. By considering how your energy and attentiveness ebbs and flows throughout the workday, you can maximize your productivity by scheduling to those patterns.

For instance, if you feel the most fresh and alert in the mornings, use those times to do your more intensive procedures and prepare crowns. Save the fillings and simpler procedures for later in the day. You’ll get those more intensive tasks done quicker than you would if you’ve scheduled them for when you feel the drag of the workday later on. Saving that time can allow you to fit just a little more in your day than you would have otherwise, which adds up day after day, week after week.

This will require some training and supervision of staff as they learn to steer patients to an appropriate time slot based on the procedure. However, your staff should understand that this is not only good for the practice, it’s good for the patient as well. You’ll be better able to perform those intensive procedures, with fewer hiccups, and get the patient on their way a little faster. This is good for patient retention, your reputation, and your band, all of which will reflect in a more value when you put your dental practice for sale.

Relatedly, consider scheduling new patient appointments immediately after the lunch break. This way, you will never be late for that appointment, creating a good first impression: one of reliability and organization.

How Well Does Your Team Work Together?

You may have a great staff that you’ve carefully selected and trained over the years. You may even have no complaints about any of their performance. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Not just change for the sake of change, but honing the skills that already exist.

This is all about saving time. A perfectly efficient office is one where there is no wasted time or forgotten tasks. All of the departments are both running smoothly and well-integrated so that as patients, records, information, and materials flow from one to another there are no points at which the system stalls or breaks down. Since, however, we do not live in a perfect world, it’s unlikely your office runs this well.

Consider each staff member in their individual role. Do they know their job well? Do they understand their role in the organization—how they are supporting you in providing the highest quality care to your patients? Do they forget tasks or overlook details? If so, is there a pattern? Your answers to these questions will show you where additional training or supervision may be needed.

Also consider your employees as a unit. How well do they work together? Are there conflicts? Do they communicate well? How integrated is each department? Again, your answers to these questions will show you where organizational refinement may be needed.

The importance of saving time is in reducing overhead costs. Every instance in which you have to take time to address an error, to track something down, to intercede between employees takes time away from your schedule and from theirs. The smoother your office runs, the more everyone can get done within a day. And, as with scheduling, the savings may be incremental, but they will add up, especially when combined with the other changes.

When it does come time for you put your dental practice for sale, your buyer will be impressed with how well your office functions. The efficiency will boost patient satisfaction (benefiting retention), employee satisfaction (happy employees make a positive impression on patients, and can protect your staff during the practice transition (increasing their value to the practice will encourage the buying doctor to keep them on and take care of them).

Look at Your Patients and How they Pay

Even if you are at full capacity, you might be losing out on collections depending on how you are paid for your work. If you accept reduced fee-insurance, are those patients edging out other patients in your schedule who would pay full-fee? Are your fees up to date? When did you last raise them? What is the market value for your services and are you charging appropriately (that is, how do your fees compare to other dentists in the area)? Even if your fees are, in some instances, capped by PPO insurance plans, you don’t have to charge your non-PPO patients at that same rate (and if the PPO fees are below market value, you can use that if you renegotiate with those insurance providers).

Some of these areas can be tricky. Retaining outside experts such as a dental transition specialist, a dental CPA, or a dental practice valuator. You’ll need this kind of professional expertise when you put your dental practice for sale, so building those relationships now will only get you closer to where you want to be before your practice transition.

Update Your Technology

Regarding technology, there can be a limit to how much value you will get out of it. Whether the updates will really boost value will vary from instance to instance. Here are some general guidelines of what is, typically, always worth doing.

Digital radiography and practice management software are the norms. If you don’t have these, you should. First, they both will boost office efficiency and, especially the digital radiography, can translate into higher patient satisfaction. For more on this, read our post about how tech upgrades can add value. Second, whoever buys your practice is likely a much younger doctor who is going to have trained on these systems and may be turned off by the idea of buying a dental office with outdated systems.

Technological upgrades can be expensive, meaning they’ll take time to translate into profitability. However, just because they may not reach that point in your practice before you sell, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see the value reflected in what you are able to get for your practice. Figuring this out can be tricky, though, and consulting with practice transition specialists and dental practice valuators will help you make the best choice for your practice.

Are You Considering Putting Your Dental Practice for Sale in the Next Five Years?

At ddsmatch Southwest, we work with you to determine your goals for your dental practice transition and help you find ways to work toward meeting those goals. If you are considering putting your Texas or New Mexico dental practice for sale in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment. As part of this assessment we’ll discuss the current local market for dental practices, advise on potential practice investments to increase value, suggest other physical and image improvements, and more. Contact us today for your free consultation.

How DSOs Have Changed the Market for Selling a Dental Practice

Love them or hate them, dental service organizations (DSOs) take up a lot of the conversation when it comes to selling a dental practice. In fact, there is so much ink being spilled over DSOs, you might be surprised that they are not quite as prevalent as you think. Regardless, they are having a significant impact on dental associate employment and dental practice transitions across the country. If you are considering a dental practice transition, you may need to consider a DSO as an option, but, if you don’t think that’s right for you, there are still plenty of private buyers out there. Here we discuss some of the things that you’ll need to think about if you are considering selling your dental practice to a DSO.

How Common are DSOs?

Not as common as you might think. According to DSO News, only about 16-20% of practices in the U.S. are “consolidated practices.” However, if you compare the dental industry to the larger medical industry, where consolidation of physician practices has been going on for quite a bit longer than DSOs have been consolidating dental practices, you can see where this might be headed. According to the American Medical Association, in 2016 the medical industry in the U.S. hit a new benchmark in which less than half of physicians owned their own practice.  

This increasing trend is also shown in dentist employment statistics. As of 2017, the ADA reported that, overall, only 7.4% of all doctors were affiliated with a DSO. However, when you look at younger dentists, the number more than doubles to 16.3% among doctors aged 21-34. This disproportion between the number of new doctors joining DSOs and the number of doctors overall indicate a trend toward DSOs having an increasing presence in the field.

Anecdotally, however, there is evidence that young doctors associate with a DSO but don’t necessarily stay and work long-term in that employment model. After all, a young doctor is looking to get experience quickly and the compensation package offered by a DSO is likely be greater than what they can earn working for a doctor-owned practice. Those higher salaries are going to be attractive to recent grads who have, on average, $261,150 in student loans.

While this is making it harder for doctor-owned practices to attract young dental associates, this doesn’t mean that the younger doctors are necessarily forgoing ownership of their own practices. After all, there are significant financial incentives for owning your own practice. So while DSOs are certainly changing the landscape, they haven’t totally remade it.

Selling a Dental Practice to a DSO May Not Be as Easy as You Think

As with any dental practice transition, the best deal for your practice is going to depend on what you are looking to get out of the practice—whether you want to hand over the keys and walk away with pockets full of cash, whether you want to be rid of the business side of the practice but keep providing patient care for another 20 years, or are somewhere in between.

Because DSOs are have deeper pockets and easier access to financing than most individual buyers, they can often outbid the individual buyers. However, those big offers may not be all cash and can come with a lot of strings attached. No doubt you’ve received numerous emails and postcards urging you to consider joining your practice to a DSO. Note that they often do not say that you will sell your practice and work form the. They say things such as “affiliating you practice” and “partnering” with the DSO. While this indicates something like a legal partnership, it most certainly is not the case. The DSO will own your practice and you will be an employee (although possibly one with stock or stock options).

Also, rumors of high payouts by DSOs can be overstated. First, DSOs are looking for particular kinds of practices. If yours meets their criteria, they may be willing to pay a premium. If not, they may still make an offer, but it might not be as attractive as you would expect. Under those circumstances, you may be better off with an individual buyer.

Second, if you are selling a dental practice with the intention of getting cash at the close and walking away, a DSO is less likely to agree to those terms. A DSO may make an offer that is a combination of cash and stock and will likely want you to stay on for a minimum amount of time (as an employee) to facilitate the transition. They may make a part of what’s being offered dependant upon you being able to meet their production goals. How hands-on or hands-off they will be during the transition will vary. However, to be certain, you will be an employee helping the DSO to remake your practice into what they want it to be. Also, there have been reports of DSOs not being quite as doctor-friendly or flexible as they present themselves (in addition to reports of some questionable patient care practices).

What to Consider when Selling a Dental Practice to a DSO

As stated above, a DSO is unlikely to offer you a premium for your practice in an all cash deal where you collect your payment and go on your merry way. So, if you are considering selling your dental practice to a DSO, here are some things you may have to grapple with.

The sale price that you will be offered can be comprised of a few different parts:

  • Cash at close: this is pretty straightforward— it’s the actual dollar amount put into your hand when the papers and signed and the sale is closed.
  • Earn out: this is money that you might get at the end of a multi-year employment commitment and is based on financial goals set for the practice. If you meet certain goals, you get a certain amount. If you don’t, then you mostly likely won’t get most, or possibly any, of the earn out amount. This allows the DSO to make a higher offer but end up saving some of that cost if your practice fails to perform with sufficient profitability from the DSOs perspective.
  • Equity roll: this is where you have the option to take some of your cash at close and invest it in the DSO’s parent company. This is not always an option. However, when it is, the idea is that the buyer is a successful company that’s good at getting a return on its investments and you may be able to take the proceeds of the sale of a dental practice and turn it into even more money down the road.

The other major aspect to think about is becoming an employee of the DSO. This is definitely something to look at closely and carefully consider if an earn out is part of the deal. Some DSOs will negotiate some terms of employment, some will not. Regardless, you need to look at:

  • Clinical compensation rate: is it based on collections or production? What about lab costs?
  • Overall benefits package: does it include health insurance, malpractice insurance, a retirement savings plan, does the employer match any contributions for retirement, do they pay for continuing education?
  • Non-compete agreement: how big of a geographical area and for how many years? Be sure to have a qualified attorney review the terms.
  • Ownership: are you being bought by a public or private corporation? If you are being offered stock, what are you getting stock in?

Whether selling a dental practice to a DSO is the right choice for you is ultimately dependant upon the goals you have for your practice’s transition. At ddsmatch Southwest, our dental practice transition specialists work with you to help you define those goals and then use those goals to help identify a buyer with the right skill set and personality match to carry on your practice and the legacy you have worked so hard to build, whether it be a DSO or an individual buyer. If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, contact us today for your free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment.