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Building Patient Trust: Protect Your Most Valuable Asset Before Placing Your Dental Practice for Sale

If you are like most dentists, your office is open, but it is not like it was before the pandemic. 

If or when things return to “normal,” it’s unlikely they will be exactly as before. Right now, we are in a time of transition, with new information and guidance each week. The key to keeping your practice going smoothly is the ability to adapt with the changing circumstances. 

This is especially important if you have been considering listing your dental practice for sale. As we’ve previously written, you are going to want to hit a production goal of about 80% of your monthly 2019 production average within the coming months. Below, we discuss some ways you can help your patients feel comfortable coming to your office, confident in their treatment, and will help you keep your office on track toward this goal.

As a doctor, you are in a unique position to engender patient trust through reassurance.. Dr. Jessica Meeske, vice chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, recently said “My advice is not to practice in fear,” she said. “Patients need dental care and we have the responsibility and privilege to provide it.” In doing so, you can be a reliable and trusted leader in your community on issues related to infection control.

Recognize the Stress

Everyone has been rather stressed out by what we’ve seen and experienced over the last few months. In addition to the concern about becoming ill, your patients have had compounded stressors by the economic impact of stay at home orders and social distancing. According to a recent survey, “60% of U.S. parents say they’ve had no outside child care during the coronavirus pandemic” and “millions have spent the duration attempting to work from home while also caring for kids,” including being responsible for their home education. 

There are also medical issues not related to, but impacted by COVID-19. People with illnesses have gone untreated or had treatment postponed. Families have been separated from each other, often to protect elderly or immunocompromised family members. Families have also laid loved ones to rest without a traditional funeral service and the comfort that can provide.

As a healthcare provider, be prepared for patients to have these things on their minds. They may raise some of their concerns, even if unrelated to dental care. Look for evidence of unhealthy responses to their stressors, such as increased drinking, smoking, and overeating. 

With so much upheaval, avoiding the obvious struggles all are dealing with feels inauthentic. Don’t be afraid to just ask them straight out how they have been doing during the pandemic. You may be the first healthcare provider they have encountered in a long time, and your professional expertise and knowledge can be very helpful. You may want to consider scheduling patients for longer appointments to allow time for conversations you may have not had with patients before. Have compassionate, validating responses ready: “Wow, that sounds very hard,” and “Of course you’d feel that way,” are simple acknowledgements that help people feel heard and seen.   

Dentistry is a profession built on relationships. Your patients trust you. This is a time where you can make good on that trust and build even stronger community connections. From an economic standpoint, your patients are your most valuable asset. When you treat them as such, you will be rewarded—both immediately by strengthening your bond with them, and also when it comes time to place your dental practice for sale and pass on the goodwill you have created to the right person who will maintain that level of trust.

Let Patients Know What to Expect

Start educating patients on how their experience in your office will be different before they arrive. Either when appointments are scheduled, or when calling to confirm appointments, have a script ready for your office staff to explain the check-in procedures, whether the reception area will be available or not, whether they can have a family member or not, whether masks are required for non-patient family members, and so on. Going to the dentist can be stressful for some patients and providing information about how they are being protected will be reassuring. 

The American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) has released a new checklist to help people prepare for their next dental appointment, What to Expect: Going to the Dentist After Stay-at-Home Order Is Lifted. This helpful document was produced by doctors who own practices across the nation and have followed infection control procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for years. These practices now are implementing extra steps to protect patients and employees.

Be proactive in communicating your sterilization measures. The OSHA guidelines are essential and effective, however, patients may still be worried. When they arrive for an appointment, you can explain or show your patients what measures you have implemented to keep them safe. This will bolster their trust in you, show your diligence in the care you provide, and increase the credibility of your dental practice. Again, this will pay off when it comes time to place your dental practice for sale.

Define Your Protocols and Train Your Staff

For many of your patients, it will be imperative that they see a smoothly functioning operation to feel at ease. Given that you and your staff are having to modify your office procedures, take the time to specifically delineate what needs to happen for each appointment and train your staff to run the new procedures effectively and efficiently while maintaining a friendly atmosphere. Some things you may want to consider include: 

  • Verbal check-ins for appointments rather than requiring patient contact with touchscreens, keypads, or pens. 
  • Scheduling consistent disinfection throughout the day of your reception area and front-desk, the places that have the most traffic. Also, make sure there is a thorough disinfection occurring after you see your last patient in preparation for the next day.
  • Remove anything from your reception area that people can handle, including magazines, television controls, toys, books, or any beverages.
  • Rearrange your reception area to allow for adequate social distancing. Space out your chairs. Remove some if necessary. 
  • Allow space in your schedule for flexibility, to accommodate social distancing, and to reduce the number of patients in your office at a given time.

These kinds of measures will both help keep you, your staff, and your patients safe and healthy, and will communicate to your staff and your patients that you have their well-being in mind.

Use Social Media to Inform and Educate

Social media is a great way to get the message out to your patients about how you are taking precautions to safeguard their well-being. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to pivot your messaging to focus on building trust and maintaining your reputation. 

Let patients know if you are offering extended office hours or will be open on weekends, or whether you are changing the availability of services to focus on the most critical needs, such as teledentistry options. Also, you can post the safety measures you and your staff are taking to protect patients. You are also advised to consider putting a notice about the safety measures on your website’s homepage and social media channels. 

While doing this, however, be careful to not make it sound like everything is different. Be reassuring about what remains the same. Some suggestions include: 

  • Keep the focus on dentistry, but with a sensitivity to health-related concerns. Let patients know what services you can provide and why your patients can have confidence in their safety while under your care. 
  • Keep your content relevant. Use your channels to promote oral health education along with more general information about infection control. Promote the safety of dental appointments. Provide practical home care tips. Highlight the connection between your patients’ overall health and their oral health.
  • Use social media to keep patients updated to any changes to your office’s procedures, services, and availability. 
  • Be sensitive to current circumstances. It can be helpful to make patients aware of what services you are offering, so they know their options. But if it feels too much like advertising, you may get a negative response. Your messaging should be one of helpfulness and compassion. 

Protect Your Practice 

While this is less directly related to building patient trust, you won’t be able to follow through on that goal if your practice isn’t prepared or isn’t operating effectively. You may need to take some steps to make sure you are in full compliance with the best practices regarding infection control and are ready to adequately provide treatment in a safe environment.

  • Regulations: Be informed about what you can and cannot do under your current local regulations, as well as any national guidance on when and how to safely operate a dental practice. The ADA offers an interactive map detailing current state regulations. Keep in mind that each area is being managed differently and the timeline for expanding the reopening will be different for each state and sometimes for individual cities.
  • Safety: Do not assume that simply because you are allowed to have your office open that it is necessarily safe to do so. Infection rates vary from state to state, county to county, and city to city. Be informed about whether cases in your area are increasing or declining and why. Consider your patient base and staff and how many of them may be vulnerable to infection. Don’t open or expand your services unless you have confidence that you are doing so in a way that can guarantee the safety of everyone who walks through your door. 
  • Supplies: Masks, gloves, disinfectants, and other personal protection equipment are in short supply. Take an inventory of what you have on hand and verify your ability to restock. Train your staff on being careful with how your supplies are used to safeguard against needless waste. Keep a close eye on your supply levels and track how they’re being used. Build up a surplus, if you can responsibly. You don’t want to start seeing patients only to have to shut down again because you were not properly prepared. That will send the wrong message.
  • Staff: Clinicians and employees who are ill, who have been exposed to COVID-19, or who are immunocompromised, may not be able to work for some time. Others may have issues such as lack of childcare. Communicate with your team, verify their availability, and address their concerns compassionately and wisely.

Be Patient

Your goal is to re-establish a successful and thriving practice. If you had one before the pandemic, you will likely have one again, but it will be a gradual process. Don’t try and rush it. There are many areas where we must simply wait and see—supply levels, infection and testing rates, and safety precaution effectiveness, both in terms of not spreading infection, and in terms of creating a functional office setting. Once you have a better handle on those issues, you can consider relaxing restrictions and treating more patients. While it can be inconvenient, in the long run, your patients and staff will appreciate the cautious approach.

The situation is still very fluid. Social distancing and extra precautions may be necessary until a vaccine is available. Because of this, you need to stay flexible in order to be functional.

Do You Have Questions About Listing Your  Dental Practice for Sale? ddsmatch Southwest Has Answers

If you have considered listing your dental practice for sale, we here at ddsmatch Southwest are here to help. You likely have a lot of questions about what a dental practice transition will look like post-COVID, or if they are even possible right now. We are part of a nationwide network that has been actively consulting with dental industry professionals, including dental CPAs, dental attorneys, dental lenders, and other dental practice transition specialists, to keep up-to-date on how the landscape is changing. The good news is that dental practice transitions are still happening, and however difficult change may be, it always comes along with new opportunities. 

If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation—it all starts with a conversation.

Buying a Dental Practice Post-COVID

When is the best time to think about buying a dental practice? The current COVID-19 pandemic may have you rethinking your original plans. But should you? Though it may not seem like it, this uncertain time is actually providing buyers with unique circumstances. As they take the time to re-evaluate their long-term goals, the health crisis is reaffirming to many buyers that it’s more important now than ever to have a self-sufficient, stable future. Transitioning to a new dental practice is still possible, and even advantageous, in today’s world.

We’ve had many discussions about the current market with an increased number of buyers and sellers, as well as our wide network of dental transitions professionals—lenders, CPAs, business valuators, lawyers, other dental practice transition specialists—and we’re finding a consistent theme: dental practice transitions are still not only possible, but quite active.

Before COVID-19, many potential buyers thought about owning their own dental practice as a worthwhile goal to be achieved at a later date. Now, the COVID outbreak has many dentists questioning if they are completely satisfied with being employees or if they’re ready to do things differently. Also, some older doctors see the pandemic as an opportunity to jump into retirement early and leave their practice in the hands of a capable dentist.

At any rate, change continues to happen despite the effects of COVID-19. Now is a good time to evaluate which action you’re ready to take that will contribute toward your long-term goals. Here are some factors you should be aware of as you contemplate your decision.

Are Reliable Dental Practice Valuations Still Possible?

The more we’ve talked to dental industry professionals, the more we’ve found that business valuations will work similarly to the way they did pre-COVID. Valuation was previously largely done through income valuation, looking at the specific economics of a practice (production, collections, overhead, etc.) over the three previous years. The valuator today will zero in on the numbers for 2019—as it’s the period with the most pertinent, available information—to create a baseline for the historic performance of the practice. Then, the valuator will look at the numbers for the practice after COVID hit in 30-day “snapshots”, and compare them to pre-COVID statistics. Practices that are getting close to 80% of pre-COVID numbers after reopening strongly suggest to lenders that the figures will continue to improve and the office will resume normal operations in the near future.

Should I Be Concerned About Losing Patients?

When COVID started spreading, most dental practices decided to close for a period of time, and no new ones opened up. But this isn’t necessarily bad news for your patient base. Patients that had to cancel appointments during closure will most likely return to the dentist they were already seeing rather than seek out a new dentist they aren’t familiar with. 

Once an office reopens, patients who had appointments before the closure may want to be seen as soon as possible. However, some patients may have experienced job loss or other economic struggles, and they may want to push their appointments out further. Still, other patients may feel uncomfortable entering a public office with current restrictions still in place and may choose to wait until treatment is absolutely necessary before they come in.

Regardless of where you live in the states, all of the dental practices in your area will be experiencing the same difficulties. An office can retain its patient base by focusing on the immediate needs of the patients and taking a proactive approach. When considering buying a dental practice, you should look at how the practice handled their reopening and see which type of efforts are being made to preserve patient loyalty and keep business steady. 

When looking at a potential dental practice, you should also examine if COVID-19 has impacted other aspects of the business. For example, “How much will face masks for every employee cost?” or “Does dental equipment sanitization need to take place more often than before and will this cost extra?” As procedures are adjusted, pricing and marketing may also be affected. Be sure the practice you’re considering is continuing to be profitable with the new COVID-19 related costs and limitations. 

Will COVID-19 Impact My Ability to Get a Loan?

Lenders have generally been amenable to loaning dental professionals the finances required to establish a new practice, as the dental industry claims some of the lowest default rates. Right now lenders don’t seem any less willing to do so, despite the present crisis. While COVID-19 is an interruption to business as usual, it doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of dentists or the dental practice. 

Much like the business valuator approach, the lender will look at 30-day snapshots of the post-COVID financials, focusing on production and costs, to determine if a loan is any more or less risky. They will compare the current statistics to the numbers from 2019 and see if the practice will achieve proportional levels of production and costs in the current market. If the numbers are on track, the lender will likely value the practice as a worthwhile investment.

Even so, many potential buyers may find that the application process has changed. Some lenders will prioritize certain buyers (those with more cash in the bank or a stronger track record of production), and some may collect applications and single out the strongest ones. Still other lenders may want to wait to finalize the loan until things stabilize a little more.

When selecting a lender, take the time to do your research and have your ducks all in a row. Though the process may take longer than usual, if you are a strong candidate for a loan, you will most likely find a lender willing to work with you. The current economic situation means you can also take advantage of the financial support currently available from recovery stimuli for small businesses.

How Do I Prepare to Buy a Dental Practice?

If buying a dental practice is the next logical step for you, prepare for the process by doing the following:

  1. Stay flexible. The practice transition may evolve as the economic climate changes, so stay patient as the process adapts to new situations. 
  2. Gather your team of advisors. You should not buy a dental practice without the help of trusted professionals to guide you through the steps. It’s a good idea to have a dental-specific CPA and tax professional on hand to answer your questions and make sure you do things right the first time. It’s also important to consult with a dental-specific attorney to review documents, identify potential issues, and be sure you’re in compliance with all laws and regulations. You’ll also want to talk to a lender who has dental practice experience. All of these individuals can assist you with your decisions about buying a dental practice.
  3. Research your options. Each dental practice is unique and comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. You should take the time to review all the aspects of the dental practice you’re considering. There should be no lingering questions about the type of responsibility you’re taking on and you should be completely comfortable with your decision. As practices will be adapting post-COVID, you need to look carefully at the logistics of those changes to be certain they are both adequate and sustainable.
  4. Look at the practice from the seller’s perspective. While this is a financial business transaction, for the seller it can also be a very emotional one. The selling doctor’s practice is a culmination of their own blood, sweat, and tears, and they will have deep and mixed feelings about letting it go. Be aware of this as you engage in negotiations and make arrangements for transfer of ownership. You want to ensure an outcome where the transition is as smooth and straightforward as possible.
  5. Recognize what you are buying. When buying a dental practice, you are buying a career. You are essentially starting your life’s work as the selling doctor is ending theirs. Make sure the dental practice is one you can be proud of and in a place where you see yourself living for years to come. 
  6. Consider “the right fit.” Both the selling doctor and the buying doctor should be well matched if you want the dental practice transition to be successful. The selling doctor’s individual characteristics and their relationships with staff and patients are fundamental factors in the practice’s achievements. You shouldn’t come into the picture with vastly different attitudes and objectives unless you want to be met with adverse reactions from patients and staff members. You don’t have to be a clone of the seller, but you do need to be compatible with those aspects of the practice that have kept patient satisfaction high and employees content.

With All of this Uncertainty, What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

It is still unknown whether or not the practice transition process will change now or in the immediate future. Some deals between buyers and sellers that were arranged before COVID-19 are on hold for the moment while they reassess the logistics. With summer beginning, some deals are moving forward while others are still on hold. Other deals are being restructured to account for increased risk to the buyer.

During a dental practice transition, it’s common for the selling doctor to write a letter to patients explaining that he or she is selling the practice. The selling doctor may also work in the practice with the new doctor for a period of time before leaving for good. These measures can prevent patients from leaving and ensure a successful transition. Transitions happening right now during this uncertain time will require extra attention to help things run smoothly.

When a deal is being made between a seller and a buyer, sometimes money is withheld under certain circumstances, called a “holdback.” When a “holdback” happens, a percentage of the selling price is placed into escrow for a period of time after the sale. If, during the “holdback” period of the transition, the practice hits specified performance benchmarks, the money is released to the seller. This is an option available during a dental practice sale to protect you as a buyer in case the practice doesn’t bounce back as quickly as expected. Before buying a dental practice, talk about this option with your attorney and CPA to determine whether this or another strategy would make sense in your current situation.

Find Available Dental Practices for Sale with ddsmatch Southwest 

At ddsmatch Southwest, we represent selling doctors, but we also do all we can to cultivate good relationships with the buyer. We strive for transparency, clear communication, and flexibility among all parties, and seek out quality buyers to create the perfect match. We want everyone to walk away from the table satisfied with the final outcome.

Our goal is to encourage open lines of communication and help buyers and sellers work towards mutually agreeable solutions where everyone wins. If you are considering buying a dental practice in New Mexico or Texas, you can view our available practices here. If you’d like further information about our available practices, or wish to discuss any dental practice transition you are considering, please contact us today.

How To List Your Dental Practice For Sale Post-COVID

There is no doubt that recent events have left us all unsure what the future will bring. In a matter of days, normal life was turned upside down and most of our plans were put on hold, if not cancelled altogether. While we are still unable to say when life will return to normal, or even what the new normal will entail, we can begin to prepare for the future in the best way possible. Knowing this, our ddsmatch Southwest team, along with our colleagues in the nationwide ddsmatch network, have been hard at work talking to industry experts including doctors, CPAs, industry lawyers, and other key players in the dental practice transition industry. We hope that the work we have put in will give you a clearer picture of what dental practice transitions will look like in a post-COVID world. 

If you are considering listing your dental practice for sale in 2020, signs point to this being an attainable goal.

We understand that most of our clients are curious how dental practice transitions will work in a post-COVID world. While we cannot give definitive answers as to how the industry will look after the pandemic, we do have insights into the new process of practice valuation, tips for doctors looking to sell in the near future, and information about post-COVID transition deal structures. Below we will lay out these insights to help you prepare your practice for sale. 

Dental Practice Valuation During and Post-COVID

An accurate and reliable valuation is essential to the process of transitioning a dental practice. At its essence, a valuation tells buyers and lenders what the fair market price for your practice is. After pouring years of work into your practice you deserve to get what it is actually worth when you decide to list your dental practice for sale. Typically, valuation is heavily influenced by the income your practice has brought in over the past three years, leading to the question, how do you value a dental practice in the current climate?

How Valuations Will Likely Be Done in 2020

According to industry experts, the income valuation model, which is widely used in dental practice transitions, will still be used for the foreseeable future although with a few tweaks. This model closely examines your practice’s production, overhead, collections, and more for the previous three years. Right now your practice’s valuation will look at this information, with a special focus on 2019 as that data is most relevant. As we move forward into July 2020 and beyond, experts expect valuators will utilize a post-COVID “snapshot.” What does this mean? Valuators will take your pre-COVID numbers and compare them to your post-COVID numbers, with the goal of reaching 80% of your pre-COVID numbers within a few months of reopening. This goal is indicative of your practice heading toward recovery, which is what potential buyers and lenders want to see. 

What Will Change When You Put Your Dental Practice For Sale in 2020

While it is comforting to know some key aspects of selling your dental practice will stay the same, there are still some things that will change. Most, if not all, dental practices around the country were closed for several weeks. Reopening has come with some important restrictions that require creativity and trust.

Fortunately, your patients and staff are all used to seeing you in a mask and trusting that your instruments are properly sterilized. Still, there are several new cleaning and sterilization procedures you will need to implement in order to keep patients and staff safe. In addition, you will likely see production and collections slow as a result of social distancing. Increased costs related to cleaning procedures combined with the anticipated decrease in collections will result in a very different financial picture if you are not carefully monitoring it.

Remember that the goal of the next few months is not necessarily to return to the way things were in 2019, but to keep your numbers proportional. It is now more critical than ever to be aware of your financials, particularly how all your costs are shifting. If you are planning on putting your dental practice for sale in the near future you need to be highly aware of the way your practice is changing financially. Moving forward, remember to adapt where necessary and do not make assumptions. 

Static Competitive Pressure

One helpful thing to keep in mind as you prepare to make changes to your dental practice is that competitive pressure is mostly static. Around the country dental offices have been shut down for weeks or months, and reopening will require the same type of restrictions across the board. Other dental offices are not stealing your patients while you are closed because they are also closed. In addition, your patients are highly likely to return for their regular treatments as soon as you reopen. Treatment schedules may have been paused momentarily, but not stopped altogether. 

Of course, you should not expect to be back to 100% production within the first few weeks of reopening. Some patients will be wary to return, particularly if they have certain health related risk factors. Many patients have lost their jobs and insurance coverage which may cause them to put their treatments on hold. However, as we stated above, every dentist in your area are in the same position.

Lenders See Dental Practices as a Good Risk

Historically, lenders have seen dental practices as a good risk due to extremely low default rates. According to the lenders we have spoken to, there is no reason to believe this trend would change. Buyers should have the same access to lending as they did pre-COVID. However, the application process will probably be slightly different than it was before. Some lenders will prioritize certain buyers, such as those with a strong record of production or those with a large amount of cash. Lenders may also take more time and pick only the strongest applications resulting in a longer wait time for application processing and a reduced pool of buyers.

On the valuation side, lenders are expected to use the same approach as the business valuation experts outlined above. In order to properly estimate the value of a dental practice for sale, lenders will take a “snapshot” of your post-COVID numbers and compare them to your 2019 pre-COVID numbers. Lenders will primarily examine your production and costs, making sure that your practice is on track and proportional to your 2019 financials. As long as your costs remain proportional and your practice is on track to its 2019 levels of production lenders will likely deem it worth the same now as it was worth in 2019. 

Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare Your Practice

While it may sound counterintuitive, we have seen an increase in potential buyers recently. Rather than shying away from purchasing a dental practice in 2020 many dental associates have decided now is the time to take control of their careers. After the upheaval of the past few months, these associates are realizing the benefits of owning their own business rather than simply being an employee.

Taking the current landscape into consideration, if you are ready to put your dental practice for sale, here are some steps you can take to prepare.

  1. Maintain Flexibility. Keep in mind there are still a lot of uncertainties when it comes to post-COVID dental transitions. Experts can make their best guesses, taking into consideration current and historical data, but the truth is we don’t know exactly how the process will change. We have certainly seen buyers and sellers put their transitions on hold as the pandemic ramped up and now must reassess their deals. The process may take longer than it did in the past, so try not to set expectations in this regard. Deals may need to be restructured to account for increased risk and uncertainty the buyer is taking on. The best thing you can do for your peace of mind is to remain open to every possible scenario.
  2. Gather a Trusted Team. Even pre-COVID, dental transitions were complex, however now more than ever, it is crucial to have a team of dental-specific experts on your side. Before you list your dental practice for sale you must gather a group of trusted advisors. At minimum your team should consist of a dental-specific attorney, CPA and tax professional, and a practice transition specialist. Your team will help you make the most of your time and money, and create a plan that will guide you through the process.
  3. Move Toward Normal. Things may never return to exactly the way they were pre-COVID, but we should still strive to be as close to “normal” as possible. As we have stated repeatedly, getting your production back to 2019 levels with proportional costs is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your practice for sale. Make sure your staff is back, patients know they will be safe in your office, and your community still trusts the care you provide.
  4. Maintain Office Staff. The news is full of reports about unemployment, with nearly every sector affected in some way. Hopefully your office and staff are still operating as usual, but we realize that may not be the case. If you are forced to reduce your staff or their compensation while trying to prepare your dental practice for sale you must consider how this will impact your practice as a whole. Your staff plays a major role in your bottom line and you must have reliable people in place to ensure your office runs smoothly. 
  5. Protect Your Patient Base. As important as reliable staff is, your dental practice could not run without a solid patient base. In fact, your patient base is the core asset of your practice. As stated above, your patients are highly likely to return to their regular treatments as soon as you reopen. However, patient loyalty is not a guarantee and requires a bit of work on your part. As you make changes to your processes, such as extra cleaning and social distancing measures, make sure you communicate them clearly with your patients. Utilize your online presence to announce important changes around the office. Through your website, social media, and additional marketing efforts, educate your patients on the efforts you are making to keep them safe. Consider making a short, friendly video highlighting your new safety protocols, sterilization procedures, and PPE equipment. Share the video to social media, through an email newsletter, and on your website. In addition, your staff should begin calling patients to inform them the office has reopened, what the new safety processes are, and answer any questions your patients may have.
  6. Tap Into Your Creativity. Preparing your dental practice for sale in the post-COVID world will take creativity. Right now most dental practices are seeing limitations on the number of patients they can see a day. In order to accommodate these new rules, and help patients who are worried about missing too much work, we have seen some doctors extend weekday treatment hours or open their offices on the weekend. In addition, doctors are getting creative to help patients who have lost jobs and insurance coverage recently. One option to consider is an in-office dental membership or subscription plan. For a monthly fee patients gain access to certain treatments, such as exams and x-rays. Finally, some doctors are considering how they can make their offices run more efficiently. These doctors are hiring basic wage employees to handle sterilization protocols so higher-cost employees can attend to collections and production.

How  Post-COVID Deal Structures Will Work

Doctors who put their dental practice for sale in a pre-COVID world could reasonably expect a successful transition, as long as they put a little bit of work into it. Whether they wrote a letter to patients explaining the transition, or continued working alongside the new owner for a period of time, there were steps the doctor could take to keep production levels steady. At this point in time it is too early to tell what steps a doctor can take to ease practice transitions, and this uncertainty adds risk to the buyer. Deal structures will have to change to reflect this added risk.

One new deal structure we are already seeing is what is called a “holdback.” A holdback adds extra cushion that protects the buyer in case the practice does not climb back up to its expected production. According to the typical terms of a holdback deal a percentage of the selling price is held back in escrow until the practice reaches certain performance levels. After reaching these benchmarks the money is released to the seller. If you are putting your dental practice for sale in 2020 or beyond be prepared to encounter this type of deal structure and discuss it carefully with your team of advisors.

We’re Here to Help Your Dental Practice Transition

It is never too early to start planning your practice transition. In fact, the earlier you start, the better off your practice will be when it comes time to move on. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice, even if you are four or five years away, talk to one of our dental practice transition specialists. The experts at ddsmatch Southwest offer unmatched experience and professionalism in the industry, meaning your dental practice transition will be as simple as possible.

The past few months have proven to be difficult and stressful for everyone. We understand that you likely have questions and we are working hard to gather all the information you need to feel comfortable with your dental practice transition. Remember that we are here to answer your questions any time, with no obligation. Contact us today to learn more.

Planning for Pandemic Recovery

You may be tired of hearing about how we are living in an unprecedented time, however, there is really no other way to describe it. If you are like most people, you are unsettled about being away from your office, about the structure of your life being upended, and about what you’re going to do once you can get back to your practice. You are worried about your staff and your patients. The fact is that we are all feeling the same way—we are in this together. While we can’t do much about the uncertainty that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.

Even if you aren’t able to work in your business, you can still work on your business. The reality is that the practice of dentistry is going to change—even if only for a time—until we’re certain that our normal routines can be returned to. It’s not too early to be thinking about— and planning for—how you need to adapt to the new landscape.

In thinking about how your practice will need to adapt, there is some good news. First,  dentistry is largely a relationship business. There is a reason that as most of the value of a dental practice is goodwill. If you’re well established in your community, the odds are in your favor that your practice can return to pre-pandemic levels of production (with the exception of cosmetic procedures, which may lag behind general care). It certainly won’t be in the first month or two, but, with patience and ingenuity, you can get there. People are going to want to go to the dentist, especially those who have had to postpone treatment. And given all of the change we’ve experienced, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be looking for a new doctor.

With this in mind, here are some things that you can be doing right now to keep your practice alive and ready to open again.

Stay in contact with your staff. They are your most valuable asset. Be sure that you are speaking with them at least weekly to reassure and update them as to your plans and the status of your practice. Regardless of the status of your practice, you can even keep up weekly office meetings and brainstorm ideas for recovery.

Make sure someone is available to answer your phones. If you have to cut staff, whatever you do, make sure the phone is answered. Always. If there is a chance to lose patients (or a chance to bring in new ones) letting calls go unanswered will encourage them to go elsewhere.

Stay in contact with your patients. People are tired of COVID 19 based marketing emails, so be judicious. Your message should be one of compassion. Let them know you are concerned about their health and safety. Let them know that you are available for emergency procedures, if you offer that. Set up a teledentistry system and let your patients know you are available for treatment that way. The message here is that even if your office isn’t open, you are still available if they need you. Make use of your social media channels to keep these messages out there. Use them to provide education and information about post-COVID dentistry.

Be working on a marketing plan. Keep your finger on the pulse of your community so you can reflect its take on the current situation. People everywhere are frightened, frustrated, uncertain, and, often, unsure of who to trust for accurate information. As a doctor, you are uniquely qualified to provide reliable information. With an empathetic approach, you can use that position to reassure your patients and community. Again, the goal here is not to sell but to communicate compassion and to educate.

As time to reopen draws closer, send an email to your patients describing (perhaps in detail), your sterilization methods and protective measures. Make a few short videos demonstrating the process to include in the email, on your website, and on your social media. Emphasize that your methods are at or above hospital standards.

Consider how your office appears to patients. Walk through the front door and try to imagine their experience. Consider what you might want to change if you are limited in the number of patients you can have in your office at a given time. Think about how you want to present your sterilization procedures. You may want to open sterile packages in front of patients and let them see the cleaning procedures. While it is not necessary that they understand everything, the goal here is reassurance. Help them to feel they are in a safe environment.

Consider opening in stages. For instance, start just with exams. Patients can come into the office for a short, low cost appointment and get used to the new circumstances. This can help them feel more comfortable but also address some issues they may have since they’ve gone without treatment. Then add in cleanings and so on.

Reconsider your pricing. Where you may see some of the biggest change is in the amount of unemployment among your patients. Many of them have lost their jobs. Some will get right back to work again, but not all. There will be both a loss of income and loss of dental insurance. This is something you need to be thinking about as you get ready to open your office again. You may want to consider doing special promotions with discounted exams and cleanings, especially for new patients. You may want to consider a subscription service where you offer a packaged plan of preventive care and offer it to uninsured patients at an affordable price point. You want to make it easy for patients to come in and get treatment.

Also reconsider how you present treatment plans. Instead of presenting everything all at once, you may want to break it down into stages based on importance. You will need to be sensitive to costs to your patients and provide them with flexibility in being able to accept treatment. 

Be flexible in your thinking. There is no question that it will be some time before we are back to business as usual. We’ve offered some suggestions of things you can do but, like everyone else, we are not certain how things will play out. We will all need to be adaptable as circumstances change. And though we may struggle with the unpredictability, that is not a reason to lose hope. Rather, make the most of a unique situation to brainstorm solutions and explore interesting options.

ddsmatch is Here to Help Where We Can

If you have been thinking about selling a dental practice, or buying a dental practice, there is good news there as well. Lenders across the country are echoing what our partners at Blue & Co. are saying about the effect of this crisis on the dental industry—its an interruption of business but not a change to the business. Banks have always been very favorable to dental practice loans because dentists are very good at paying their bills on time. Lenders are anticipating this will still be the case. 

We’ve had a number of doctors reaching out to us during the last several weeks. It is clear that many older dentists are considering moving up their retirement plans rather than deal with the recovery. Also, younger and mid-career dentists are thinking it may be time to leave their dental associateships and go out on their own. If you are curious about your options and want to talk it over, we are here for you, with no obligation. Please feel free to give us a call at 855-546-0044 or message us through our website

COVID-19 Practice Management Resources from the ADA and TAGD

During these uncertain times it can be difficult to know where to turn for information. Many doctors and their staff are wondering what will await us on the other side of the pandemic. While it’s difficult to say, there are some good resources that can help guide you as you make decisions about your dental practice, staff members, and patients. We recommend you take time to review some of the following links.

The ADA has a page dedicated to COVID-19 Practice Resources. It includes links to pages with information about employment and staff issues, security, patient communication, vendors and third party payers, and general practice guidance.

The Texas Academy of General Dentistry has sponsored several free CE webinars about different issues related to COVID-19, including ones on best human resource practices, infection control strategies, and on mitigating the impact of the disease. They have been recorded and made available through the TAGD website

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we had been looking forward to gathering with many of you at the annual spring events, the Texas Dental Association Meeting (which has been cancelled) and the New Mexico Dental Association Fiesta (which may occur in an online capacity, if feasible). We will miss interacting with you in person, for the time being, and wish you and your loved ones the best during these trying times. Please stay safe and be well.

Tips for a Successful Dental Practice: Read Before Buying a Dental Practice

As you know, not all dental practices are equal. What makes one successful and another not? In this post, we address some general principles to help you understand what you can do to ensure the success of your practice. It’s best if you can understand these principles before buying a dental practice, but they can be of use to you no matter where you are at in your career. 

If all it took to make a dental practice successful was an adequate set of clinical skills and competency, then everyone would be on an even playing field. This is, however, not the case. There are factors outside of the quality of care your training and experience can provide. Perhaps the three of the most important factors are: 

  • Technology: Staying current with dental technology matters. First, it provides your patients with a better experience. Patients respond positively to things like digital imaging and quieter handpieces. Second, it makes you more efficient. The new equipment can cut down your time in procedures, allowing you and your hygienists to increase your production per hour.
  • Business acumen: While you got into dentistry to provide quality care, you can’t accomplish that goal if you can’t stay competitive. Organizing your office in a way to maximize your efficiencies, give quality customer service, and reducing overhead will make sure your practice provides that high quality of care to as many patients as possible.
  • Identity: There is no other dentist like you. Sure, there are dentists that will offer the same services with the same equipment in similar environments. But there is one variable: the doctor. What is it that sets you apart from the other doctors in your area? What, in essence, is your brand? This is what you have that will make you stand out. If you can, it’s best to have identified this before buying a dental practice so you can build your practice around it from day one. 

A Good Doctor Has Good Communication Skills

Everything we do communicates something, whether we mean it to or not. This is why it matters where your office is located, how it appears to new patients, what your signs look like, and where and how you advertise. These are the “first impressions” you give to new patients. And it continues when they walk through the door. Is your waiting room comfortable, clean, and inviting? What is the demeanor of your front desk staff? You want all of this to communicate that your patients are in a caring environment where their interests are being heard and addressed.

Consider how you interact with your patients. Do you actively listen? Active listening means that you closely observe your patients, hearing their words and watching their body language. By paying close attention, you’ll learn more about what they are thinking and feeling, making you better able to understand and respond. Patients who feel seen and heard will appreciate the attentiveness.

Compare active listening to an experience where you were speaking to someone and they were engaged in other tasks, waiting for you to finish talking so they could move on, or, worse, showing disdain for what you were saying. This isn’t someone you want to speak to again. And it wouldn’t be a dentist your patients will want to return to.

If you don’t have these skills, work on them. If you already have a practice, be sure to incorporate these skills and encourage your staff to do the same.

Implement a Management System

Fortunately for you, you’re not the first to run a dental office. It’s been done before and done well. If you’ve had experience working in other offices, consider what worked well and why (and what didn’t and why). If you are buying a dental practice, look closely at how its managed and whether that seems to be working. You don’t need to have all the answers on day one, but you do need to be thinking about things like division of labor among employees, patient flow from making an appointment through checking out after treatment, how to address and resolve employee issues, keeping inventory, and so on.

Some dentists like to be involved in every aspect of practice management. Some prefer to delegate to an office manager. Whichever works for you is fine, but, remember, at the end of the day, it’s your practice so it’s your responsibility. If you have a manager, keep in close communication with them to be aware of what’s happening. 

Create and Use an Online Presence

More and more, our communication is becoming electronic. When people want to know about a dental office, they’ll look at the website, read Google reviews, check out their Facebook page. These are all opportunities for you to communicate what you are and, perhaps more than you think, interact with your patients. 

You can create a patient portal on your website where patients can schedule appointments, see their records or results, and message with you and your staff. Make sure that someone in your office is checking for messages submitted through your website or any of your social media channels and promptly responding. 

Use your website, Facebook page, and social media channels to highlight what sets your practice apart. Highlight your services and products and your staff members. Have a page with your picture and bio, include a little personal information. Let your patients know you are a real person, not just a doctor behind a mask. 

For more on how to use social media to promote your practice, check out our article on this topic.

Have a Marketing Plan

It’s not enough to put up a sign, pay for advertising on the local baseball diamond’s back fence, and sponsor a float in your town’s Fourth of July parade (although you should do all of those things). Marketing requires a strategic effort in which you consider what patients you want to attract and how to best communicate with them. What works will vary from market to market, however, in the 21st century, this is increasingly electronic. This means the online efforts described above along with email and coordinated social media efforts. For more on this, check out our recent post on marketing.

Pay Attention to the Details

There are a million details to keep track of and instead of listing them all, we’ll discuss an example: inventory. Who is in charge of inventory? Who is tracking use of supplies, what is remaining, what needs to be ordered, and how soon? Do you know how quickly you go through your supplies, meaning, do you know when you need to reorder so you don’t run out? You don’t want to find out the answer to that question when you are in the middle of a procedure and it’s too late. Carefully consider the details required to have a smooth running day in the office, make a list, and then think through how those details are managed in your office. Look for where you can be more efficient.

Consider a Flexible Financial Options

This one might not work for every practice, but, if you are considering buying a dental practice, you should think carefully about the pros and cons of flexible financial options.

One thing is that not every office offers these options. That is something that can set you apart. Another thing is that the flexibility gives patients a reason to accept treatment. The more reasons they have to accept, the more frequently they will accept. It encourages patients to accept more expensive treatment plans that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. This means you get to capture those patient’s business and they get the care they need. 

Remember what we said in the beginning: a major factor in your success will be dependent on what sets you apart. Your unique qualities—as both a person and a doctor—should be baked into your practice’s brand. You are giving your patients a reason to choose you. Most likely there are other doctors in your area that offer the same services and products with a comparable level of skill and experience. It’s your unique personality and perspective that will set you apart. It will resonate with patients. Leverage it.

Considering Buying a Dental Practice?

If you are considering buying a dental practice in Texas or New Mexico, ddsmatch Southwest has practices available. Review our listings here. At ddsmatch, we believe a good match is one where both doctors walk away happy with the deal. We work closely with our seller clients and potential buyers to find the right doctor to build on the success of our clients. If you are interested in any listings you see on our site or would like more information, contact us today—it starts with a conversation.

Is Your Practice Underperforming? Fix it Before Putting Your Dental Practice for Sale

No one sets out to fail. But life does not always conform to our expectations and things often don’t go our way. If your dental practice isn’t performing the way that you’d hoped, you might be concerned about your future and retirement. If this sounds familiar, take heart, all is not lost! You probably still have time to turn things around and build more—and more consistent—value into your business before you put your dental practice for sale.

A dental practice is, in many ways, no different from any other small business. Some experience steady growth, some experience consistent performance, some experience ups and downs in production, and some crash and burn. If you find yourself in a slump—or worse, a downward spiral—there are things you can do. Below, we’ll address some steps to take to help you get back on course.

Do Not Lose Hope

Before we get into what you can do, we’ll address the one thing you absolutely cannot do. You must not lose hope. When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to get upset, angry, or depressed. These emotional responses, however, will distort your perspective and cloud your judgment. Hopelessness is anathema to making positive change because you think, “Why bother? What difference will it make?” By setting emotions aside and taking a clear-eyed approach, you’ll be able to see solutions where you didn’t see them before.

This is most certainly easier said than done, especially when it comes to your dental practice. You’ve put a lot of time, effort, money, and care into starting and building your business. It’s tough to see it underperform. But your emotional attachment to the business will only get in the way of you being able to most accurately assess the problems and make critical decisions. When you act from a place of negative emotions, you are more likely to avoid making the hard decisions that could save your business, your career, and your future. 

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we’ve helped many doctors prepare their dental practice for sale. Having worked closely with them as they review their business and consider their dental practice transition, we know how much the practice means to them, what they’ve invested in their work, their employees, and their patients. Because of this, we want to see dentists succeed in their careers—we know how meaningful it is. But, sometimes, that means making hard choices. And you must be up to that task if you want to turn waning practice into a strong one. You must put every option on the table. And you cannot let any of it be personal.

Essential Steps

With that out of the way, let’s move on to what you can do. These suggestions are ways to quickly increase production and profit. If your practice is really struggling, you must take these steps.

  1. Cut your unnecessary expenses. This might seem obvious. And maybe you think you have cut all unnecessary expenses. But, trust us, you probably haven’t. You may need to reevaluate your definition of “unnecessary.” Review all of your costs, being as objective as possible, and carefully consider what you really need at the most basic level. Cut anywhere you can and do it now.
  2. Cut necessary expenses. This might seem counterintuitive. How do you operate a business without paying for required elements? Well, if you’ve really cut all unnecessary expenses and that wasn’t enough, you’ve got to start making the cuts that will really hurt. This may include labor, technology, equipment, laboratory fees, and supplies. Don’t be swayed by a sense of obligation to vendors or employees. It might be hard for someone to lose an account or a job but your goal isn’t to guarantee anyone else’s income at this point. These cuts will, emotionally and psychologically, be the hardest to make, but you must change your mindset if you are fighting for survival.
  3. Increase Your Hygiene Production. In most practices, dental hygiene constitutes about 25% of the practice’s production. But, in most practices, there is room for growth in this area. Consider what hygiene work has been left undone. Work with your staff to identify which patients have incomplete work or who might be amenable to elective work. Reach out to your patients, have your hygienists help you with this, and start scheduling them for treatment. Also, if you don’t already have a periodontal program, start one immediately. These two together can add tens of thousands of dollars a year to your practice.
  4. Increase Your Active Patients. Again, this might seem obvious, but if you were already doing this effectively, you might not be in the situation you are in. Review your patient files for overdue patients and create a program to contact every one of them that is not currently scheduled and get them into your office as soon as possible. Your goal here is to get 96% of them scheduled. As soon as these overdue patients start coming in for treatment, if you keep your costs down, you’ll start seeing your production increasing. Once you have this going, keep it going. It’ll be a great selling point when you want to put your dental practice for sale.
  5. Schedule New Patients Within a Week of Their Call. While it’s great to get your overdue patients in, it’s the new patients that really boost your practice’s income. These patients must be the top priority for your office. Make sure anyone who answers your phone knows to schedule new patients as soon as possible, within seven days of that first call. The faster you get them into the office, the faster they get diagnosed, and the faster you can present them with treatment plans they will start paying for.
  6. Start All Large Cases Within a Week of Being Accepted. Relatedly, you want to close the lag between a case being accepted and treatment starting. Many patients will lag at scheduling their first appointment and a lot can happen during that gap in time, including the patient changing their mind. Instead of leaving the ball in their court, once the patient has accepted, get them immediately scheduled. Again, make sure everyone in your office is clear about this.
  7. Collect Anything Owed to You Immediately. Often, practices that are struggling have a large accounts receivable. This is money that belongs to you and should be paid. If you don’t have a collection system in place, start one now and keep it tight. Start a collections campaign (along with your overdue patient campaign) and get what you are owed. Also, start requiring payment at the time of service.
  8. Improve Your Case Acceptance Production. If you follow the usual method of having a large amount of single-tooth dentistry, you need to start being more expansive in your diagnoses. Give your patients a comprehensive diagnosis that addresses both necessary and elective options. Give them the option to get something they might want but don’t necessarily need, paying you for the service.

A lot of this advice might be hard to implement, but it will certainly be easier than having to close your doors. Remember to set your emotions aside and be rigorous in evaluating your costs and needs. Your dental practice needs a strong and dispassionate leader who is equipped to make the necessary, tough decisions. In the end, you will be glad you did.

We Can Help You Prepare Your Dental Practice for Sale

We are dental practice transition specialists that bring the experience of hundreds of successful dental practice transitions and put it to work for you. If you are considering putting your dental practice for sale and it’s not performing where you want it to be, we have options that can help. If you are considering transitioning your practice in the next five years, we offer a Practice Optimizer program to help doctors plan and prioritize for their future and retirement. We also offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment during which we will provide valuable tools and advice to plan and prepare your practice for a smooth transition. Contact us today to set up a consultation—it starts with a conversation. 

Adopt the Best Social Media Practices Before Putting Your Dental Practice for Sale in Texas or New Mexico

We recently posted an article about how to build a solid marketing plan before selling a dental practice and, as part of it, discussed the low-cost, low-effort benefits of social media. In this article, we’ll expand on that a bit and address more specifically why and how social media can benefit your practice. If you are currently using social media and finding it effective, that’s great! We may not have anything to add to what you are doing. However, if  you aren’t using social media or are questioning it’s value, that may be because you may not understand exactly how to utilize it for a small, local business (no shade here, social media platforms are often geared towards tweens and young adults rather than middle-aged or older professionals). Regardless of your situation, it’s wise to adopt the best social media practices, especially before putting your dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico.

Avoid Generic Content

For social media channels to be effective, you need to engage your audience. This means you need to provide content that is interesting and compelling. If you want them to pay attention to your posts (as opposed to scrolling past with only a glance, at best), you must provide them something that they want to pay attention to. This can be a problem especially if you’ve outsourced your social media accounts or are getting free content as part of a bundle with other services.

Much of the generic, free content is stuff that might sound interesting at first glance, but, because it lacks personality, it can easily grow stale. Accounts that simply repost content from other sources will quickly become looked over in a feed that is full of more compelling content. (This is not to say you can’t ever repost anything, just be judicious about whether it is really something compelling you think your patients would be interested in.)

Remember that social media is meant to be social. This requires interaction between two real people—the poster and the reader. If your content is outsourced or generic, the reader will feel like they are being marketed to instead of being interacted with. 

But also remember that your goal is to parlay that interaction into paying patients accepting treatment. So, as you plan your content, be sure to include information about dental products and procedures that will be of interest to them. These things don’t have to appeal to all, or even most of your patient base. But those who are interested will be glad to see what you are promoting, if they feel like your dental office’s social media channels are ones they can trust (that is, that it’s a real extension of your office).

Include Clinically Relevant Topics

In addition to keeping your current patient base engaged, social media offers opportunities to bring in new patients. First, consider the goals you have for your practice. If you are considering putting a dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico in the next five or so years, this might be goals about expanding your patient base or increasing the amount of production you are generating from specific areas (e.g., implants, whitening, aligners, etc.). 

If you are looking to add patients, consider who you want to add, what they are looking for, and post content related to them and their dental interests. If you are looking to grow in more specific areas, such as dental implants, then post about dental implants. 

However you approach it, be sure that you are coming at it in a patient-friendly way. Your followers aren’t necessarily going to understand the technical aspects of treatment. Instead focus on results, the ease or cost-effectiveness of treatment, promotions, and so on. Remember that your content has to be interesting to your audience.

Make it Personal

As stated above, social media is meant to be social and people want to feel that they are interacting with real people. This is something that can be hard to accomplish if you are outsourcing management of your social media channels. 

As we wrote about in our previous article, it’s probably not as difficult or time consuming as you might think. This is because you don’t necessarily have to do it yourself. First, if you have a marketing agency that manages your online presence, work with them to personalize the content. Review it before it gets posted. Provide them with pictures, events, or content ideas that they can use. You know what’s happening in your office and in your community better than they do.

Second, if you don’t have a marketing agency, you probably have someone in your office that is active on social media, meaning they already have an innate understanding of how the platforms can be leveraged. Once you identify that person, have them set aside some little time a couple of days a week to take pictures and schedule posts to your accounts, and some time each day to respond to any questions or comments.

Finally, what do you post about? Anything good that happens related to your practice: new staff members, patient success stories, doctor profiles, doctor or staff achievements (whether related to dentistry or not), holiday costume contents, sponsored contests, community outreach. Literally anything that reflects well on you, your staff, your patients, or your community.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

You may be surprised what a difference these changes can make. The algorithms that govern social media platforms reward the popular and penalize accounts that don’t get interaction. The more clicks or likes or reposts you get, the more your accounts will be recognized by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This means they’ll appear higher up in your followers’ feeds, making your posts more visible. The fewer clicks and likes you get, the more you’ll slide to the bottom.

Also, be sure that all of your social media accounts are linked to each other and to your website. You want potential patients (and existing ones!) to be able to easily find your accounts and website, to click through to your other channels. This also builds credibility in the eyes of the algorithms. 

If you are considering putting your dental practice for sale in Texas or New Mexico, a strong social media presence can be a good selling point. It bolsters your claims about the value of the goodwill of your practice—that it really is worth what you are asking for it. It shows how you are a integrated part of your local community with a strong relationship to the patients your treat.

Finally, people are drawn to dental offices whose online presence is full of smiling patients and friendly staff. Show them they can find that in your office. It can be done with only the cost of a few hours each week but can be surprisingly effective.

ddsmatch Southwest Can Help Prepare Your Dental Practice for Sale in Texas or New Mexico

We are dental practice transition specialists that can put the experience of hundreds of successful dental practice transitions from across the country to work for you. If you are considering putting your New Mexico or Texas dental practice for sale in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment during which we will provide valuable tools and advice to plan and prepare your practice for a smooth transition. Contact us today to set up a consultation—it starts with a conversation.

Build a Solid Marketing Plan Before Selling a Dental Practice

What makes a successful dental practice? Is it the best trained doctors? The friendliest front desk staff? Is it the latest equipment? All of these may help but a practice can live without any of them. The only thing a dental office cannot survive without is a steady stream of patients. Though that may seem like a simple observation, many dental practices find it easier said than done. Here we discuss a few key factors that may help you strengthen your marketing—a major piece in the puzzle of bringing in new patients. If  you have struggled with your marketing, these are low cost things you can do to build up your patient base, which is especially important if you are considering selling a dental practice.

How Old is Your Website (You Have One, Right?)

What is the first thing you do when you are looking for any kind of service provider? If you are like most people, you Google it. Sure, word of mouth matters, but if a friend refers you to a lawyer or accountant, you’re still going to Google them. What pops up there is your first impression, so you’d better make it a good one.

The good news is that, in 2020, a good website doesn’t mean an expensive website. Sure, 20 year ago, businesses might have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a custom site. But, in those days, coders were less common than they are now and the programming languages were more difficult. Now, many websites are built off of templates and the learning curve is much faster.

The template model is good for dentists because that means you won’t be paying anyone to re-invent the wheel. Chances are you can find someone with a speciality in medical office websites who already knows what you need and how to organize it. Since the early days of the internet, there has been a lot of work done to understand how consumers find and respond to online information, what they are looking for, and what is most effective for communicating that information. The templates are designed to deliver to consumers what they want in the simplest way.

What if you already have a website? What if you spent $15,000 on it ten years ago? Well, we’re sorry to say that your website is out-of-date and that is the impression you’re giving to new patients—one of being out-of-date. They may wonder what else about your practice is not being kept up to date. Equipment? Techniques? Will a dentist that appears stuck in the past give them the best care? If prospective patients don’t like what they see, they’ll quickly move on to someone else.

If you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years or so, you also don’t want to be marketing something that may look like a dinosaur to a young doctor. You’ll be well-served to make the online “face” of your practice one that is with the current state of the art. 

Your Social Media Presence Should Be Social (You Have One, Right?)

This one is a little tricker because it requires more ongoing work (not a lot, though) from your office. The good news, however, is it doesn’t have to be you. Chances are you already have someone in your office that is active on social media, meaning they already have an innate understanding of how the platforms can be leveraged. Once you identify that person, have them set aside a little time a couple of days a week to take pictures and post to your accounts, and some time each day to respond to any questions or comments.

Why is this important? Do you know how much Facebook, the biggest social media platform, earns from advertising? $17.4 billion in the third quarter of 2019. They made that in three months! And it was a 28% increase from the same quarter of 2018. Why are they making so much money from advertising? Because this is where the eyeballs are. 

Note, however, that we’re not telling you to spend on Facebook ads. We’re saying your prospective patients are on Facebook so if you don’t have a Facebook page for your practice, set one up today. And if you have a Facebook page, keep it updated. Have someone actively posting to it and interacting with anyone who follows you or posts questions or comments. You should also do the same with Instagram and Twitter, the other two big platforms.

The next question you may have is what to post about. The answer is anything good that happens related to your practice: new staff members, patient success stories, doctor profiles, doctor or staff achievements (whether related to dentistry or not), holiday costume contents, sponsored contests, community outreach. Literally anything that reflects well on you, your staff, your patients, or your community.

Be sure to link your social media accounts to each other and your website. Make it easy for patients to find you and information about you. Patients might go to your website first to find out about the practice, but many will also look at your social media to get a better sense of the personality of the practice (you can be a lot looser on social media than you may want to be on your website).

Again, if you are looking at selling a dental practice, having an active social media relationship with your community can be a big selling point in why the goodwill of your practice is worth what you are asking for it. It shows you are built in to your community and have fostered a strong relationship with the people you serve.

Many people are drawn to dental offices whose online presence is full of smiling patients and friendly staff. This can be done with only the cost of a few hours each month but can be surprisingly effective.

Don’t Write Off Traditional Media Just Yet

Much ink has been spilled over the death of traditional media (TV, radio, print, outdoor advertising). To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. 

The key to effective advertising is maximizing impact. You’ve got to cast your net wide enough to capture your intended market but not so wide as to be wasting dollars on people who will never consider your business. For instance, a poorly placed billboard might not get you any patients while a nationwide television ad would never be justified in terms of cost per new patient. 

Local marketing experts in your area will know what kinds of ads the patients you are looking to advertise to will respond to. It may be that you have a newspaper in town that many people still read for local news. Or maybe there is a busy thoroughfare where thousands of commuters see billboards as they creep through daily traffic. If these kinds of means are still effective for small business in your area, don’t write them off.

Also, consider what your competition is doing. If they’re sinking all of their resources into online advertising, you can take advantage of the gap in traditional media, if it’s effective in your area.

Keep it Simple

Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. And marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. These suggestions are all easy, low cost ways that you can see a significant impact without any major investments of time or money. 

Considering Selling a Dental Practice? We Can Help!

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we are dental practice transition specialists that focus on finding the right doctor for your practice, one who will honor and build on the legacy you have established. If you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years, we will, with no obligation, provide you with valuable tools and advice to plan and prepare your practice for a smooth transition. Even if you aren’t considering putting your dental practice for sale, we can refer you to marketing experts if you’d like more information or help in that area. Contact us today and find out what we can do for you—it starts with a conversation!

Dentistry Named a Top Job; That’s Good News for Texas Dental Practices for Sale

In a recent ranking of professions by US News & World Reports, dentistry came in as the second best option, just behind software developers in its 2020 rankings. This is a step up from fourth place in the 2019 rankings. For dentists with Texas dental practices for sale, this is good news, as what is being offered is not just a profitable business, but a solid and rewarding career as well.

While that ranking is for general dentistry, professions throughout the oral healthcare industry fared very well. Orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons were both in the top ten of overall jobs (at four and nine, respectively) and in the top five of best paying jobs (with oral and maxillofacial surgeons at number three and orthodontists at number five). Dental hygienists came in overall at 24th, prosthodonists at 56th, and dental assistants at 66th. In the more specific category of health care jobs, dentistry came in at number one, orthodontists at number three, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons at number nine.

The criteria US News & World Reports relied on for their rankings started with which jobs would have the largest number and percentage of projected openings between 2018 and 2028, as determined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Then, the publication ranked the jobs based on other criteria such as median salary, employment rate, ten-year growth, future job prospects, stress level, and work-life balance.

The Tangibles and the Intangibles

According to the BLS, dentistry has an expected 10,4000 job openings with a 7.6% employment growth. It also reported that dentists have a median salary of $151,850, up slightly from 2019 when the median salary was $151,440 (although this is down from 2016 when the median salary was $153,900)

Here in Texas, we have two cities where dentists’ median salary is the highest. Topping the list is Amarillo, where the median salary for a dentist is $279,920. This is followed by Longview, where the median salary is $275,530. This indicates it may be a good time to put Texas dental practices for sale as potential buyers may be looking to build their careers where the fields are fertile.

The top five is rounded out by Fond du Lac, WI ($268,920,  Reno, NV ($267,410), and Sebring, FL ($259,660). If you look at the mean salary, the highest amounts are in Delaware ($264,440), Alaska ($259,350), Rhode Island ($254,190), Minnesota ($227,280), and New Hampshire ($226,300). 

And, of course, the specialists can earn even more. Orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons earn a median salary of $208,000, while prosthodontists have a median of $176,540.

It’s not all about the money, though. Measurements of dentists’ flexibility in schedules and work-life balance were both found to be above average from all of the professions reviewed. Also, the upward mobility and stress levels were found to be in the average range. Meaning, you can have an average to above-average experience in the profession while earning a well above average salary.

How Well Does This Reflect the Reality of Being a Dentist

The answer to this question, of course, is that it depends. The US News & World Report ranking is encouraging for the future of the profession of dentistry. It is, however, based largely on statistics and does not really give a full picture of what it means to be a dentist. 

As your experience has probably shown, while you can earn a high salary, what isn’t always apparent is the cost of getting that salary. After all, in 2018 the average dental student graduated with a student loan debt load of $285,184. When coupled with a dental practice loan to start or buy a practice, debt payments can take a big chunk of your potential earnings. However, when viewed as an investment and properly organized, a smart doctor can service their debt and still enjoy a high income.

There are also many aspects to practicing dentistry that can provide satisfaction beyond just meeting career milestone goals or earning potential. A successful practice keeps the doctor busy all day, every day, providing a sense of satisfaction in the work accomplished. Also, the work being done is a kind that genuinely has a positive impact on your patients. It’s possible to look back at the end of each day, week, month, year, or career, and see how you’ve made peoples’ lives better. 

At the end of the day, the real value of Texas dental practices for sale is the goodwill that the practices have built in the community. This goodwill doesn’t come from how efficiently you’ve organized your practice in order to maximize production out of each of your chairs. It comes from the care you provide to patients and the relationships you form with your community through that quality of care.

ddsmatch Southwest Has Texas Dental Practices for Sale

ddsmatch Southwest are dental practice transition specialists with an expertise in finding the right match for New Mexico and Texas dental practices for sale. We help visualize your future, set achievable goals, and devise strategies to start you in the direction of your post-transition dreams, well in advance of your intended transition time frame. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, we offer a free, no-obligation Practice Transition Assessment. Contact us today and find out how we can help you achieve your practice transition goals.