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.
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.