Tips for a Successful Transition when Buying a Dental Practice

When it comes to owning your own practice, the big question, of course, is whether to start a new one or whether to buy an existing practice. While its a question you should think about carefully, there are a lot of considerations that support buying a dental practice. When you buy a practice, you get—from day one—an existing, paying patient base, established relationships with insurance providers, a reputation in the local community, staff, and an infrastructure for both providing patient care and handling the business and administrative side of things. 

At the point in your career where you’re making this decision, you’ve probably got at least a few years as an associate under your belt. You know the clinical side, you know how to manage your patients, but you likely have less experience on the business side. When you buy an existing practice, having staff and structure in place will go a long way toward easing you into the role of a small business owner, rather than having to piece it together yourself. 

In this post, the fourth in our series on preparing to buy a dental practice, we’ll discuss a few points about how to have a successful transition into dental practice ownership.

Patience is a Virtue

All good things come to those who wait. This is one of many maxims that are easier said than done. A dental practice transition can be a long process, and some even take years to complete. You might get to feeling, “Enough, already!” But being careful in your transition will likely pay off in the end.

First, you need to be patient to find the right match in buying a dental practice. At ddsmatch Southwest, our goal as dental practice transition specialists is to help facilitate that match. We believe a good deal is one where each party walks away from the table happy with the agreement they’ve made. 

The best way to accomplish this is to match a seller with a buyer who shares their practice philosophy. This way, you, as the buyer, get a practice with the kinds of patients you are looking for, which practices the type of dentistry you want to practice, and which has the type of office, staff, and location that matches your career goals. The seller gets the peace of mind knowing that their patients, staff, and legacy will be well cared for.

Figuring out this match takes some time. It might not be the first or second practice that you look at. And, even when you think you’ve found the right one, you’ll need to spend time in the office and with the doctor. Get to know how they practice and why they do it that way. Look at their management style, business methods, and even get to know them a bit personally. The more you know, the better you can determine how good of a match it is.

Since the selling doctor has more experience, you can learn from their successes. Importantly, you can also get a better sense of what can be improved. Finally, when it comes time to implement changes, you’ll be prepared to do so in a way that meshes with the established strengths of the practice.

Don’t Mess with Success (Yet)

If you’re buying a dental practice that’s thriving, there are reasons it is doing well. The doctor has put in a lot of time and thought into how the practice is managed, especially on the clinical side. The seller will know their patients and their community, what works and what doesn’t. Remember, the patients aren’t necessarily going to be thrilled about getting a new dentist—patients don’t stick with a dentist they don’t like. So you need to learn why they come to this practice. And, at first, you should strongly consider adjusting your style to mimic the selling doctor on things like how they explain treatment, how casual they are with patients (joking and conversational or not), and how they interact with and manage staff. This will help put everyone at ease. 

This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be a clone of the selling doctor. This is simply providing a baseline of consistency as an important part of the success of the practice. Once you’ve got that down, then you will want to make small adjustments to bring in your own style. But too much change too quickly can spook patients. You want them to feel comfortable with the change, and assured that the care they’re accustomed to receiving and paying for will not be downgraded.

If it Ain’t Broke . . . 

While even the best practices have room for improvement, when it comes to buying a dental practice, those improvements are best incorporated slowly. Sometimes older doctors haven’t kept up with advances in technology, marketing, or even the current clinical practices. However, you will be well-served by taking the time to really get to know the practice—both from the clinical and business sides—before making big changes.

One reason has been addressed above: too much change too soon can make patients (and staff) uncomfortable. You need that steady stream of paying patients coming through your door each day and you need the confidence of a staff that feels secure to help serve your patient’s needs. Once you’ve earned their confidence, you can start tinkering with improvements. 

Starting small with things like improving efficiency or updating marketing practices is a good place to start. It will show your staff and patients that the quality of care isn’t being impacted by things that are making the practice better. These smaller changes will also show you how malleable the practice is; you can learn more about where to focus next and how much flexibility you have to make further changes.

Considering Buying a Dental Practice in Texas and New Mexico?

If you are ready to make this next step in your career, we have dental practices for sale throughout Texas and New Mexico. You can view our listings here. If you see any your are interested in, or have any questions, please contact us— it starts with a conversation.