Solo Dental Practice – Is It Worth the Risk?
Going it alone in a solo dental practice usually isn’t the path of least resistance. You have to be comfortable with a high level of risk, and you have to go out on your own and make everything happen the way you like (or as nearly as possible). There is no other dentist backing you up, giving you advice or sharing the financial risk. Given all these facts, is opening a solo practice really worth the trouble? Many dentists would say a resounding “yes!”
You Run the Show
When you own a solo dental practice, you get to manage your dentistry business the way you like. Everyone in the building answers to you. You can make choices about patient care, financial arrangements, office hours, who to hire, how to manage staff problems or what new equipment to buy. And, you can act independently to fulfill these decisions. Many dentists find group practice too confining. They would rather be the one to call the shots in their business.
You Reap the Financial Rewards
If you do everything right and your dentistry business flourishes, you are the one who reaps the greatest financial rewards. Rather than just getting a share of the profits, you get all the profits. Doesn’t that sound better? If you feel you might be an entrepreneur at heart, solo practice might just be for you. And, if you go into group practice, you run the risk that you will carry the load of responsibilities but make no more than another dentist in the practice who is a slacker. That is a frustration that most dentists want to avoid. With solo practice, though, you get what you work to have. Bottom line? Solo dental practice has the potential of giving you the highest lifetime income.
You Are Free to Adhere to Your Own Philosophy of Practice
Whether you join an existing dental group or you create a group, the other dentists may have differing opinions about what the practice philosophy of your dentistry business will be. If you read Chapter 1, you’ve already considered your own philosophy of practice. How important is that philosophy to you? Practicing on your own means that you can follow it to the letter, including your philosophies on treatment, payment, team function and honoring your own values as a dentist.
Your Practice Is Your Asset and Yours Alone
When you establish your own practice and maintain it as a solo practice, you always have an asset that you can sell at any time. This is one of the ways solo dentists boost their bank accounts when it’s time for retirement. While it is true that you may own a part of a group practice, you do not get the same financial rewards for selling that share than you would for selling an entire practice.
You Can Reach Your Potential as a Dentist
If you are a part of a group dental practice, your role and position are, at least partly, determined by the group. Your own solo practice can reflect where you are as a dentist. Because of this, the practice can grow and change just as you do. You might start out as a general dentist, treating common problems and referring certain cases to specialists. Then, as you learn and train more, you can shift the practice to accommodate your new expertise. You have more freedom to take your professional and business career the way you would like and reach your true potential as a dentist.
Can You Deal with the Loneliness of Solo Practice?
For many dentists, loneliness is the biggest hurdle to succeeding as a solo dentist. You have no one else on your own level to share your day with you, no one to get advice from or share a casual conversation with about life as a dentist. No one else in the dental practice understands the challenges you face in the way another dentist would relate to them. If you are a more solitary person by nature, these problems might not concern you. However, if you are more socially-oriented, it might be wiser to consider associating with another dentist.
Two Ways to Practice as a Solo Dentist
Starting a solo practice comes with many choices – more than if you practice with others. One thing you’ll have to decide is whether to purchase an existing practice or start fresh with a new building or one that needs to be outfitted for a dental practice.
Purchase an Existing Practice
One way to start a dentistry business is to find a dentist who is leaving the area or the profession and purchase their practice. You can purchase a building or take over the lease, purchase equipment and even acquire the practice’s patient records. While it may seem like the easiest way to get started, purchasing an existing practice does have its drawbacks.
For example, you and your lawyer can negotiate an agreement with the departing dentists or his or her heirs to have access to the records of his or her patients. This move is called “acquiring good will for patient records” because technically, you cannot buy or sell records. They belong to the patient. However, one problem you might encounter with such a seal is that patients of the former dentistry business owner see your practice as an extension of the old dentist’s practice and expect you to keep the same philosophies and policies. If you keep the former dentist’s staff, you’ll likely have the same types of problems with them. Also, the equipment may be old and outdated, especially if the dentist has been thinking more of retiring with each passing year.
Start Fresh by Constructing, Buying or Leasing a Building
The most ambitious choice you can make is to construct or buy a building. The purpose of this book is not to lead you through the process of building or buying. If you are considering these options, speak to people in the construction and real estate industry that specialize in the dental industry in your target area. Since most dentists these days lease their office space that will be the focus here.
When you start your own dentistry business in a building that hasn’t been used as a dental office before, you have the opportunity to easily make it your own. You aren’t dealing with someone else’s leftovers. Instead, you have a blank slate to decorate and equip however you like, as long as you can keep it within budget.
You can develop a unique presence in the community and online to attract the patients you want to serve. And, you don’t have to worry so much about patient expectations. They’re very aware that they’re seeing a dentist who may be very different from their former dentist, so they are prepared for policies that might not be the same as those to which they’re accustomed.
Advantages of Solo Practice
- Higher potential lifetime earnings
- More control
- More freedom
- Reach your potential as a dentist
- The practice is your asset when you retire