Five Myths Dentists Believe about Owning a Practice

  1. I can’t afford it.
  2. Corporations will buy all the best practices.
  3. Owners have a less flexible lifestyle.
  4. As an associate, “it’s not my problem.”
  5. You’re on your own.

At the age of 15, I knew that I wanted to be a dentist and own my practice. This goal spurred me through dental school and impacted all of my decisions. I saw owning a practice as achievable and desirable. But the more that I mentor young dentists, the more I find that many believe owning their own practice is an unattainable goal, or at best, a long way off in the future. In the face of significant debt, lack of business experience, and limited funds, many new dentists believe that working as an associate is the only viable option. There are some myths about owning a dental practice that is widely believed. I want to take a moment and address the five most common misconceptions that might just be keeping you from stepping into success as a dental entrepreneur.

1.  I can’t afford it.

When you graduate from dental school with debt in the six-figure range taking on more debt to own a business can seem counter-intuitive. Who would give me financing to buy a practice? According to Dental Economics (The Case for Private Practice, Jan. 2019) banks are currently willing to loan money to those purchasing a dental practice, and small business loans are very attainable, even for those carrying large debt. This new debt is the kind that will enable the dentist to pay back their student loans and make a more significant profit.

Let’s look at some numbers. As an associate, your income is limited. You are an employee and earn a salary. Any personal expenses you incur cannot be legally written off on your taxes (i.e., meals, travel, car mileage). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a dentist as of May 2018 was $175,840. Of this, a large portion will go towards taxes and paying off student loans.

Fast-forwarding ten years, and a dentist working as an associate may have her student debt paid off.

If the dentist were to purchase a practice however, she can make significantly more. The MDA estimates that 49% of Michigan dental practices have incomes of a million or higher.

Instead of believing that you can’t afford to own dental practice, maybe the reality is, you can’t afford not to!

2. Corporations will buy all the best practices

So, you have your small business loan, and you’re ready to purchase a practice.  Aren’t you going to have to compete with large corporations who can write a check and buy a practice?

In actuality, the fact that you are NOT a corporation will play in your favor. Many retiring dentists would rather sell their business to one owner who will care for their patients and respect the character and culture of the practice.

3. Owners have a less flexible lifestyle

Many believe that owning a practice increases your level of responsibility, and the hours you must work to keep the business running. While some business owners feel the need to micro-manage, this does not have to be the case!

I currently own and operate eight dental practices. I built teams in each office and then empower them to work for my success. As an owner, I create my schedule and choose the hours and days that I want to work.

As an associate, there is less flexibility. You will always be at the mercy of the practice owner and the days and hours they want you to work. Taking time off to travel and enjoy personal pursuits will be limited to a narrow window.

So, in reality, the practice owner will always enjoy more flexibility and freedom than a hired associate.

4. It’s not my problem

It’s easy to assume that as an associate, you would bear less responsibility, both legally and within the organization. The prevailing thought is, “it’s not my problem!” As a respected member of the medical community, an associate is just as vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits.

In this age of social media, associates are just as susceptible to bad reviews on Twitter, Yelp, or Instagram in addition to online rating services like ratemds.com.

As an employee, it may not be your problem if the technology, systems, or equipment are not up to par, but it will affect your level of excellence.
And you will not be in a position to effect changes.

The business owner is empowered to solve problems and pursue the highest level of service.

5. You’re on your own

If I purchase a practice, don’t I have to be ready to run every aspect of the business? “I’ve never done payroll or purchased software or managed an office,” you might say.

You have just spent several year studying dentistry and preparing to be a medical professional and may feel at a loss when it comes to the realities of running and owning a business.

The good news is, you don’t have to do it all by yourself!

I can help coach you through the details and share what I have learned on my journey. Let’s talk! 

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