Multiple Practices Can Mean Multiple Problems

Multiple Practices Can Mean Multiple Problems

When you’re the owner, it’s all on you

Fellow dentists often say to me, “You own multiple practices? Wow, that must mean a lot of passive income!” 

On paper, they’re not wrong. But as any business owner can tell you, there’s not much “passive” about it. Especially when a few of your dentists move out of state and you’re scrambling to fill the gap they left behind.

That’s the situation I found myself in last summer. Not only was I experiencing a high-risk pregnancy (which happily had the best of endings), I was filling in for two dentists who followed their spouses to new, faraway jobs. I was doing my regular schedule as both a hands-on dentist and the owner of nine practices, as well as seeing the patients of the two departed doctors. I added to the schedule of my remaining dentists and brought in some temporary help, but was still working six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. And I lost a few patients who did not appreciate seeing a new face every time they sat in the chair (and I don’t blame them one bit; consistency is very important to patients).

I learned a lot through that period – chief of which is that when you’re the owner, the buck stops with you. My wonderful staff was sympathetic and supportive, but virtually all of it came down to me. I was the only one who could jump in and keep things running. My staff was counting on me to smooth the waters and make payroll, patients were counting on me to ensure professional and comfortable treatments, landlords were counting on me for their rent, and the bank was counting on me to pay its note on time. And my unborn daughter was counting on me to stay healthy so she could thrive.

That crazy summer (which had the added challenge of the Covid pandemic) taught me that when it comes down to it, there is just no substitute for hard work, persistence and perseverance. 

Eventually I was able to hire new practitioners (more on that in a future blog) and enjoy four glorious months with my newborn daughter away from the offices. I still handled the myriad administrative duties of my nine practices from home, but I love that aspect of the business – keeping all the parts moving and growing is challenging and fun, like working a puzzle. 

So, what’s the takeaway? Owning multiple practices is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for everyone. Is it right for you? Here’s some issues to chew on:

  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to keep the offices going, including working so many hours that your arms are aching and you’re developing a stiff neck from so much hands-on work? 
  • On top of all that work in the chair, can you handle the day-to-day details like the supply chain, equipment and staff issues, scheduling and troubleshooting?
  • Most importantly, can you muster the energy and commitment to coolly and clearly predict new challenges and keep an eye on the big picture so you’re constantly growing the bottom line? 

Of course, ownership has wonderful benefits, too. I love running my own business, encouraging my staff to be their very best and, most of all, providing patients with state-of-the-art care. I wouldn’t change a thing, and that is the very best feeling in the world.

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