Some dentists have a vision of what their “DREAM” dental practice is going to look like.
I mean, they know in their mind what their facility will be like from the front door and every pace and step to the back door.
“If you build it he will come.
Other dentists never have this sort of vision.
Other dentists purchase an existing practice, with an existing clientele, and they adapt their purchase over time.
[For some dentists in this situation, they want to make changes from day one. And other dentists “take their time”. More on that another day.]
During my twenty-eight years of owning and running my own practice, and during my thirty-five years of being a dentist, I never ever had the “dream” of doing a start-up.
To me, buying a cashflow, buying an existing dental business, made a lot more sense than building something on hope.
And after all, if I ever grew that business, I could build out a new facility in a new location and bring my clientele across to that facility, couldn’t I?
After all, a lot of dental practices do this relocation very successfully, don’t they?
[Funnily, I had two dentist friends each working in Newcastle NSW at the time of the 1989 earthquake there.
Both of my friends believed that the earthquake, and the subsequent rebuilding that the town was going to need, would impact negatively on the town’s economy, and on dentistry.
What my friends reported was that in contrast to their predictions, both their dental practices became busier and increased business despite of the destruction in the town.
And that extra business they experienced came from new patients to their dental practices who had been patients of other dentists whose practices had to relocate.
When my friends explained to these new patients that their (affected) dentist had temporarily relocated and was still working, but in rooms nearby, the common answer from these patients was:
“Yes, I know. But we felt like changing. And this gave us the chance to.”
I think, around that same time, or just after, I was looking to relocate my dental practice that I had purchased, into a newly constructed building across the other side of my town.
Ultimately, for one reason or another, I decided not to relocate, and in the end over the twenty-eight years that I owned and operated that practice, I was fortunate enough to be able to expand my facility into adjoining suites in the same location.
You see, what I learned from my friends in Newcastle was that people primarily are creatures of habit, and they often don’t like change.
Especially change applied to them without consultation on their behalf.
It can be disruptive and disorienting.
[In fact, recently I spoke with a dental practice owner who under the advice of an employee dentist who wanted to “buy in” to the practice, built a new facility and relocated.
As things were proceeding with the build, the employee dentist had a change of mind and decided to leave the practice and work elsewhere, leaving this dentist with the problem of finishing the build and relocating the practice on his own.
More overhead and cost.
In fact, one of the things that dissuaded me from relocating my dental practice back in 1990 was when my then landlord brought a neighbouring dentist around to look at renting the rooms I was about to leave.
This kind of got me thinking that maybe I needed to seriously rethink whether the reason for my intended relocation was actually logic based or whether it was simply an attack of the BIG SHINY OBJECT syndrome.
What I learned:
What I learned was that dental practices aren’t really about facility so much.
They are really about people.
Because without the people, without the patients of the practice, all you really have is the walls and the floor and the ceilings.
And your practice doesn’t have a heart.
It’s the people who you serve that make your dental practice what it is.
And so long as your practice is clean, and tidy and friendly, and you do good dentistry, you’ll always have patients beating a path to your door.
I couldn’t have imagined how tough I would have made my life by relocating my dental practice into that brand new building and giving myself a huge financial burden to administer?
As you know, what I ended up doing was to grow that original practice into a thriving practice in its original location and then sell it for several million dollars.
That counterintuitive decision to not relocate into a big grand brand new facility allowed me then to invest more wisely in myself as well as in other non-dental assets.
Don’t get me wrong:
There is a lot of opportunity in building out a brand new dental office.
But at a cost.
And not only the financial cost.
A friend of mine built a new dental practice in a new suburb in north western Sydney.
Which was fine.
Until the next year another dentist did the same.
And the following year another dentist came to town.
And all of a sudden his “so-called” market was being divided up by new competition coming to town.
A factor that my friend had not even considered.
Also, a few years ago the Australian Government gave grants to dentists to help them build start up practices in rural locations in Australia.
And some of these start up practices have been very successful.
Other dentists who participated in this programme were disappointed to find out [after they had committed] that some rural towns were getting multiple start up dental practices being approved [unbeknown to each other].
Just because others are doing it
You see, just because others are doing something, doesn’t mean it’s the way things should be done.
In 2009, Dr Omer Reed told me that in the USA, ninety-five percent of dentists reaching the age of sixty-five cannot afford to retire and still need to keep on working.
With the opportunity that a career in dentistry offers, that statistic is a tragedy.
What that statistic tells me is that ninety-five percent of dentists are doing it wrong.
They’re following the wrong plan.
And so I need to ask…
I need to pose the question.
Whose plan are you following?
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