Purchasing your own dental practice is something that the majority of dentists aspire to in North America. However, as dental schools are focused on the clinical elements of dentistry, it’s best to consider working as an associate for a couple of years to understand the business aspect of running a dental office. Once you’ve gained enough experience and feel confident to setup your own practice, there are a few things that you may wish to consider.
Buying An Existing Practice In Canada or the USA
Most dentists prefer buying an existing practice instead of starting off from scratch. This eliminates the time spent on searching for spaces, establishing a patient base, hiring staff, buying equipment etc.
• Dental Practice Brokers. Brokers specialize in helping dentists buy and sell dental practices. They will be able to help you buy a practice from a retiring dentist or from someone who may be moving to a new location. They’ll also help you negotiate and facilitate the transition and purchase of the practice.
Things to consider when buying a practice
• Asking price. Establish a budget and stick to it when negotiating.
• Confidentiality Agreement. Be prepared to sign a confidentiality agreement from the selling dentist. This is to protect the seller’s practice information from prospective ‘tire kickers’ who may end up opening a practice close to the seller’s location. This is simply the seller protecting their investment in their practice. As a prospective purchaser, be sure to have your lawyer review any such agreements.
• Ask questions and never make assumptions. Ask the practice owner to supply you with a valuation report and a practice profile. This will let you evaluate the practice as a business. It’s also best to ask for copies of the financial records of the past 3 to 5 years. Have them reviewed by your accountant. They will be able to tell you if the practice is healthy or not. Also ask your accountant or lawyers if there’s any specific information that you should obtain. Put all the questions that you have down on paper. Sometimes even the most trivial information can be valuable.
Research your location choices. Performing a demographic study before selecting the location for your dental office will help you locate any competition in the neighborhood. This information will also indicate if the existing practice(s) are well-established, offer competing services, and if the area you are considering is over-saturated with dentists.
• Practice visibility: A dental clinic that’s easily visible from the road is a far better option than one that’s situated on the top floors of a building, especially in the early days of your practice when you need to attract as many patients as possible.
Pre-existing domain name or web presence
Most dentists in North America have now come to the realization that a web presence is an important element to attracting new patients to expand their patient base, and maintain loyalty of existing patients. It is important to negotiate any domain names / dental websites that are connected to the practice in any purchase of said practice. The investment in a domain name that identifies the practice, are important elements that should be very seriously considered by the purchasing dentists, as the length of time that the domain name has been in existence, pointing to the location of the practice, will not only facilitate the organic rankings of this practice on search engines, but in terms of e-mail identifiers, will maintain continuity of communications with existing patients.
Investing in a dental website is a sensible business decision. It can draw potential new patients and maintain brand loyalty. Dental blogs, social networking and communication via email are great ways to let people know that you now have your own dental practice, and if the practice domain name is already in existence eg. www.mylocationdental.com, then there is absolute value in securing that domain name when negotiating the purchase of the practice. You may change the website address at any time, but at least you will have the existing domain name to act as a ‘pointer’ to any new website, thereby not losing out on the pre-existing link backs to the practice’s current website, search engine ranking that may already have been established, and e-mail communication with existing patients.