Ready to sell your practice, but not ready to retire? I’ve been there. Luckily, there are more options than ever, whether you want to continue practicing or use your experience in other ways.
I LOVED PRACTICING dentistry. I also loved being a practice owner, so much so that I bought and sold several over the years. But the thing is, dental practice ownership is also an investment. As with all investments, at a certain point there comes a time to sell. Maybe you receive an offer you can’t refuse. Or maybe your practice’s value is peaking and it’s time to get out before you risk losing value.
This can be a tough pill for some practice owners to swallow. Being a doctor and caring for patients is often tied to the value we place on ourselves as human beings. That’s why there’s always a temptation to think of a dental practice as a lifetime investment that you will own until retirement age (whenever that might be).
There’s never an ideal time to sell, really. You’re going to have to face a sense of loss at some point, and also the feeling that you’re abandoning your patients and in-office team. The question is, do you want to sell while you still have lots of control over the sale, or because you’re forced to, perhaps because you’re physically unable to continue or have other issues that make full-time practice ownership too much of a burden?
Obviously, if your practice’s value is at an all-time high, then the moment to sell is right now. While it’s true you’ll be moving on from your patients and team, it’s also true that you’re in a great position to make sure there’s a proper transition to the right new owner, rather than waiting too long and having to settle for any willing buyer that comes along. That’ll greatly mitigate any feelings of loss or guilt.
One of the keys to letting go is making sure you’re excited about the future. Have you really taken time to think about what you might do after selling your practice? Most dentists would probably say no. That’s dangerous, though, because uncertainty could then get in the way of selling your practice when the right opportunity eventually presents itself. And as we all know, if you hesitate, sometimes you’ll end up missing out.
I can’t tell you what you should do, but I can promise you from personal experience that there are many options. First, just because you sell a practice doesn’t mean you can never own one again. I’ve sold practices and moved on, only to find a new practice I wanted to own. There’s no reason why you can’t apply to a new office the same skills that made you a successful business owner the first time.
Of course, there are more employment opportunities than ever for doctors who want to keep practicing without the responsibility of ownership. You might not even need to look beyond the practice you’re selling. A younger purchaser would likely be very happy to have you stay on as a mentor, as well as someone who can provide welcome continuity for existing patients and team members.
Me? I’ve had an exciting career as a dentist outside of practice ownership. I was a military dentist for several years, managed multiple dental practices at once and served as a consultant and trainer for a product manufacturer. Today, I’m the head of Practice Transitions for Benco Dental (the publisher of this magazine), mentoring dentists across the country who are buying and selling practices. It has been hugely rewarding to put my own experience to work helping doctors avoid pitfalls and find the ideal path forward.
The moral of the story: Don’t wait to think about what life might be like after practice ownership. If you have a plan, you can confidently sell at the perfect time and maximize the value of your investment in practice ownership. Want to talk about it? Get in touch with me. These days, your future can be almost anything you want it to be.
JAMES M. CLARK, DMD has filled many roles in clinical dentistry for more than 30 years. Now the head of Practice Transitions at Benco Dental, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.