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Mentoring, Selling a Practice; Transitions Start Today

By Greg Auerbach, MBA

Inside dentistry, there is some uncertainty as to what transition specialists actually can do – what services are provided and how complex of a transaction that can be handled. The simple answer is that a transition specialist can do just about any type of transition. Before undertaking the challenge though, the viability must be determined for each of the parties involved.

Here is a very common scenario:
A senior doctor has been practicing in a location for about 30 years. When he or she started practicing, they joined an office in the area as an associate and eventually bought the office from the mentor in the practice.

Since then, he or she has continued working in the office as a solo-practitioner, making a comfortable living by keeping the overhead “low”. The practice is a golden opportunity for a fresh, new dentist and the senior doctor feels that the mentored person is ready to begin the transitional process.

Generally, what the senior doctor is looking for is the transition that he or she experienced when they started in dentistry.

The senior doctor wants to find an associate to come in, earn their keep, bide their time and be willing to take the reigns on the day that the senior doctor decides to retire. The senior doctor wants somebody in the office who is young, wide-eyed, willing to learn and looking for the opportunity to shadow them while waiting in the wings. They remember the time when they started, when sweat-equity was just that, and expect that since their practice has not changed much since that time, that it is still a viable way to find a successor.

Does this actually work today? Without the proper analysis, there is no feasible way to tell anybody if their ideas are reasonable or not. Without looking at the most obvious issues, including office size, staffing and new patient flow, it is impossible to know if an associate could be adequately supported. Is the production of the practice sufficient enough to support two doctors? Beyond that, is the staff willing to adapt to another doctor? Is the senior doctor able or truly willing to mentor and relinquish some of the patients and responsibility? Will the patients accept being scheduled with a new doctor?

Possibly the most important consideration, is that the junior doctor will be coming in with debt unheard of at any time in the past. In a world where $150,000 in debt is the low end of the range, ‘sweat equity’ takes on an entirely different definition.

Every opportunity is a golden opportunity for the right doctor. What is most important is finding the right transition structure for your own golden opportunity. Without a professional analysis, how can anybody tell you that your office is ready for an associate or could sell for a specific price? You cannot diagnose and treatment plan dentistry without looking in a patients mouth.

Transitions can take on many forms and at ADS, we have seen most of them. Why do I say ‘most’? Because the next phone call will probably bring something new to adapt to and include in the progressive realm of practice transitions.

In coming months, we will look at real life transition studies, the good, the bad and the specifics.

Keep in mind that transition strategies start the day a practice begins. Managing that practice as it evolves will allow for smoother and more profitable transitions.




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