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Are you prepared for life after dentistry?

Issue 3

When Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde wrote “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect” in the nineteenth century he probably did not imagine just how relevant this adage would ring true in the twenty-first century.

When Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde wrote “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect” in the nineteenth century he probably did not imagine just how relevant this adage would ring true in the twenty-first century. We as dentists must pay particular attention to this advice not only in our lives in general, but very specifically as it relates to our dental practices.

Although for many of us, the road to retirement will be mostly a straight run, with predictability, some of us will face sudden twists and curves from unexpected events that we are not prepared for. Without much warning, or not uncommonly with no warning at all, we are left in a situation that renders us unable to continue to practice. Events that create physical or emotional disabilities can render you unable to perform dentistry. In the most extreme situation, sudden death occurs.

Most often, the dental practice is either one of the most valuable assets the dentist has, or is the most valuable asset. Proactively preparing for the unexpected can make the difference between financial survival and financial ruin for not only the dentist, but also the dentist’s family, especially in the case of death. The reality is that each of us needs to be prepared for the unexpected, at every stage of our practice lives. Now, when you seem to have the least need, and the most ability to do so, is the time to act.

Sometimes it’s disability that rapidly sneaks up on us. In my own situation, painful back and neck episodes initiated in dental school and progressed during twenty seven years of practice. I always managed to recover from these episodes one way or another and became lulled into believing that I could continue this “roll the dice” approach until retirement age. That approach was halted when one of the episodes resulted in losing part of the motor function of my leg. Straightforward advice from my neurologist and surgeon that continued sitting and leaning at the chair would result in further permanent damage created an almost immediate need to stop practicing.

Fortunately, my practice was able to be transitioned efficiently and expediently due to the fact that I was enrolled in a death and disability program with a competent practice transition broker. Having all of my comprehensive practice information on file, allowed the broker to match my practice with appropriate buyers almost immediately. In this case, the buyer had also been proactive in having bank financing pre approval while waiting for the ideal opportunity to arise. The practice retained full value and the proceeds of that sale have been invaluable for me and my family in moving forward.

You can “expect the unexpected” in several ways. First and foremost, if you haven’t already done so, align yourself with a competent dental transition specialist. Having a true and accurate appraisal for your practice, that is updated regularly, is not only an integral part of your  financial planning and retiring, but will be invaluable in the case that you become impaired, disabled, or deceased. Look for a transition specialist that fully represents you as the seller, known as single agency, rather than one providing dual representation (or dual agency), or a transaction broker (doesn’t represent either party). In fact, dual representation, also known as dual agency, is illegal in some states. Only a broker that represents you and not the buyer has complete fiduciary responsibility to you and represents your interests exclusively. This will be of utmost importance when it actually comes time to sell the practice.

Another important factor is the transition specialist’s ability to perform an appraisal. According to Hy Smith, author of ” Dental Practice Transactions Handbook”, the government has established standards that should be met when an appraisal is performed. These standards are known as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and must be adhered to during the appraisal process to assure that the relevant facts and information have been analyzed and interpreted properly. He goes on to explain in his book that in addition to USPAP, the Institute of Business Appraisers (IBA) and the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) have universally accepted and required standards that the appraiser be knowledgeable in the area of the appraisal. Therefore, it essential that you are engaged with a specialist that has specific dental practice appraisal experience.

Of course, prevention can sometimes help prevent the unexpected.  Since spinal pathology is one of the leading causes of disability among dentists, regular exercise designed to increase strength of the spinal trunk is essential from the day you start dental school. A good source of information on this topic for all dentists , can be found in the book “Back Pain – What Works!” authored by Joseph Kandel, M.D. Additionally,  if you have other concerns, such as chemical or alcohol addiction, or, emotional issues, seek help now. Many state dental associations have confidential programs to help their members with these situations.

Of course, most of “the unexpected” is not preventable. One of my colleagues went from being a fully functioning practitioner, to being unable to practice again as a result of injuring his hands during a skiing accident. The closing sentence of an article he recently co-authored states “Remember, serendipity is not a plan. Prepare now.” I believe this most accurately summarizes the need to “expect the unexpected”, and “show a thoroughly modern intellect”.

Philip LoGrippo, DMD lives in Fort Meyers and manages client transitions for Professional Transitions. Professional Transitions a full-service firm providing comprehensive transition services for dentists from graduation to retirement. The central focus and purpose is to assist clients in realizing lifetime personal, professional and financial goals in win-win-win-win (seller-buyer-staff-patient) structured transitions. Phil began practicing general dentistry in 1984 after graduating of Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Dental Medicine and completing a residency in Advanced General Dentistry at Westchester Medical Center. Dr. LoGrippo maintained a private practice in general dentistry in Naples, Florida for 22 years, selling it in 2011. Phil joined Professional Transitions, Inc. and sister company ADS Florida, LLC in 2012.  A past president of Collier County Dental Association and current member of the Executive Committee, he has served on the House of Delegates of the Florida Dental Association and is a member of the ADA, FDA, West Coast District Dental Association. Phil can be reached at phil@professionaltransitions.com or by calling 888.229.5764.

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