Howdy, Partner?

March 14, 2016
DMD Staff

Chances are, you have at some point considered adding a partner or several partners to your practice. Or, you have considered buying into a practice with already established dentists. Here are some things to consider before making such a monumental decision.

Running your own dental practice brings undeniable rewards, an often-joyous sense of autonomy, and the sometimes-needed boost that can come from calling all the shots yourself. But it can bring stress, too. Many dentists in solo practices find that scheduling vacations is difficult, and taking a sick day, while often a better option than potentially spreading infection, can lead to disrupted and unhappy patients.

Chances are, you have at some point considered adding a partner or several partners to your practice. Or, you have considered buying into a practice with already established dentists. Here are some things to consider before making such a monumental decision.

Are you really ready?

Being in a partnership means letting go of the reins and sharing in key decisions for your practice. It may mean an adjustment in your schedule, your patient load, your physical location, your office staff, and even, ultimately, the services you offer. A partnership by definition means that key decisions will no longer be made by you alone. That thought may be a relief to some, while it may seem daunting for others.

Finding potential partners of like mind and like business goals, and then thoroughly vetting those potential partners, is an obvious crucial step in this process, but it isn’t the first step. The first step should be a period of thorough self-reflection. Are your reasons for considering a partnership the right reasons? Are they realistic? Are they sustainable? Before reaching out to anyone about the possibility of partnership, reach in and make sure you’re ready to make a commitment that will mean less autonomy for you.

Are they really ready?

If you’re considering buying into a practice, look into every nook and cranny of the financial documents of the practice. Consider local economic factors and trends, patient demographics and possibilities for growth, competition in the area, the personnel history of the practice, and any liens on the practice and its principals. Consider speaking with a consultant, accountant, or tax advisor about the implications of buying in and key questions that must be answered.

But, mirroring the sentiment above, are the established dentists in the practice ready to add you? Do a deep dive into the reasons for adding another dentist to the practice, and make sure what they’re looking for lines up with your strengths and interests. Many people forget when conducting interviews that it’s a two-way process. You’re not just selling yourself and your skills. You’re also making sure you ultimately want to make the commitment to them.

Get Some Help

Once the relationship parameters are sorted out and the negotiating phase begins, secure an attorney, an accountant, or both for outside help in determining how the buy-in should be structured, what the decision-making structure will be going forward, who is responsible for paying creditors in the unfortunate event of practice insolvency, options for dissolving the agreement if necessary, and the dozens of additional legal and logistical considerations.

Both taking on a partner or joining an existing partnership involve many important decisions that should not be taken lightly—and probably shouldn’t be taken on at all without some form of legal representation.

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