Dreaming of Practice Ownership: Do you want to buy or build the practice of your dreams?

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series of New Dentist Now blog posts on practice ownership from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Member Advantage.

What’s your “practice personality” type: buyer or builder? Acquiring an established dental practice or starting your own practice can be equally viable routes to success, depending on your priorities, strengths and interests. To help discover which path to ownership may be right for you, consider asking yourself these questions.

How much time do you want to invest in the business start-up period before you begin seeing patients?

Buyer: You may experience a transition period of six to nine months before you assume ownership and begin seeing patients.

Builder: It may take nine to 12 months to build your own practice.

In either case, it may be a good idea to have savings or a secondary source of income in place to help you bridge the gap before you launch your practice.

Where do you want to live?

Buyer: Before shopping around for a practice, think about where you want to work and live. While buying a practice may allow you to move to another city or state, you may want to consider a practice that is already established in a community that fits your needs.

Builder: Building your own practice can also provide you with the flexibility to choose your location. As you begin your search, consider a community that welcomes and supports new businesses and that you know has enough patients to support your practice in the long term.

Whether you buy or build, it can be important to engage with your community in order to market your practice and recruit new patients.

How do you want to assemble your team?

Buyer: You would prefer to assume leadership of a group of employees who already have experience working together.

Builder: You would prefer to hire and train employees yourself.

Each approach comes with its own challenges. If you acquire a practice, it can take time for employees to adapt to the change in leadership. But if you start your own practice, finding the right people can also require a substantial investment of time and resources.

How do you want to build your patient base?

Buyer: You would rather come into a stable, existing patient base that you can gradually grow over time.

Builder: You enjoy networking and meeting new people, and you are willing to invest effort in marketing to find new patients.

In either case, patient relationships, follow-ups, and community outreach can be critical for the success of your practice in the long run.

What are your priorities for the office environment?

Buyer: You are comfortable using older equipment that someone else has selected (at least in the short term). You don’t mind working within the previous owner’s environment and structures until renovation is possible.

Builder: You want to choose your own equipment, and you have strong preferences for the aesthetic and systems of your office.

The costs of buying new equipment and building or renovating an office can be significant, so factor them into your business plan from the beginning.

How do you want to establish support systems?

Buyer: You’re more comfortable having scheduling, patient tracking, and operational systems already in place so that you don’t have to build them from scratch. You would rather devote more time to patient relationships than other business tasks.

Builder: You are comfortable developing systems and procedures for a wide range of operations. You have strong organizational skills and want to make decisions across many aspects of your practice.

Seeing yourself as a buyer or a builder may depend, in part, on how interested you are in handling business needs, such as strategy and marketing.

Both paths to ownership can be satisfying and successful. The key in deciding whether to buy or build is to make a choice that fits your personality type and your vision for your practice.

A tool that can help prepare you:

Other helpful resources:

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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