I’ve seen many presentations during my time in the dental business, but none entertain me more than the ones where practice transition teams speak to a group of dentists to introduce them to their work. It seemed a bit confusing to me at first. Why do younger dentists need to hear about this, when they are so many years away from retirement? The look on most attendees’ faces is usually one of puzzlement. I often scan the room and guess what they’re thinking about: What’s the angle here? Do they want to charge me a monthly fee for something until I retire? Is this speech going to be relevant to me in five or ten years, when I actually plan to start thinking about slowing down? Was this trip really worth a free lunch?
These are all valid questions. I’m not even an actual client and I think the same thing. The good news is that many of these transition specialists (or transition brokers) are far from the vampires everyone seems to expect. In fact, if you understand the concepts that the good ones work upon, it seems like a basic necessity to keep them in your mental Rolodex for the life of your career.
On the surface, it’s true that you might not need them at all, but that’s only if you dream of shutting down your practice at the end with no succession plan for the legacy you’ve built. Even their most basic assistance might not be necessary until five years before you plan on retiring. However, as with any life occurrence, isn’t the main goal to be able to sneak a peek around the corner and see what lies on the horizon? I think Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Putting it bluntly, it is totally irresponsible to your family to go through your career without the basic business knowledge that these experts make you aware of—for free. Now, it’s no secret that dentists often rely on others to manage their business affairs because they prefer to “focus on the dentistry.” But a smart dentist will know that success requires more than that. Do you have an idea of how to truly put a value on your practice? Do you know what investments will provide the highest return for your remaining years and make your legacy more attractive to a future buyer? Most importantly, do you know what young buyers are focused on while vetting a practice to purchase? It would be impressive if you knew the answers to all these questions, but there are so many more reasons you need to peek around the corner.
Dr. Angelica Mena of Mena Dental in Kensington, Maryland, is in the beginning stages of selling her practice to move south. She is currently working with Todd and Sheryl Garfinkel of ddsmatch in the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area. Dr. Mena spoke with me briefly about her time partnering with them so far. "Their knowledge was overwhelming to me because I hadn’t thought about everything involved in simply selling and moving," she says. "Their communication is amazing, though, we have to talk a lot because there are so many little things to be aware of. I do feel like I’m in the best hands possible—they’re very professional, but very nice as well."
For their part, Todd and Sheryl don’t consider themselves your average transition brokers. “Some see what we do with the connotation of a ‘used car salesman’ mentality," Sheryl says. "Although we’re experts on the numbers, we’re more focused on the transition rather than the transaction. It’s about knowing each client, but also knowing your local market by getting to meet as many local dentists as possible. How lucky are we? We get better results for our clients simply by meeting and talking to more dentists and learning about their practices, selling or not.”
Transition specialists want to meet you because it’s not only their job to guide dentists through their decision making, but also to know the dental community as a whole. They want to know who’s selling, who’s new in town and looking to set up shop, and what each of your businesses look like from the insides out. Along the way, they want their markets to be a lucrative place for sellers and buyers, and that includes making you as savvy as you can be about treating your practice in a way that makes it ripe for the best offers...down the road.
Therein lies the main reason practice transition experts want to meet you when you’re young and wild and free (and far away from thoughts of retirement). Good business decisions start waaay before your decision to retire. It starts with quality equipment that will maximize your production and perform well for your successor, as well as choosing staff members who will serve the new leadership for years after your departure. All the business classes out there that promise to increase your dental business awareness can’t compare to the free advice you’ll get just by knowing a quality transition specialist. I guess that’s your first lesson.
Matthew Newman is the operations manager for the Baltimore/DC/Northern Virginia region of Patterson Dental. A 20-plus year veteran of operational management, he has spent most of his career in the fields of distribution center management and hospitality. He writes articles on operational management, office synergy, and a variety of other topics. He may be contacted by direct message on LinkedIn.