Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Parrot 1

So you want to buy a dental practice? Advice for buyers to transition successfully

March 21, 2017
Drs. Dustin and Stacey Cohen know a thing or two about acquiring a dental practice. The successful couple were very, very patient when they worked for the practice they planned to purchase. Here's what they learned before and after their wait.  

Drs. Dustin and Stacey Cohen know a thing or two about acquiring a dental practice. The successful couple were very, very patient when they worked for the practice they planned to purchase. Here's what they learned before and after their wait.

It’s time to decide. Are you going to set up a brand new shiny office just the way you want it? Sounds good, until you realize that you’ll have lots of bills to pay, very few patients on your schedule, and little to no knowledge about how to run the business. On the other hand, would you rather acquire a nice, but maybe not quite as shiny, practice that has business infrastructure and cash flow from the existing patients who pay their bills? Thinking in terms of the best business move, this is a no brainer.

When you own a dental practice, you need to be an expert clinician, expert patient manager, and expert business manager. Dental school only provides you the tools for two-thirds of what it takes to run a successful office. Buying an existing practice can give you a perspective on the business operations that a startup can’t. Follow the tips we offer here to ensure a smooth transition into your newly acquired practice and a quicker path to success!

1. Be patient
Patience is key. This transition should not happen as quickly as you want it to. Trust us, we are extremely impatient when it comes to wanting something done the way we want to do it. We understand, but hear us out.

Taking the time to find a doctor who practices with a similar philosophy as yours can be difficult at first, but it makes the rest of the transition much easier. When you find the doctor who a) has the types of patients you want, b) practices the type of dentistry you want, and c) has the type of employees you want, it is totally worth spending the extra time to transition. If you and the selling doctor are on the same wavelength, there will be as few ripples as possible while you transition into the office.

Both the patients and employees will feel more comfortable, and ultimately, you will feel more comfortable as well, which leads to more success in your new work environment. Take some walks with the selling dentist, go to lunch, and most importantly talk, talk, talk. Discuss philosophies, the business, personal things, and more. The better you know what makes each of you tick, the smoother the transition will be and the more successful you will become!

Our own transition took about three years. It started when we had six months left in our residency program and we met a fantastic doctor with an established practice. We spent time getting to know him really well. Right after residency and before making the purchase, we stayed patient for about two and a half more years while we began associating ourselves with that doctor (and a few others), and transitioned into the practice. In our first year as owners without increasing any fees, we set a new record for production and collections, all while decreasing total doctor hours. Now, wouldn’t you consider that a successful transition?

2. Be like a parrot What? Yes, be like a parrot. Learn to mimic the selling doctor. Seriously. The existing patients love their dentist; they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. These people generally don’t want a new dentist, or at least they don’t think they want a new dentist. Take some time to listen to the selling dentist when he or she is with patients. Pay attention to how he or she explains treatment, listen to the jokes, and observe how he or she speaks to staff. This will be very helpful in you becoming accepted in the practice. If you’re able to mimic certain terms and phrases that you believe work well for the existing dentist, your transition will become seamless. If patients and staff see you as someone similar to the existing doctor, the shock of being the new doctor will not be as jarring.

You’re obviously not going to mimic everything. You will have your own phrases, jokes, and treatment explanations that work well for you. However, do attempt to incorporate some of the same verbiage into your lexicon in order to make your transition smooth.

3. Change as little as possible, at first
Again, we get that you’re filled with amazing ideas for your new practice. We were too! Both of us attended business school before going to dental school, so we saw things differently than our dental school classmates. We also have drastically different ideas than most dentists today. You may be ready for major changes, but your new employees and patients may not be ready yet.

Instead of shaking everything up with wild new ideas, think about improving the existing business first. If you’re planning to associate before buying, take this time to not only build relationships with the people around you and improve your clinical skills, but to also truly analyze the business. There is a high likelihood that the operational systems of the business can be improved. Find the things that are slowing the business down from working as efficiently as it could be. Then figure out ways to eliminate the bottlenecks, and document the new systems that you’d like to use.

After you’ve optimized the existing office as much as possible and proven yourself to the patients, you can then start implementing your innovative ideas. However, not all the ideas at the same time.

If you’re wondering what bottlenecks and operational systems are and how to document them, we can help!

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Dustin Cohen, DMD, MBA, and Stacey Cohen, DMD, MMI, are the owners of The Practice | Beverly Hills Boutique Dental, a fee-for-service cosmetic and general dentistry practice in Beverly Hills, California. It incorporates natural, holistic, and gluten-free dentistry. Dr. Dustin Cohen attended the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, where he received his MBA prior to entering dental school. Dr. Stacey Cohen attended The University of Toronto’s Institute for Management and Innovation where she earned a Master of Management of Innovation. They met at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, and afterwards they both completed UCLA’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry program. Their newest endeavor is The Practice | Management, where they focus on helping dentists in all aspects of dental business. For more information, visit or call (310) 652-2360.