January 28, 2021
5 Steps to Selling a Dental Practice
Are you thinking of selling a dental practice? If so, you’re likely wondering how long it will take. You have put a lot of time, sweat and tears into building a successful practice. The fact that you are considering selling it can take a mental and physical toll. To prepare for your upcoming transition, here are five things you should know.
Start planning your dental practice transition early
One of the best pieces of advice is to start planning early. Planning early allows you more options than if you wait until the year you are ready to move on. These options are not only the type of transition you go with, but also which offers you consider. If you wait until the last minute to transition out of your practice, you may be stuck taking the first offer you receive. By starting early, you can be more discerning about offers that come in and move forward with the one with which you feel most comfortable.
Starting early gives you time to consider different transition styles. If your practice is large enough, you can sell half of your practice to a partner and continue to work for a few more years. When you determine the time is right, you can then sell the other half to either your current partner or someone else.
Getting a head start also allows you to consider affiliating with a dental service organization (DSO), which you most likely wouldn’t be able to if you needed to get out immediately. The reason for this is that DSOs tend to request the current doctor stay on for about two years.
By starting early, you can determine if you are happy with the value of the practice or if you need to get more out of it to clear any debts. This knowledge can help guide you when determining if you need a few more years to build up the value of your practice before taking that next step.
A transition period is a period between two transition periods. – George Stigler
Know the facts
Instead of living in the hypothetical, know your reality. Too many times, one can plan for a transition without knowing the facts. “Ignoring facts does not make them go away,” as businessman and Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton once said. (1) It’s important to have a prospectus in place when determining the right transition type for you and your practice. By understanding the fair market value of your practice, you will know if your practice is healthy enough to bring on a partner, whether you should consider affiliating with a DSO or if you need to make some drastic changes so your practice is more appealing to a potential buyer.
To take this deep dive into your practice, look to a professional to create a prospectus. The knowledgeable experts at Professional Transition Strategies (PTS) will create a prospectus for you at no cost or obligation to work with us. We do this because we believe it is important to practice what we preach: Know the facts before you make any decisions.
The prospectus includes but is not limited to:
- Practice demographics
- Practice location
- Patient demographics
- Production summary by category
- Financial analysis
- Practice valuation
- Return on investment
Don’t let the value of your dental practice drop
A common mistake made by dentists and dental specialists throughout the country is to let the value of their practice drop leading up to a transition. This honest mistake happens when doctors decide they are ready to scale back but they aren’t ready to “hang up their hat” just yet. By cutting back their schedules, only taking certain cases, reducing their hygienists’ hours, etc., they inevitably see their production and collections decrease.
Considering a practice’s value heavily depends on the average of the last three years. With the most recent year receiving the most weight, this reduction will result in a significant drop in value. As investor Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” (2) As much as one would like the practice’s value to be based on the “potential,” the truth is that a bank won’t lend on the hypothetical. Therefore, it is imperative to consider your plans before cutting back, because “cutting back” can dramatically cut the value of your practice.
Know your transition options
Without knowing all your options, how can you possibly choose the right one? One size does not fit all when you’re selling a dental practice. You cannot know you made the right decision without knowing the available options. Once upon a time, a dentist’s only options when transitioning a practice was to either sell to another doctor or close the doors. Times have changed. A dentist or dental specialist now has several options.
The most common transition types include:
Speak with a dental transition expert to determine the best plan for you and your practice.
How long will it take to sell my dental practice?
The most common question leading up to a transition is, “How long will it take to sell my dental practice?” Many factors can help gauge how long your practice will be on the market. One that will play a major role is the location of your practice. Is your practice in a metropolitan area? Is it in a rural community? Is your practice in a desirable area of the city? While it can’t be said for all practices, the offices positioned in “hot spots” of the country — such as Austin, San Diego or Denver — will move faster than those based in a smaller, more rural area. Sales can be as short as 22 days from the day your practice goes on the market to the day it closes or as long as two to five years.
Another variable that will play a part in how long it takes to sell your practice is your practice size. Practices valued between $750,000 and $1.2 million tend to be a sweet spot for most buyers. Practices collecting less tend to sit on the market longer. The reason is that smaller practices mean less revenue for the incoming doctor. This is especially true if the buyer is still paying off student debt.
What is a dental practice broker?
A dental practice broker has undergone training that makes them an expert in taking you through a dental practice transition. A factor in how long a practice takes to sell is the experience and knowledge of your broker. To ensure you are in the best hands, you should hire a broker who is familiar with practices like yours. This does not mean practices in your city, town or even state. It is more important that your broker has worked with practices of your size and in the transition capacity you are looking for — affiliating with a DSO, partnerships, straight buy-outs or even partnering with a private equity firm.
It’s also important to make sure your broker “pounds the pavement” on your behalf and be active when it comes to finding the right buyer. All too often, practice transition brokers post a marketing description on a few websites, sit back and wait for calls to come in. Work with someone like PTS that takes a proactive approach to finding the right fit for your practice.
If you are considering the possibility of selling a dental practice, contact the team at PTS. We will answer any questions and help prepare you in this exciting new stage of your life.