One of the contributing factors and most commonly asked question when it comes to dental practice transitions is “How long will this take?” As with any business transaction, the answers are not cut-and-dry. Here are some transition timeframes and the factors that contribute to them to help guide your decision.
Buy-out: 0–365 days
A buy-out is the quickest and most predictable transaction with the search being dependent upon marketability and location of practice. In a buy-out, the senior doctor is looking for someone to take over the entirety of his or her practice but can choose to stay on as a long-term associate, contributing to the transition period. Once a buyer is found, the success rate is close to 100 percent.
Buy-in: 1–4 years
A buy-in is essentially a short-term and defined associateship period that is approached from an owner time set, not employee. While the majority of the time is spent finding the right fit, the buy-in should occur within one year after the getting-to-know-you period. A roadmap is established upfront with all the material facts about the transition to make the process more predictable and the time horizon to be more defined.
Merger: > 2 years
The longest part of this transition is finding two clinicians who are not only compatible, but also have a similar timeframe and geographic location, both in terms of real estate. Though not always the case, in most mergers, one facility is kept while the other is relocated. However, the operational side can be as quick as a buy-in as only purchase documentation and operational agreements are required.
Affiliation: < 3 years
Similar to a merger, with an affiliation, the doctor will most likely stay on for a period of time with the buying dental service organization or group, depending on the practice type and location. Also similar to the search process of a buy-out, the operational process for an affiliation can be even quicker even though there is more due diligence as they are familiar with the process, compared to a first-time individual buyer.
Associate: 5 years
On paper, taking on an associate is normally the fastest route as there are often a lot of prospects; however, with a one-in-five success rate, timing can be unpredictable finding the best match for your dental practice. While the search can be the quickest part at about one month, the operational part of having that person buy in can take up to a year and ultimately might not work out in the end.
Private equity investments: > 5 years
The underlying goal of this transition is to make sure the practice is big enough that a private equity group would be interested in funding it. Private equity groups are constantly searching for the right practice and can close as fast as any DSO or individual once the correct partner with a solid platform is found. However, the majority of the time is spent because the doctor would need to stay on board for at least five years since it is the business they are looking to take over.