When I present at conferences or industry meetings, new dentists often approach me, eager to know whether there are any opportunities in private practice ownership these days. “Can anyone do a startup?” they ask with some trepidation. After all, the word on the street is that it’s not easy. And the answer, quite simply, is yes. Anybody can open a startup dental practice. With the right amount of planning, saving and using the assistance of companies who provide services like accounting for startups, you shouldn’t feel like you’re alone and the dream of starting a dental practice will soon become a reality. While just about anyone can open a dental office, the real question is this: “How do I open a successful dental practice?” The goal isn’t to open the doors of a dental practice, to have four walls, a roof and some equipment in place. The goal is to launch a successful and viable business. In fact, the goal is often much bigger than that. To all of these eager students of dentistry (and business) I say to start with a vision. What does that mean, though? It means you will have to do some deep thinking. At a basic level — business basics, that is — you may want to define what success means to you. Can you be profitable? What does it mean to “make a good living?” What kind of lifestyle do you want to support? The next tier of your vision development will go beyond finances. Your vision needs to encompass what it means for you to feel fulfilled. Beyond being financially successful, does your practice provide you with pride and joy? How are you recognized in your community? How are you impacting the people you touch, whether they are patients or employees? Leasing some space and putting in a few chairs will get you an office. Maybe deciding to buy your office supplies to improve said office will make your quality of life better in your office. What is the path to fulfillment? It requires knowing deep down what you want out of life. The first piece of advice I can offer you if you’re still trying to figure this out is to go and work for someone while you’re still in school or if you’re about to graduate. Try things out. See whom you like to work with. Not all patients are alike. Not all practices are alike. The more you live life and figure out what environments, experiences and interactions make you happy, the closer you will get to defining your vision. In the results-oriented society we live in today, it’s easy to fall prey to the need for immediate gratification. “How do I get to the end result as fast as possible?” I hear over and over. Again, that may not be the question that serves you best. While the end result is important, it will be that much more powerful (and attainable) if you put proper processes in place to build your business step by step. Whether your goal is to make a six-figure salary a year, or if you wish to own a multi-million dollar practice, you’ll need to map out exactly how you will get there. Remember, the journey is often just as enriching as reaching the destination. ~Stephen Trutter
Stephen Trutter is the director of consulting and partner at Ideal Practices, national startup dental consulting firm focused on guiding dentists safely with a proven step-by-step process to achieve their goals of private practice ownership.
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