Owning a practice - whether with a partner, colleague or on your own, starting from scratch or buying an existing business - could be everything you have dreamed of since you sat your finals. But having your own business is never just a job; it will likely become your main focus or even your family’s livelihood and is a huge undertaking and responsibility for anyone, which could turn into the challenge of your professional life.
Of course it can, and should, be viewed as an extremely exciting venture. After all, you get to make it truly yours; choosing everything from the members of your team, the equipment and materials you use to the branding, decor and even the colour of the walls.
However, if you’re not truly prepared for it, it can become more than you bargained for, taking up all your time, putting significant pressure on both you and your family and causing untold financial worries. That’s all before you consider potential staffing issues, patient’s clinical needs and expectations and the increasing regulatory compliance requirements you’ll need to tackle. All of this, when dentistry is already widely considered to be one of the most stressful professions, should be carefully considered before you take the plunge.
In the most recent survey of the stress of UK dentists published in the BDJ in January this year, the main areas of stress were cited as:
Whilst these are all valid concerns and need to be addressed, what is evident - especially if you run your own practice - is that some of these issues are actually in your power to manage and mitigate against.
Setting up from scratch
When Mide Ojo, a dentist in his mid-30s who is based in South West London, decided the time was right to buy a practice, he decided to go through the process of setting up a squat practice. His wife is a pharmacist and they have three small children.
Mide had begun by looking into buying an existing practice but experienced inflated prices with bidding wars well over the asking price. This wasn’t just for practices he liked but with some in less than desirable areas. He also wanted to be near his family and friends, so spent five years looking for an ideal location for his dream practice.
Mide said “As I lived in Twickenham and knew the area well and naturally found it easy to investigate suitable premises. I had been jogging around Twickenham and, looking at empty shops and buildings, identified an old Indian restaurant within 10 minutes of where I live and thought it had good visibility on a busy high street, so potentially good footfall and passing trade.”
Mide continued “The very next day I saw a ‘To Let’ sign being put up on my way to work. I made sure I was the first to view the property later that day and made an offer (subject to conditions) on the spot.”
Mide finished by saying “It was the single most stressful process I have been through. I was let down by the first contractor which meant the project overran and was over budget, and that caused me much anxiety. My single biggest worry was that I was going to jeopardise my family by the reduced finances as it taking time to have an income as a new business owner. I did have a robust business plan but I was still always worried it wouldn’t work. But my wife was my rock…I would never have got through it without her and even though there were many sleepless nights and many more with only a few hours, I would still recommend it. I’ve learnt a lot and I couldn’t have done it without the people who helped me.”5
The potential issues that could arise shouldn’t put you off having your dream. It could help to speak to peers and colleagues who have undertaken this exciting venture and try to learn from their experiences, to be as prepared as you can.
Here are some tips to help you avoid unnecessary stress, so you can get on enjoying the positives of an amazing life-changing experience.
Key topics any buyer needs to think about before becoming a practice owner are cashflow, business development and marketing, compliance and the CQC, leadership and management, employment and HR.”
Carefully choosing a supplier who you can build a long-term relationship with can help give you the support you’ll need. Many companies offer financing, leasing and equipment repair services as part of their contracts. Sometimes this route may initially appear more expensive but in the long run prove to be better value for money, saving you and your team time where your contract includes consultancy and training on the equipment, as well as on-going repair and maintenance costs. As always, it pays to do your homework to see what suits you better.
Take the time to step back and decide what’s right for you and your future career path, but remember to look after yourself as you are the most important asset you have. Think about how you will combat unnecessary stress, so you can fully enjoy having a smooth-running and exciting venture that is all yours.
References available on request.
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