Ask the Expert: Do I have what it takes to go into solo practice?

Dear Diana: I'm feeling a bit of a confidence block. I grew up helping my parents with their small business and spent many evenings and weekends laboring alongside them. I even took on a moonlighting job during my residency.

I've worked as an associate dentist for two different employers, and I feel I am clinically and financially ready to open a private practice. How do I know if I'm mentally ready to be my own boss? — No Stranger to Hard Work

Dear No Stranger: When it comes to solo practice, a lot is said about financial readiness, but not so much about mental readiness. Putting leadership skills to the test is often an area that future practice owners feel uncertain about.

Here is how to assess your leadership abilities:

1. Know yourself

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you uncover gaps in your ability to lead. Ask yourself:

  • Do I manage my time and energy efficiently throughout the day?
  • How quickly do I respond to changes and capitalize on opportunities?
  • Do I exercise self-control and keep my composure in difficult situations?

Be willing to look at yourself from an outsider's lens. Based on what you see, create a development strategy to help you grow as a leader.

2. Find a buddy

Having a support system is paramount, be it friends or relatives in the field or a mentor who can help you fine-tune your leadership skills and give you constructive feedback. Regularly schedule time together, and ensure you're making the most of your time by establishing upfront goals, such as knowledge sharing and recognition opportunities. In this way, your personal and professional connections can be valuable, long-term career advisers.

3. Boost your confidence

Encourage yourself with positive talk. Can you visualize yourself as a successful dental practice owner? Even if you don't have all the answers to questions about the nitty-gritty details of how to start, grow and run your practice (pro tip: nobody does), if you can visualize yourself as a successful solo practitioner, you will succeed when it's time to act.

You wouldn't be where you are today if you didn't demonstrate leadership qualities. Use this time to evaluate what's working and what's not and what you might wish to change about yourself. Remember, leadership is a journey in which there's always room to improve.

Diana Talpa works with privately held companies to consistently deliver innovative, industry-specific financing and cash management solutions to meet their diverse needs. As a vice president in commercial banking at BMO Harris Bank, she leverages her background in business valuations, financial analysis and commercial credit underwriting to add value, foster long-lasting relationships and — above all — help dentists realize their vision for practice success.

Editor's note: This article is provided by BMO Harris Bank, the ADA Member Advantage-endorsed provider for practice financing. Call 1-833-276-6017 or visit for more information.

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