Ask the Expert: What should I consider before starting a group practice?

Ms. Talpa

Dear Diana: I am a solo practice dentist, and I see an evolution in dentistry occurring all around me. A lot of my peers have joined or started a group practice. I’m thinking about starting a group practice, but what should I consider before making the leap?
— Unite and Conquer

Dear Unite and Conquer: There are many benefits to group practice, but there are also many items to consider before moving away from solo practice. A few of these considerations are:

Changes in daily operations

In terms of daily operations, running a solo practice is vastly different from running a group practice. Anything from booking appointments to collecting payments is now shared among practitioners. You will have to look at how patients are scheduled, who does the administrative work and how much hands-on business control you are willing to relinquish.

Strategic considerations

Pay special attention to a long-term plan and your practice vision. Benefits of group practice include shared costs, mutual interest in the marketing of the business and more flexibility for time off since your patients can consult one of your partners instead of visiting a different location to see a dentist. Group practices may become complicated if everyone does not share the same vision and goals. Ensure you have a well-thought-out entry and exit plan for associate dentists, so you can avoid unnecessary complications if someone changes their mind.

But, most importantly, be prepared to invest time and money

When you started your solo practice, you had to consider your finances and spend a lot of time establishing your name. At the beginning of a group venture, you will have to put extra time outside your office hours to grow your group practice. You will also have to create systems that are feasible for everyone to maintain the practice culture you’re trying to create. You might even wish to add a different location or an expanded clinic. If you need to take a bank loan, ensure you are making an informed decision. You can contact BMO or work with another loan provider depending on your financial needs and long-term goals. Ensure the financial burden is equally distributed among all partners to avoid problems in the future.

There are several benefits to group practice, but you should absolutely do your homework. You should plan carefully before committing to a group practice and consider how it will impact your life. Explore the many resources that describe important considerations and provide guidance on how to build the best strategy. Don't expect things to run smoothly right away. Start a group practice with passionate people you can trust and rely on.

Ms. 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, 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.

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