Volume 74: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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The 80’s rock group The Clash made the saying “Should I stay or should I go” famous with the release of the song with that name in 1981. Around the same time, dentists wondered the same thing with respect to their practice. They still do to this day. That is, upon the sale of my practice - should I stay and associate with the buyer, or should I go.

This is naturally one of the topics we discuss very early with our selling clients. Most have an opinion on it, but we have found that many would like our opinion on the subject.  While there is no answer that is right for every situation - in general, it is better to stay. The main objective for the buyer is to transfer the goodwill to themselves. This task becomes easier if the previous owner of the practice is there to assist and provide guidance. It is also effective if the buyer is introduced by the seller to the patients in a positive light.

It is important to note that what the buyer does after being handed the goodwill “on a silver platter” is not the seller’s responsibility. Smart buyers will not make quick changes, they will not diagnose huge cases, and they will certainly not comment on the dentistry in the patient’s mouth! They will act professionally, be friendly, and earn the trust and respect of the patients and staff every single day.

Just as it is the main objective of the buyer to assume goodwill, we also find it is the main objective of the seller to ensure that someone will care for their patients and their staff as they have done. The transition period will be a time of immense change for all constituents: buyer, seller, staff and patients. Change can cause stress but it is the one constant most of us have in our lives now, so we become adept dealing with it. When the process is handled well with open and honest communication, the results can be very rewarding. Here is a quote from a client who recently sold his practice, “The transition process was flawless and the match has been perfect.”

Why did this transition go so well? And, of equal importance, why do others not go as smoothly? In this case, the seller had been preparing for the sale of his practice for a few years. He had the facility in good shape, had a very good team, had his legal and accounting factors all organized, and he was mentally prepared. His practice life and personal life were ready for the change. I mention the personal side because it is also very important. He was going to have more time on his hands and he knew what he was going to do with it. He was looking forward to the change.  He also knew what he wanted in a buyer. When the right one was found (who was not the highest bidder incidentally), he was very helpful during the diligence and closing process. Further, he helped her assimilate into the practice and gave her guidance with patients and treatment planning. He let her deal with the staff and important decisions relating to the practice, while always being available if needed. The process was smooth and we have a happy buyer and seller and the practice is flourishing. We know of situations where sellers, who intended to stay for a year or two after closing, are still there ten years later because they are enjoying it so much.

There are times when things do not go so well for the dentist who decides to stay. We can learn from those situations too. Most of the problems seem to come down to the three “F’s” - fit, form and function.  

  • Fit - it is important that the buyer and seller have similar philosophies regarding practice management and patient treatment. One of the first things we often do, even before legal documents are drafted, is facilitate an in-depth meeting to help determine the “fit”.
  • Form -the physical plant of the office is what it is. The seller, staff and patients are all used to it. Buyers must resist the temptation to make large changes to the facility in the first six months. Focus on the goodwill first. 
  • Function - This is a two-way street. The buyer has to be willing to assume control. The dentist selling has to be willing to give up control. This is far easier said than done. Control has been the trouble spot for many situations that should have worked. If you are not willing to let go, then you are not ready to sell. Expect the buyer to do things differently that you do. That does not make them wrong. It is vitally important that you are mentally prepared to let go of the day-to-day management of the practice and accept that things will change. Be open, the changes may be good!  

If you cannot let go of control, but you want to sell, then perhaps the answer to  guitarist Mick Jones of The Clash’s original question in 1983 is clear to this day …”You should go”.

David Lind is a Principal and Broker of Record in Professional Practice Sales Ltd. (, which specializes in the valuation and sale of dental practices.  He can be reached at (905) 472-6000 or 1-888-777-8825 or e-mail at:

The Professional Advisory

  1. One Year Later

  2. Dealing with Unsolicited Offers

  3. Covid-19 Practice Sales Update

  4. When is the Right Time to Sell Your Practice and Why?

  5. Partnership Pitfalls

  6. The Real Cost of a Dental Practice Set-up

  7. Smaller Practice Realities

  8. Dental Market Update - 2019

  9. Creating Your Own Most Valuable Practice (MVP)

  10. Small Practice Economics

  11. The Market is Very Efficient

  12. How Can Dental Practice Values be Rising and Declining?

  13. Hygiene as a Value Driver

  14. The Value of a Good Team

  15. Is it Time to Move?

  16. Staging A Dental Practice

  17. The High Cost of Dying

  18. Deal-Busters

  19. Patients - Attract and Retain

  20. Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  21. Is There a Buyer for Every Practice?

  22. Good, Better, Best - The Market has Spoken

  23. Smooth-Sale-ing

  24. Buying Time

  25. Patients, Patience, Patients

  26. A Real Patient

  27. Why Do a Practice Valuation? I'm not Selling

  28. Irrational Exuberance or The New Normal?

  29. Do dental equipment and dental technology affect a practice value?

  30. Finding and Being a Mentor

  31. Bigger is Better

  32. Dave's Top Ten List for Buyers (Vendors should read this too!)

  33. How Well Do You Know Your Practice?

  34. Dave's Top Ten List for Vendors

  35. What will happen to dental practice Values in the next 10 years?

  36. Your Premises Lease is an Important Asset

  37. What are Associates Thinking?

  38. There is Life Outside the GTA

  39. When Is the Right Time to Sell My Dental Practice?

  40. Mergers are a Viable Option

  41. Is Your Associate an Asset or a Liability?

  42. Has your Practice Facility Kept Up With Your Billings?

  43. The 100 per cent of Gross Myth

  44. The Past, The Present and The Future

  45. Caveat Emptor

  46. Overpaid Long Term Staff

  47. Selling your Practice in Stages

  48. A Potential Pitfall of Selling Shares

  49. Value in Your Practice Through Balance

  50. Only Trusted Staff Can Defraud You

  51. To Own or Not to Own Practice Real Estate? That is the Question.

  52. Coping With A Large Patient Base

  53. Successful Dental Practice Transitions

  54. Taking Care of Business

  55. The Investing Dentist Phenomenon

  56. Two areas to focus upon that could negatively impact the value of your practice

  57. Organize your Debt in Order to Sell your Practice

  58. Having a Better Team

  59. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale

  60. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 3

  61. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 2

  62. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale? Part 1

  63. Advice to My Son or Daughter Graduating from Dental School

  64. Transition - What to Expect

  65. Discussion on Digital X-Rays

  66. Partnerships and Shotguns

  67. Strategic Planning - How to Get Started

  68. Calling All Vendors - Practices have Gone Up in Value

  69. Purchasers: Expect to Pay More for a Practice because of Lower Professional Corporation Tax Rates

  70. Matrimonial Practice Valuations

  71. Purchaser's Guide to Affording a Practice

  72. Location Improvements Throughout Your Career

  73. Small Practice Valuations

  74. Partnerships – The Best and The Worst

  75. Changing Location When the Opportunity Comes Along

  76. Visual Presentation of Your Practice

  77. Presentation of Charts

  78. Your Premises Lease Can Be Your Worst Enemy

  79. How to Select an Appraiser for Your Practice

  80. How Are Your Billing Ratios?

  81. It Pays to Invest in Your Tangible Assets

  82. The Importance of Separate Financial Statements

  83. Five Time Frame Levels to Sell a Practice

  84. 12 Suggestions to Safeguard Computer Data

  85. How to Buy a Visible Practice

  86. Why is there a shortage of good practices today?

  87. The Importance of Equipment in the Purchase of a Practice

  88. The Balanced Practice

  89. Will My Practice Be Saleable in The Future?

  90. Buyer Be Aware

  91. Excess Profit - The Second Key

  92. Patients and Profits are the Keys

  93. Plan Ahead