Volume 87: Smaller Practice Realities

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I know it is a morbid subject and I have avoided writing about it for many years, however some of this stuff needs to be talked about. As is the case with most of our articles, the subject matter usually arises due to recent transactions or situations that we have been involved with and this issue is no exception.

It is inevitable that we are all going to pass away someday, however it is remarkable how poorly most of us plan for it. When you consider the effort and expense we go to in order to plan for things that may happen, such as “we don’t want to downsize our home, because one of our kids may move back, or we may need the winding staircase for wedding pictures someday”. Or the effort dentist’s go to put their employee’s on contract because they may need to be terminated someday. There are countless examples of this kind of thing throughout our everyday lives, yet we don’t do a good job of planning for something we know will happen; our own death. Fear is a great motivator so I hope to instill a little fear in you in the hope that it will cause you to take steps to plan for this eventuality.

You, as a dental practice owner have a unique set of circumstances related to your own death that many people in society don’t have to worry about.

  • You are self-employed
  • You don’t have a pension
  • You are usually the primary bread-winner of the family
  • There is a miniscule percentage of the population to replace you
  • You book your life in 10-15 minute blocks up to six months into the future 

So what happens when someone with those characteristics dies suddenly (or becomes critically ill or disabled) without any forward planning? At the risk of being insensitive, I am going to limit the content of this article to factors related to dentistry, though I am acutely aware that there are other, often more important things people must deal with during these times.

First, the team at your practice have no idea where to start. There is not a go-to person who has all the answers, they feel empty and alone and don’t know what to tell the patients. The goodwill value of your practice, which regular readers will know, accounts for about 80 per cent of your practice’s value, starts to erode with that first cancelled appointment. Who will take control of things? Your spouse? Your family and friends? Not likely. In the early days they are too distraught to even worry about the practice. In one of the situations that caused me to write this article, a dentist’s wife contacted a cottage neighbour for help. He was a retired accountant whom she knew had other dentists as clients. He was someone she trusted who would guide her properly. The trouble is that initial contact was made three months after her husband had passed away. She knew very little about her husband’s practice and just assumed someone was taking care of things in the interim. The accountant put her in touch with us but the damage was done. We were able to move the balance of the practice to a neighbouring dentist but a large percentage of the patients had already moved on - therefore the value was severely impacted.

Time is the enemy in these situations. Your patients are loyal to you and they like going to your practice, but when you’re gone there has to be a plan. The first thing to do is to write down clear instructions for people to follow in the event of your demise. It should be specific and contain contact names for people you trust to put an action plan into place immediately. Discuss your instructions with your spouse and possibly, your lawyer, accountant and practice broker. They all bring unique skills in dealing with these unfortunate situations, and importantly are one level removed from the emotion of the situation so can act appropriately for the benefit of your heirs, staff and patients. A locum dentist will need to be retained immediately to maintain as much normalcy in the practice as possible. Your practice Valuation will need to be updated (not started) immediately and a plan put in place to transfer the ownership to another dentist. Have a team prepared and knowledgeable and let your family and friends know that you have done so and where to find your instructions. If you don’t have the support you think you’ll need, start setting yourself up. There are many professionals that dedicate their lives to working with dentists. They are most competent to take care of things for you when you can’t.

Plan. Provide information. Sleep comfortably.

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. Understanding Practice Valuations

  2. What To Expect When Selling Your Practice

  3. The Chart Sale

  4. One Year Later

  5. Dealing with Unsolicited Offers

  6. Covid-19 Practice Sales Update

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

  8. Partnership Pitfalls

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

  10. Smaller Practice Realities

  11. Dental Market Update - 2019

  12. Creating Your Own Most Valuable Practice (MVP)

  13. Small Practice Economics

  14. The Market is Very Efficient

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

  16. Hygiene as a Value Driver

  17. The Value of a Good Team

  18. Is it Time to Move?

  19. Staging A Dental Practice

  20. The High Cost of Dying

  21. Deal-Busters

  22. Patients - Attract and Retain

  23. Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  24. Is There a Buyer for Every Practice?

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

  26. Smooth-Sale-ing

  27. Buying Time

  28. Patients, Patience, Patients

  29. A Real Patient

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

  31. Irrational Exuberance or The New Normal?

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

  33. Finding and Being a Mentor

  34. Bigger is Better

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

  36. How Well Do You Know Your Practice?

  37. Dave's Top Ten List for Vendors

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

  39. Your Premises Lease is an Important Asset

  40. What are Associates Thinking?

  41. There is Life Outside the GTA

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

  43. Mergers are a Viable Option

  44. Is Your Associate an Asset or a Liability?

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

  46. The 100 per cent of Gross Myth

  47. The Past, The Present and The Future

  48. Caveat Emptor

  49. Overpaid Long Term Staff

  50. Selling your Practice in Stages

  51. A Potential Pitfall of Selling Shares

  52. Value in Your Practice Through Balance

  53. Only Trusted Staff Can Defraud You

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

  55. Coping With A Large Patient Base

  56. Successful Dental Practice Transitions

  57. Taking Care of Business

  58. The Investing Dentist Phenomenon

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

  60. Organize your Debt in Order to Sell your Practice

  61. Having a Better Team

  62. How Do I Prepare My Practice For Sale

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

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

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

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

  67. Transition - What to Expect

  68. Discussion on Digital X-Rays

  69. Partnerships and Shotguns

  70. Strategic Planning - How to Get Started

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

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

  73. Matrimonial Practice Valuations

  74. Purchaser's Guide to Affording a Practice

  75. Location Improvements Throughout Your Career

  76. Small Practice Valuations

  77. Partnerships – The Best and The Worst

  78. Changing Location When the Opportunity Comes Along

  79. Visual Presentation of Your Practice

  80. Presentation of Charts

  81. Your Premises Lease Can Be Your Worst Enemy

  82. How to Select an Appraiser for Your Practice

  83. How Are Your Billing Ratios?

  84. It Pays to Invest in Your Tangible Assets

  85. The Importance of Separate Financial Statements

  86. Five Time Frame Levels to Sell a Practice

  87. 12 Suggestions to Safeguard Computer Data

  88. How to Buy a Visible Practice

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

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

  91. The Balanced Practice

  92. Will My Practice Be Saleable in The Future?

  93. Buyer Be Aware

  94. Excess Profit - The Second Key

  95. Patients and Profits are the Keys

  96. Plan Ahead