The Right Practice Location
By Dr. Brian D. Miller
I’ve finally finished my orthodontic residency program and the future is bright. Now what do I do? As career students, this is the question that we will all face only months before finishing a residency program. The answer can seem to be elusive at times, and searching for the right location can be a daunting task. Everyone offers advice, but ultimately the decision is a very personal one. I would like to describe my roller-coaster ride and hopefully offer some helpful advice to those who will soon be experiencing the same situation.
As I was finishing my orthodontic residency, I began to frantically look for opportunities. I was open to almost anything and any location within the Northeast. I wanted to own my own practice within a relatively short amount of time. I looked at a practice to purchase and got very serious, until the owner suddenly changed his mind and decided not to sell (as he had done with others). I then looked at many other practices, and ultimately, found another great opportunity to purchase through a broker. This time the owner decided that my offer (the exact amount of the practice appraisal value) was not acceptable. I began to realize that many sellers think their practices are worth way too much!
I then decided to focus my attention on starting my own practice. I visited some general dentists in the area to see if I could get any support, and things looked good. I had a location, a building and a plan of action. As I was preparing to take a leap of faith, I received a call from someone selling a practice in my hometown. After several meetings, I decided to abandon my start-up dreams and buy the practice in my hometown. I purchased the practice almost immediately, and in my four years of practice I have moved the office location and built that new location to my own specifications. Through the process, I gained some helpful insights:
- Start to think about where you want to live when you are applying to residencies. This sounds unimportant, but if you go to school in the Northeast you will tend to turn up opportunities mostly in the Northeast.
- Start thinking about this early. I did and still struggled. Some of my friends are still in limbo four years later.
- Decide if you want to own your own practice or be an associate. Set a timetable for how long you will associate with someone.
- Watch out for owners that will promise buy-in opportunity with no real intentions of working with you long-term.
- Realize that your competition is smart — all the good areas to practice have been taken and the competition is stiff. If you don’t believe me, take a map of an area and place pins where the specialists are.
- Do your homework on an area (demographic study, ask other specialists, GPs and local dental societies)
I hope you find these tips to be helpful.