I originally planned to be a solo practitioner, but I'm wondering if working in a partnership or group practice would be a greater benefit. What are your thoughts?
Of course the answer is "it depends." There are a number of questions you have to ask yourself. Are you someone who can work well with others? This is especially important since a partnership in many ways is just like a marriage. In fact, you may very well spend more time together than you do with your own spouse! Are you just getting started and do you think it will be a benefit to see how an established practice "runs things?" Are you someone who takes great pride in his/her work and can't possibly tolerate others not meeting your level of attention?
In a solo practice, you are the alpha and the omega. You may have to take the garbage out while answering the phone, but you’re in control. Success is on your shoulders alone. In a partnership, trust is probably the number one item. If you can not implicitly trust your partner, then it won't work long term. Having a partner who balances your own strengths/weaknesses is probably best. In a group practice, you most likely will have more resources in terms of materials, staff and equipment to get the job done. If the office isn't functioning smoothly, a group practice can be a real headache and stressful environment!
In a well-functioning office, the interactions with
colleagues and staff can be very enriching. Historically, dentistry
has been a "cottage industry" in which a lone doctor with a limited
number of staff faced the dental needs of a community alone. A
group practice breaks this "convention" and may offer the starting
dentist an excellent way to get "wet behind the ears." Good luck in
Kevin Klatte, DMD
Working in a group practice does have many benefits. However
you must make sure that your dental philosophies are very, very similar
and that you both share similar values in regards to dentistry and life
in general. The treatment of patients, staff and other
support personnel needs to be anchored in basic rules of trust
and respect. It sounds simple, but it can be tricky to find a
dental partner to practice with. If you find that match, then it
can be easier to manage an office and patient treatment. After all,
there is much more to life than being constantly swamped with your
career. Good luck!
Jennifer Davis, DMD
As a solo practitioner, I often wonder the same thing. I have been in solo practice for five years now and have considered associates, mergers, etc. multiple times. There are obvious positives such as sharing overhead, sharing emergency calls, having someone to bounce ideas off of just to name a few. However, running a practice requires a lot of hard decisions on a daily basis such as staffing, ordering, scheduling, not to mention long-term planning. If you work with other dentists, everyone must be on the same page and have the same goal or friction can develop. Even if everyone is united in their goals, there is still potential for conflict. This situation is very much like a marriage, and if for some reason it does not work out it can be even more complicated that a divorce. Choose a partner carefully or fly solo, as I have done.
Gino Pagano, DMD
As a solo practitioner, you will make all of the decisions. This may sound like a good idea at first, but unless you have run a business before, the number of difficult decisions you will be faced with will surprise you. What kind of effort should you expect from different staff personnel? What kind of salary should you pay? You will likely make the mistakes that all first time business owners make. You will have to rely on other dentists to cover calls for you when you go on vacation or go away for the weekend. As a solo practitioner, the practice won’t make money if you are away.
On the other hand, you won’t have to share the profits with other dentists. Your purchase price and setup price should be lower than buying into a group practice. You won’t have the headaches of trying to iron out a buy/sell agreement or employment agreement between you and the other partners.
Ultimately, the decision is
yours. If you are absolutely certain of your clinical skills and
you can buy an established, healthy practice, a solo practice might be a
good idea. If you are not certain whether your clinical skills are
optimum yet, or you don’t have the opportunity to buy a practice
from a retiring dentist, I would suggest being an associate for a year
or two. That should give you sufficient time to evaluate your
boss’s personality and see if a partnership will work, or you may
decide at that time you want to pursue a solo
practice. It also will give you the chance to see how an
experienced owner runs a practice. The key to any successful
partnership or associateship is to have a good contract. Talk
with colleagues whom you trust to recommend
Tad Glossner, DDS
For the past three years I was practicing with a partner. My partner recently retired, so I’m still adjusting to my life as a solo practitioner. There are, without a doubt, advantages and disadvantages to both situations.
Partnerships: A practice consultant once told me that there can only be one “captain of the ship” in a dental practice and that person has to not only take credit for the good, but also bear responsibility for the bad. Partnerships can be very complicated, but can be very rewarding. They allow for camaraderie, the ability to share a workload and to share expenses. However, your ability to find a dental partner with whom you are 100 percent compatible will directly influence the success of your practice.
Solo Practitioner: It can be very lonely as a solo practitioner. The transition from dental school, where you have constant interaction with your peers, to a solo practice can be especially difficult. However, the feeling of independence and ability to make your own decisions can far outweigh the negative aspects.
I’d advise you to enroll in PDA's Statewide Mentoring Program. This will allow you to get matched with a mentor and potentially tour his or her office. Your mentor may help you learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of solo, partnership and group practices.
Brian Miller, DMD