Coming out of dental school in 2017, Dr. Adam Vega was looking for a practice with which he could settle down. As a recent graduate, Adam didn’t have a lot of business or clinical experience—but he was ready to find something to gain his wings.
He knew what he was looking for and he was prepared to enter the next stage of his dental career.
Soon enough, Dr. Vega stumbled upon a broker who claimed he knew of an affordable practice that had just been put on the market. Sure enough, Adam went to scope the practice out—but the broker didn’t even show up. So, Adam was left sitting there alone with the doctor, who was so desperate to sell his practice that he asked Adam to make him an offer then and there.
While Adam had never owned a practice, he knew what condition that practice was in. With due respect, Adam offered what he thought to be a fair price. The doctor accepted his offer immediately. The two of them ended up going through that same absent broker—who, let’s just say, wasn’t the best guy for the job—and Adam thus became the owner of Mountain Smiles Dentistry in Colorado Springs, CO. Adam knew there would be a lot of work to get this practice up and running to its full potential, but he was determined.
Fast forward to the present, and Adam is well on his way. That’s why Glenn Vo sat down with him to get a few pointers on the practice acquisition process. Here are three tips Dr. Vega has for any dentist thinking about acquiring a practice instead of taking the startup route.
1. If a practice has lasted at least three years then, chances are, the business will succeed.
Before Adam started looking for a practice to acquire, he took a course taught by Keith Cunningham who gave him a valuable lesson: Most businesses fail within the first three years. Cunningham pointed out that you don’t have to go through the risk of those initial three years s if you can just skip the hardpart and plug into a business that’s already been up and running.
Adam figured that if he could cut out all of those early struggles—developing a patient base, putting together a good team, building loyalty with patients, discerning whether it’s a good location, etc.—then a lot of that hard work would already be done. Plus, he’d extend his runway once the financing got in order. While there would be a ton of updating required with this practice, Adam knew the foundation was already placed.
2. You’ll probably need to put the business on pause after first acquiring the practice— which can be problematic.
On one hand, Adam decided to acquire the practice during a not-so-great season of his life—his wife was still in the process of graduating.
On another hand, Adam got the practice at such a good price that he was able to invest in the clinical aspects and technological components he needed to update. While he was able to make those investments right off the bat at a good pace, he didn’t account for the lag between making those investments and seeing results.
While he was able to buy top-of-the-line computers and software, he needed to wait two months before he could have them shipped, installed, and set up to help with patient management. Although his engine was revving to start working right away, the other pieces of the puzzle weren’t there yet.
Worse, since this wasn’t a startup situation, he had to shut down his practice for some time just to get everything set up. As he closed his doors and took measures to get everything up to speed, he left a good amount of money on the table with patients who would already be coming in. Witha startup, you have more ti me than you need—you can dedicate more to the setup process.
3. Successful entrepreneurs are visionaries.
Adam has a big tip for anyone who’s thinking about acquiring a practice: You must know where you want to go—literally and figuratively. You must have those big goals in mind and a clear vision of what you want.
Adam never saw himself buying a practice that would take a lot of time and energy to build up. That said, he knew where he wanted to go. He had a vision for the long-term. Thus, he saw the opportunities that came with the strife.
He was therefore able to jump in, get his feet wet, and get the wheels turning with confidence. Because he was clear on his goals, every step he’s taking with this practice is working in tandem with his vision. He’s intentional about what he’s investing in now—even though they’re a huge cost—because he knows they’ll pay off in a few years. If he didn’t know where he wanted to be, it’d be impossible to have confidence in his current choices.. But he knows he’s putting things in place for later on down the line.
With risk comes reward.
Dentistry is a unique profession. Hustling and bustling from chair to chair to perform complex, life-changing procedures on a daily basis is already something most people aren’t willing to do. But some of us go even further and decide to pursue the daunting hemisphere of entrepreneurship. Whether you’re a start-up owner or looking to acquire a practice, give yourself a pat on the back—most people aren’t wired to be as hard-working and daring as you. Just remember that with risk comes reward, and you’re playing a game that few have the ambition to play.