Dental Startups vs. Practice Acquisition: Making the Right Decision

Interviewer: Tanya Sue Maestas, DDS
Interviewee: Jonathan Miller
Edited By: Candy Velez – CRDH, BSDH

As a dental professional, the decision to start your own practice or acquire an existing practice is a crucial one.

Both options have their pros and cons, and it ultimately depends on your personal goals and vision for your dental career.

In this article, we will explore the insights shared by Jonathan Miller, a dental business expert, on the topic of startups versus practice acquisition.

We will delve into the key themes discussed and analyze their implications for aspiring dental practice owners. 

The Power of Conviction: Dental Startups for Visionaries 

According to Jonathan Miller, if you have a strong conviction and a clear vision of what you want your dental practice to be, then a startup is the way to go.

Startups offer the opportunity to make all the decisions and create a practice that aligns perfectly with your vision.

Miller compares it to a bespoke suit, where every detail is tailored to your preferences. He emphasizes the importance of knowing exactly what you want and being able to make decisions along the way that reflect your desired outcome. 

However, Miller acknowledges that not everyone has this level of conviction or clarity about their vision.

Some dentists may find it challenging to articulate their ideal practice and may prefer a more structured approach. In such cases, practice acquisition can be a viable option. 

Keep Reading: 10 Steps to Starting Your Own Dental Practice

The Safety Net of Dental Practice Acquisition 

For dentists who are unsure about their vision or prefer a more secure path, practice acquisition provides a safety net.

Acquiring an existing practice comes with the advantage of established cash flow, an existing team, and an established patient base. It allows you to step into a practice that has already made decisions similar to what you would have made, making the transition smoother. 

Miller highlights that the key benefit of practice acquisition is not just the cash flow or the existing infrastructure, but the ability to inherit someone else’s decisions.

By finding a practice that aligns with your values and goals, you can make minor modifications and put your stamp on it without disrupting the cash flow.

This can be a more comfortable option for dentists who are not as confident in their decision-making process or who prioritize stability over complete creative control.

Keep Reading: Choosing to Acquire a Dental Practice

The Pitfalls of Trusting the Wrong Advice 

One of the common mistakes dentists make when considering startups or practice acquisition is not knowing who to trust or where to turn for guidance.

Miller cautions against relying on friends or acquaintances who have limited experience or success in the field. He compares it to seeking parenting advice from someone who has only been a parent for a few months.

Instead, he advises finding someone who is actively doing what you want to do and has achieved success in that area. 

It is crucial to seek out mentors or advisors who have a track record of success and can provide unbiased guidance.

These individuals should be actively involved in the dental industry and have a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that come with startups or practice acquisition.

By finding the right mentor, you can gain valuable insights and avoid costly mistakes. 

The Importance of Early Bank Conversations 

When it comes to financing your dental practice, it is never too early to start having conversations with banks.

Miller suggests preparing for ownership at least a year in advance. By approaching banks early on, you can understand their requirements and timelines for approval. Even if you are not ready to secure a loan immediately, you can gather valuable information about what you need to do to meet the bank’s criteria. 

Miller emphasizes that the worst thing a bank can say is that you are not ready yet. In such cases, you can ask for specific feedback on what you need to improve or achieve to become eligible for a loan.

By starting the conversation early, you can create a timeline and work towards meeting the bank’s requirements. 

It is important to note that loan approvals have an expiration date. However, as long as your profile remains relatively unchanged, you can reapply for approval when you are ready to make the final decision on a startup or practice acquisition.

The only factor to consider is the potential movement of interest rates, which can impact the cost of borrowing. 

Dental Startups vs. Practice Acquisition: Consider What You Want Your Future To Look Like

The decision to pursue a startup or practice acquisition is a significant one for dental professionals.

It requires careful consideration of personal goals, vision, and risk tolerance.

Ultimately, the choice between a startup and practice acquisition depends on your individual circumstances and aspirations.

By carefully considering the insights shared by Miller and seeking guidance from trusted mentors, you can make an informed decision that sets you on the path to a successful dental practice.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Tanya Sue Maestas, DDS

Tanya Sue Maestas, DDS

Dr. Tanya Sue Maestas graduated from The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston in 2018. During her dental school career, she served as the national American Student Dental Association President and became involved in organized dentistry. After graduating, she completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency in 2019. Upon completion of her residency, she returned to the El Paso Borderland community where she serves as a Dental Director at La Clinica de Familia in Chaparral, New Mexico. She also serves as a faculty member at the Woody L Hunt School of Dental Medicine in El Paso, Texas. She remains involved in organized dentistry and holds various leadership roles in organizations including the American Dental Association, Texas Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, Texas Academy of General Dentistry, Hispanic Dental Association, and others. She currently serves on the ADA Council on Communications and previously completed the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership Program. She was recognized as an ADA 10 under 10 winner, Incisal Edge 40 under 40, and previously nominated as one of Texas New Dentists of the Year. She currently hosts New Dentists on the Block where she helps showcase the New Dentist story and build connections with new dentists around her and Dental Fuel a podcast dedicated to sharing and learning from industry leaders’ mistakes. She has a commitment to providing dental care to the Borderland community and hopes to encourage the next generation of dentists to give back to the community.