3 Myths About Startups & Why BUYING a Practice Is Better

Brian Hanks General

There’s a great debate out there: Should you buy an existing practice, or start one from scratch? I’m on record that for the VAST majority of dentists (we’re talking at least 95%), buying an existing practice is the better way to go.

I’m also on record saying that I’ll be perfectly honest and tell you if you’re one of the very small number of dentists who might benefit from starting from the ground up. Occasionally it makes more sense!

But I recently read a blog post on the subject that couldn’t go unanswered. The post purported to extol all the amazing virtues of starting a practice from scratch. I’m not interested in calling out this blog by name, so forgive me for not linking to it. But I will address each of the three myths that this post promoted in trying to encourage dentists to go the startup route.

Myth #1 – It’s too tough to change the culture

I once worked with Dave, a young dentist in California. As he evaluated a potential practice for sale, he brought this concern to me. “I enjoyed meeting the staff, but after just a day with them I don’t know if I can say that we’ll mesh perfectly. What if the office culture suffers?”

It’s a valid concern, and I told Dave as much. But I asked him, What does your gut tell you? Does it seem like a good staff that you can get along with? He said yes, they seemed capable, knowledgeable, and personable. So he went forward with the purchase. When I spoke to him last, about two years after his purchase, he said most of the original staff was still there, and the culture was what he’d hoped for and expected.

Building a culture from scratch is as difficult — or more! — as inserting yourself into an existing culture. The thing is, every practice needs the same things from its employees, and it’s exactly what Dave described: capable, knowledgeable, and personable. Think it’s going to be easier to build that kind of staff than to find it? If so, you’re wrong.

Myth #2 – You won’t have your dream practice

The gist of the complaint here is that if you buy a practice, you’ll have to compromise on things like floor plan, equipment, decorations, etc. If you build a practice, though, you can get everything just the way you want it.

Please.

Just imagine the conversations with the builder or equipment rep for your “dream practice.” That premium flooring? That’ll be extra. You want the newest equipment models? You’ll pay a premium. You get the idea.

The idea that a startup comes with no compromise is, forgive my direct language, total bullcrap. Compromise is part of the process either way.

Buying an existing practice comes with compromise, yes. But just like building a practice from scratch, you’ll find yourself crafting your dream practice over time, not necessarily on day one.

Myth #3 – You’ll be less satisfied

The gist of this myth is that buying is easier than building, and there’s more satisfaction in going the tougher route. Seriously?

When I was younger, I bought a hundred-year-old house. It required lots of hard work, upkeep, and repairs. Several years later I worked with a builder on a brand new home. It required — you guessed it — lots of hard work, upkeep, and repairs. After 5+ years in each home I can tell you that the satisfaction I got from owning each home was slightly different, but just as real either way.

It’s the same thing with a dental practice. There is real satisfaction to be had from building a practice from scratch. But to pretend that at the end of a successful career, there isn’t as much satisfaction to be had from buying a practice and turning it into your ideal practice over the years? Lunacy.

Ultimately, my purpose here is not to completely poo-poo the idea of startup practices. Like I said before, sometimes it’s a great option. But that’s relatively rare. For the vast majority of dentists, purchasing an existing practice is easier, faster, less risky, and at least as rewarding as going the startup route.

And as always if you have any questions that I can shed some light on, please reach out and let me know.


I go into more detail on this  and every other aspect of purchasing a practice  in my online course. Come check out the first module for free.