Buy a Mid-sized Practice. Here’s Why.

Let’s talk about sustainability.

No, I don’t mean the environmental buzzword—important though that may be.

I’m talking about personal sustainability. The ability to maintain your life, your work, yourself throughout a long and lucrative career.

So, with that in mind, here’s a piece of general advice for most dentists: don’t shoot for the stars.

Counterintuitive, right? Obviously this one is going to need a breakdown.

Don’t go too small

One of my common pieces of advice for dentists looking for a practice to buy is to buy the one that brings in a minimum of $750K annually—preferably more. You’ve got student loans, maybe a home loan, and now a practice loan, all of which put pressure on your finances for years or decades.

You need a practice that can help you comfortably pay off those loans as quickly as possible.

So, don’t go too small. But what about the opposite? Can you go too big? Absolutely.

Which dentist are you?

It’s a tale of two dentists. Four, actually, each of whom I know personally. Each of them bought huge practices. Two of them even expanded, buying multiple locations and building mini dental empires in their areas.

All four of them made tons of cash. Three of them were so miserable and burnt out that they sold their practices in their forties and went back to being associates. We’ll come back to that fourth dentist in a bit.

What is success, anyway?

Dentists are sometimes hit with the message that if they’re not collecting north of $1.5M annually, or if they don’t own multiple locations, they’re failing. But that’s simply not true!

Before you ever buy a practice, you should ask yourself: what does success look like to you? Don’t answer with what it should look like according to outside opinions—find your own answer.

Because while finding and buying a practice and transitioning into ownership are exciting, that excitement runs out and you’re left with the situation you put yourself in. What is going to energize you in five years? Ten years? Twenty?

Will you be energized by the 18-hour days of the serial entrepreneur? Maybe it will be about building a comfortable nest egg for eventual retirement? Or maybe it’s as simple as providing a comfortable daily life for your family. Find your motivation.

Forget the $2.5M practice

Back to those four dentists. They all followed a similar path, that of the entrepreneur looking to constantly build and grow. And for one of them, that was the right path to follow! Some people really do get energized by the difficult daily grind of constant growth. But for the other three, it just didn’t fit their personalities, and it wore them down instead of being fulfilling.

And that’s why I said above that this advice—to find the mid-sized practice to buy—is for most of you. Yes, there are a few truly entrepreneurial dentists out there who should go hard and fast for their whole career. For most, though, that’s a path to burnout and dissatisfaction.

So while I tell dentists to find a practice collecting at least $750K annually, I also say, forget about that $2.5M practice. For most of you, a mid-sized practice will bring you plenty of wealth and fulfillment, with less potential for burnout.

If you’re not sure which group you belong in, let’s talk it through! Ultimately the decision has to be yours, but I’ve seen enough stories of both success and heartbreak that I might be able to help you talk through your desires and situation. I’d love to help you achieve your goals.