Monday, September 23, 2013

Practice Transitions

I recently attended a local day-long lecture presented Dr. Jeff Rouse, from San Antonio, Texas. He titled the subject “Airway Prosthodontics.” It was a great lecture, but this blog is not about that subject.

I sat beside my colleague and fellow AGD member Gene Dalla Lana, DDS, FAGD. Gene has always exemplified a quality, professional GP dentist. He told me that he has enjoyed The Daily Grind blogs and asked when I was going to tell more about my upcoming office move. I was flattered that someone was actually reading these blogs (as an author, I have no idea how many people these blogs reach), and felt it was time to get back to my own daily grind.

There is an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” My last few years have certainly been that. I purchased my 4-op 1,500 sq ft practice in 1994 from a colleague who retired after 44 years of practice. He built a thriving, growing practice. In the early 90s, he was still doing full-mouth rehabilitations, placing implants and more. It was big and it was busy, and our personalities matched well. Roy was almost 69 and he wanted to walk out the door and let me walk in, with no transition. We worked hard on the relationships with the team, our patients, our labs, our dental suppliers, and more. I went from no hygiene days per week (he employed four assistants but no dental hygienists on a five-day work week), to three hygienists and nine hygiene days in a four-day work week.

My practice is incredibly busy. We have created a culture that matches the value systems of me and my team, as well as the patients we have the privilege to treat and care for. And then (as I discussed in a previous blog) I picked up a side, niche practice of independent dental examination consulting for orofacial and TMJ injuries. That put my work into overdrive and I did not know how to get balance back in my life.

Working with my business coach, we decided I should open a new office, build it the way I desire with the culture of my team built into a bigger space, bring a dentist or two into the fold, and get them to buy in. They could work the general dentistry stuff full-time while I focused on the consulting work part-time. It sounded like a win-win business plan and I went to work on it.

I hired a commercial realtor/lease negotiator to help me find a new space that was within walking distance of my office. In a relatively short time, we found a great place. It is 4,200 sq ft, above a drug store, with great visibility, underground parking attached to the building. It is just four blocks from where I am now. The landlord was slow to respond, but over the next 12 months (yes, it took almost 12 months), we negotiated lease terms, rental rates, operating costs, renewals, parking and more. We were stuck with the fact that the landlord had to do some exterior renovations before we could build on the interior, and they did not have a development permit from the City of Calgary. We waited, and we waited. Then, in June of this year, they cancelled the deal stating the drug store, which had first right of refusal for the space, stated they only wanted physicians in that space because they write more prescriptions. I was floored.

At this moment, another space came available, also four blocks from my office (in a different direction). Again, we negotiated all the terms with their realtor representative. Then that landlord handed the deal off to his son to finish negotiating and he wanted to change everything, to considerable detriment to me and my plans. They got greedy and I had to walk away.

By this time, my practice was growing ever busier and I had no place to move to. Stress was building as I was putting in 60+ hours per week in the two businesses. I was growing increasingly unhappy. I had to make a change and decided I needed someone in my current space with me now. We could expand our hours, the new person could work full-time and I could go part-time. We could find a way to make it work in our tight space. So I called a local practice broker/transition specialist.

He told me that the timing was perfect. Apparently, the economy for dentists in Ontario is not that great; there are many young dentists looking to buy practices in Alberta, and Calgary specifically. Demand has increased greatly, but supply has not. I had my practice valuation done three years ago to take advantage of some professional corporation taxation changes and bring my wife in as a shareholder. The broker told me that my practice value had increased 50% in three years! And with the taxation changes we implemented, most of it would be tax-free. So, I have decided to sell. At nearly 55 years of age, I will let it go. I am told it may happen and be completed all before Christmas. Depending on who purchases the practice, I could stay on to help with the transition and work-part time, or I could leave and rent chair space from someone. (Do you have room, Gene?) I could do my independent consulting, or I could open a small practice close to my home and limit it to the orofacial/TMJ stuff as part of my independent consulting.

Even though I am working too hard now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want to work less and spend more time with my family. I want to emulate Dr. Bob Oro and give my wife the gift of a husband with a new body. There are a lot of things I want to do, and it all may happen very soon.

We sure live in interesting times. As my days grind on, I’ll fill you in on my progress.

Thanks, Gene, for telling me that you read these blogs. It’s nice to know it’s not just all the authors reading them.

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, DDS


Santa Teresa Dental said...

Hi, Dr. Larry Stanleigh - I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your feeling. You are not along I am sure. Putting long hours into practice, however, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Choices, decisions, it is definitely not easy to be a dentist in today's interesting time. I highly recommend look inward and ask youself what is important. What is it that you can not live without. Goal setting and go from there. Hope that helps!

Dr. Lawrence M. said...

Thanks for your lovely comments.
When things became overwhelming I was able to focus on the clarity of what I really want and that boiled down to 2 things. The first was based on my accountants statement many years ago...that of all of his retired clients, rich or poor, the ones who were happiest retired debt free. So the first goal of mine is to be personally debt free.
The second goal is to work less. I would love to work a 40 hour work week and have my evenings and weekends free.
Selling my practice will allow me to achieve both of these goals in a short period of time.
thanks again for reading and for your great constructive suggestions. Warm regards, Larry Stanleigh

Chris said...

I agree. It is definitely not easy to be a dentist in today's interesting time. I highly recommend look inward and ask yourself what is important.


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