A Successful Practice Sale Takes Time

A dentist shares her experience—and advice


Dr. Brenda Thomson recently sold her practice to her associate, and continues to work there as an associate. Dr. Thomson believes one of the greatest assets in her career was gaining ideas and insights from her peers—which is why she is sharing the following thoughts on planning for retirement.


  1. Develop your peer network.

I’ve been deeply involved in organized dentistry for as long as I can remember. This has led to inspiring friendships and relationships with many role models. Sharing thoughts and ideas has helped me tremendously to become a better dentist and a more informed health care provider. When I saw retirement on the horizon, I turned to my network for advice, and there has been plenty.


“Building a strong network of peers made a huge difference to my professional and personal success—and was a great benefit when it came time to sell my practice.”


  1. Fine-tune your practice. 

I contacted a practice appraiser years before I sold to find out how to make the practice as attractive as possible to potential buyers. My advisor recommended perfecting the hygiene side of the practice, tracking and improving productivity, and putting more emphasis on patient recall. Because we implemented this, we were able to grow practice revenues during a time when many dentists were seeing their businesses contract.


  1. Don’t wait until it’s time to sell. 

Start at least five years in advance—it may seem like a long time, but there’s a lot to do. There are human resource matters, tax issues, updating and verifying the patient list, modernizing equipment and leaseholds, and most importantly, having the right lease.


  1. Lock in your location.

Maintaining your location (and your patient list) is key to a dental practice. Potential buyers, and their bankers, need to be confident they will be able to stay put. There are many potential pitfalls if you don’t have a rock-solid lease. For example, lenders typically require the purchaser to show a 10-year lease and clauses that restrict the landlord from relocating the practice or terminating the lease if they want to repurpose the building. These were both huge potential risks in my situation. Believe it or not, it took nearly two years to work it out! My strong advice is: be an owner if possible, not a renter.


  1. Specialists know their stuff. Use them.

Engage an experienced practice appraiser to determine the right price for your practice. Our accountant was invaluable in structuring the business to save on taxes, and in providing financial information on a timely basis. For the closing, we used a law firm with specialized practice transition experience, and that was a great benefit. They ensured that all required statements, documentation and filings were produced correctly. CDSPI has been helpful as well, notably in supporting my local (HPDA) component society on several occasions with expert presentations with knowledgeable advice.


  1. Plan your life in retirement… and start on that TODAY!

Everyone should pursue passions outside of dentistry. Skiing happens to be my thing. I found my love for skiing later in life, but I’ve made up for it by skiing snow caps all over the world—from the Rockies, to Europe, to Japan, to Chile. Outside interests become especially important in retirement and make for a fulfilling life. The key is to make sure you have a plan.


We're Here To Help:

Throughout your career, you can count on CDSPI to help build the financial security you need to prepare for a long and fulfilling retirement. And to help you plan for it, we partnered with lifestyle planning expert, Alan Roadburg, to develop a guide and workbook, Life After Dentistry.  Call us at 1.800.561.9401 to request your complimentary copy.