Although it is 80+ degrees for some reason, I still consider mid-September to be “Fall.” The days are getting shorter, the clouds are hanging around more often, definitely fall-ish. Now if that horde of hornets living up on my deck would finally die off, I’ll be a happy human. Every time I wipe out one nest, I feel as if two more sprout up.
How is the professional
life treating me you ask? Still not
great, but I feel like I have motivation and direction at last. I figured I would work as an associate for 5
years in this office, build my skill-base, and then buy-out or transition into
an existing practice. However, I’ve
quickly realized that I can’t wait five years.
Being an associate has many many benefits. These benefits also come in tandem with many
many frustrations. The plus side is
obvious. You get to focus almost
exclusively on your trade as a dentist.
Without the burden of managing an office and having employees, you can
get the inexperienced jitters out of your system much smoother.
With all great things
comes the downside. You are an
employee. Always remember that. It doesn’t matter if your contract is
structured as an Independent Contractor.
You are still an employee. Every
other employee in the office knows this.
So naturally, your authority is limited.
You are not going to be able to dramatically change anyone’s behavior or
any office systems already in place.
This becomes glaringly apparent if you work in an office that has been
around for decades (like me). Now every
position is different, but as an associate, you WILL eventually max out your income
potential. If you want to hit that juicy
median income of your average general practitioner, you must strike out and
So as my last post made
clear, I am looking into ownership far earlier than expected. I have spoken with both an attorney and
accountant informally to simply network as well as get as much free advice as I
can before they invariably start charging me.
The good thing about shopping around for other professionals is that
they know this and are more willing to cut you a break at the beginning. We are also meeting with a bank in regards to
acquiring a loan towards practice financing.
Several major banks in this country have medical/dental specialist sub
segments that exclusively cater to dentists and financing practice
start-ups/buy-outs. Much like with other
professionals, we plan to meet with more than one. This first meeting will occur early next
A lot of my free time
is now spent reading up on the non-clinical aspects of dentistry. Books on leadership, communication, practice
transitions, etc. Not only is it a nice
break from constantly reading articles on clinical dentistry, but I am absorbing
an enormous amount of information – namely because I am really underdeveloped
from a business standpoint.
I currently work 4.5
days a week and while my income is still laughable for a general dentist (and
given my 9 years of post-HS education), it has become less laughable than it
was last year at this time. My wife is
still bringing home way more bacon than me, but as a progressive and mature
adult human, I am super excited about this because she keeps us going
financially while I have fuddled around for the last year. She still is pretty underpaid for how many
hours she puts in – but I can’t say she is unfairly paid as an associate
dentist. Combined, we make enough to
maybe consider ourselves one whole dentist.
I realize our income potential is quite high over our careers, but knowing
this and getting there are two very different ideals.
I did get a job offer
from one of the local corporate dental chains.
I would make double what I do now, but I just couldn’t pull the
trigger. To be unable to practice
comprehensive dentistry every day of the week would simply drive me
insane. I do care about financial growth
and stability, but I don’t consider my wealth as the definition of who I
am. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice
things just as much as the next guy, but I thankfully don’t find myself craving
social status types of items. We are
living somewhat below are means. Most of
our money is spent on travel, which we do sporadically. And finally having a somewhat less laughable
income on my end has allowed us to begin significantly saving money. The student loans still sit, but we have
stabilized and will continue to chip away, hoping to whittle them down 100%
over the next 10-15 years. The idea of
taking out another 500K to finance a practice is daunting, but at the same time,
it’s just a number. I never physically
walk around with it in my pocket. The
practice is established with numbers crunched to accommodate repayment well
before the bank even approves. Dental
practices rarely ever fail. And I’ve see
some pretty incompetent dentists in my short career doing just fine and dandy. If they can somehow get by, then I feel like
I’ve got a good chance to excel. Not
that I’m god’s greatest gift to dentistry or anything, but I actually care
about the quality of my work. I know I’ve
had bad days, but I learn from my mistakes, constantly strive to improve and am
never satisfied with what I know. I feel
like these traits will push me to higher peaks over the next 35 years.
So much like the
Chicago Bears this season, I am cautiously optimistic about the future. I know there are plenty of frustrating times
ahead of me, but I also see a lot of happiness and contentment as well.
While I’d be lying if I
said my post-education world was what I expected it to be, I’d also be lying if
I said I wasn’t a pretty lucky SOB with a great life.
Cheers to all.