Saturday, January 25, 2014

A New Year's Resolution

I will be a practice owner by the end of 2014.  That is my resolution.  That is my goal.  I am truly disappointed that I have not been able to really keep a detailed log of the past months in this blog but have simply lacked the will/time.  Not to mention a lot is happening and lot is changing at almost a daily rate that information becomes obsolete quite quickly.

Here is a quick timeline of my life post-GPR.
July 2012 – Received Residency Certificate, licensed in Conscious IV Sedation
July 2012 – Got Married
July - September 2012 – Unsuccessful contract negation with first job offer.  Walked away from position.  Did not work, enjoyed life, honeymoon.  I learned to incorporate two important life skills during this time. 
1. Exercise, namely running but some yoga as well. 
2. Cooking, really enjoying it and it saves money.
October – December 2012 – Worked two days a week in a FQHC seeing primarily pediatric patients.  I was temping for dentist on maternity leave.
December 2012 – Went on two week vacation with Wife’s side of family to Taiwan and Japan.  First time I left the country (not counting Canada).
January – June 2013 – Started as Associate for three days a week.  Slow start, little growth – little pay.
July 2013 – Get offered permanent position at FQHC where I temped, 1.5 days a week – guaranteed salary. At the same time, associate office changes structure of how the associate is paid – essentially a pay cut.  Make decision that it is time to get out.  Working 4.5 days between both offices at this time.  Still making peanuts relative to my years of training and cost of education (quite a ways under 6 figures).  Wife's income is keeping us alive.
August 2013 – Begin interviewing CPAs and Attorneys to form a team of advisors.  One CPA informs me of office not on the market with owner doc looking to sell.
September-November 2013 – Meet with doctor, determine if fit is good, gather initial tax documents.  Ultimately asking price was just out of the park high.  Walked away from negotiation.
December 2013 – Made decision to Start-up office from scratch.
There you have it, a brief foray into my last 18 months.  While my income has been downright abysmal, my life lessons have been strong.  Quite honestly, if I made a lot of money as associate, I would likely become complacent and plateau at a certain income.  Making so little has given me the drive to forge my own path.
I know with certainty that this is the right path for me.  I was even tempted by the devil but five days ago.  Through my networking vine, I was turned on to an FFS office looking to bring in an associate with potential for ownership.  Would make triple my income now, state of the art practice, under one hour commute.  Why am I not pursuing this?
1) No guarantees of ownership.  Owner plans to retire in 3-5 years.  Another dentist with a ‘maybe I’ll retire plan.’
2) Owner feels the associate should have to bust tail for 10 years before taking weekends off and living like “a dentist.”
3) Very hygiene driven
4) Re-read number 4
Didn’t even submit a resume.  While the money really was enticing, I don’t want to work for another dentist at this point.  They have expectations that don’t match with what I want.  I’m dreaming bigger and this is a good thing.  I agree that I should be working hard for the next few years.  However, I also realize that I didn’t become a dentist to work every weekend and late hours.  As an owner, I can make whatever decision I feel best.  If I make less money, then at least I know the reason was my own choice.  Quality of life and time away from work is a value that many people underappreciate.  I do not plan on doing this.

The first steps have been fun.  While I’m doing most of the research and leg-work, my wife has been involved as well (she will, after all, be my partner in business as well as life.)  We have worked with three different CPAs, finally feel like I found one to keep.  Have a solid attorney in our corner as well.  Been approved by three lenders (two national and one local).  Don’t need the loan just yet, but nice to know I can get it.  Up to 1million if I want (hahahaha that would be stupid wouldn’t it!)  Goal budget is 400K, but will be comfortable with 450 if necessary.  Banks will essentially throw money at you because you are a great risk.  Dental offices usually succeed and worst case scenario is that repossess the office and recoup most (if not all) their losses by selling to another doc.

Found a dental specific realtor that we like and are beginning the preliminary hunt for spaces.  Targeting the western suburbs of Chicago.  Spoken with two major dental suppliers (Henry Schein and Patterson) and will meet with both in the near future.  The next major decision is choosing a consultant.  Both are similar in cost (around 25K for one year after your doors open).  I have received proposals, done some research – going to have a phone conference on Wednesday to get the sales pitch from the top contender.  While the bulk of this cost will be rolled into our working capital from the bank loan, we still need to deposit 5K to retain them soon so that they can assist with site appraisals. 

If you have ever seen the AMC show Mad Men.  I am essentially the client, and all of these different groups/professionals are a Don Draper and his team trying to sell me their services.  Lots of free lunches and ass kissing.  Awkward at first, but I’m growing to enjoy it.  Sure these guys just want my money.  But I have to make money in order for them to get any so it should hopefully turn into many mutually beneficial relationships.

Are you confused yet?  So am I.  There are a lot of big decisions to make and many more to come in the following years.  Not to mention preparing for the lean year of cash income that will follow opening day.  We have some savings (not a ton) but enough to hopefully get us through.  Can’t think about kids or a house yet but someday we will get there.  I like the idea of taking out this big pile of debt now rather than in 5 years.  This means I will be 5 years younger and the practice will be paid off. 

One bit of advice I can give to all you new grads.  Read!  READ READ!!!!  Not just dental rags or CE.  Read books on business, conversational skills, sales, marketing, leadership, etc.  A lot of this applies to dentistry and particularly ownership.  The other big piece of advice is to GET HELP.  Do not try to do this all on your own.  These other professionals survive and make a living because they are great at what they do.  They take the stresses off and end up saving you more money despite their hefty fees.  As my attorney put it best – “You are going to have a few things slip through the cracks with any major practice start-up.  However, the more “OH SHIT” moments you can eliminate, the happier and wealthier you will be.”

Wise words.
I will try to keep this up to date and perhaps make another interblog mini-series.  Need to think of a good title first…

Stay tuned and please wish me luck.