Covid-19 Update: Here’s What I Would Be Doing Right Now If … Part One

Finding myself at my home office for now the fourth week of the consensus stay at home directives, we like everyone else are wondering what the dental practice market will look like when we get back to some new normal. The honest answer is, I don’t know. There is no post-pandemic playbook or data set to refer back to. Our company survived the Dot Com bust, 9/11 and The Great Recession but I believe history will show that those were minor bumps in the road compared to our current circumstances. We may be noticing however a few early signs of how the world might work going forward and some of those signs might well apply to us. Consequently, I’m going to pen a four-part series on what I would be doing if I were a;

  1. Rural Practice Dentist
  2. Metro or Suburban Dentist
  3. A Mid-career Dentist
  4. A recent graduate or associate Dentist

Events of the last month have indicated that technology is going to become much more important going forward. Churches are going to have to change. Business of all types will be exploring new models and service and delivery businesses will have to become tech centers. To name a few, healthcare, the auto industry, airlines, finance/banking and social networks are all going to change. Dentistry is going to need to make some changes as well.

If I was practicing in a rural practice (defined by prospective buyers in our market as somewhere more than an hour away from downtown St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Springfield or Omaha/Lincoln), and looking to retire in the next ten years, I would be on the phone with ADS-MidAmerica tomorrow morning to schedule a face to face meeting to discuss a realistic exit strategy.

I might not hear what I would like to hear but at least I would want to know my choices.

  • I would want to know about the necessary metrics for a practice to be a sustainable business for a new owner.
  • I would want to know about the shift in buyer demographics in the last 40 years and what effect that will have on the likelihood of their being a buyer now and in the future. Interestingly, there may or may not be a buyer, but it may not be for the reasons I think. We may possibly be in for another shift in career plans similar to the ‘70s and ‘80s as young docs just might find the security of ownership is best enjoyed away from the big city markets. How and why could that be?
  • I would like to discuss the difference between obtaining personal if not generational wealth as a result of ordinary income versus equity and capital gains. Even the IRS recognizes the difference so it must be meaningful.
  • I would like to know if experienced help is available to assist me in transitioning my practice as things are a lot more complicated than they were when I went in business.

Frankly, not knowing the answers to these questions would leave me unsettled, relying on anecdotes and misinformation and wandering in the darkness of the post-pandemic world.

Steve Wolff, DDS  UMKC Class of 1977