Remember, it isn't the Dreamers who have good lives - it's the Doers. Remember also what I call the three Ps of success: passion, planning, and perseverance.
My 35 years as an "Opportunity Broker" have been a blessing.
I grew up in this business, my father was a dental sales rep for Ash Temple. Back in the days when the salesman would come to town and stay after the office closed with his tool bag to fix the broken cuspidor (with his son crawling beneath the crawlspace to push up some crusty, broken pipes).
Developing a deeper understanding of just what is involved in setting up an office from the ground up. The finances and human resources involved. The cost to family and personal life well beyond the risk of finances.
It's not easy! It has NEVER been easy!
Over the years, my job has evolved to help doctors succeed. Using the tens of thousands of hours of road weary experience to help my customers understand just what is involved from start of career to the day they retire successfully.
This profession continues to evolve. It's not just from your end - it's from mine as well. We ALL have challenges with changes! Competition!
I started with my DAD in a small, local family owned dental supply business. Eventually we "merged" with a much larger Canadian distributor that to this day is still privately owned, with Reps and locations across Canada. Perhaps equivalent to the "small corporations" that partner with dentists in ownership.
I was unhappy.
I joined a smaller startup, but again privately owned company. I had autonomy back! An ability to help provide my customer with the services I really wanted to. This is part of what you sometimes lose with corporations. Your company gets taken over, and the promised land is not that! You no longer get to be autonomous. You HAVE to adopt a new philosophy and way of doing business that you may not be comfortable with.
This is the DOWNSIDE of so called "corporate dentistry".
I really struggled to assimilate this new corporate style of business. It's justnot my style to be aggressive "selling". It's not "business at any cost" for me. Me and this "privately owned large company" had different goals. I decided to leave.
I joined a new, smaller and family owned style of business. A company that valued my resources and abilities. A company that in just a few short years got bought by Henry Schein. It worked well....for a while.
At first I was happy. We were still allowed to continue with business as usual....for a while.
Without any choice in the matter - the company grew. We took over the largest company in Canada. Ash Temple. My biggest competitor.
My life changed.
It's challenging when the people you have been "beating*" (*my opinion) against suddenly become your new bosses! (With terms I had no say in).
Immediately your hard work and many years growing your own style of business go to the wayside and you are instructed to adopt a new team culture. The skill you gained over the years is pushed aside as you are told this is in contravention to the new team culture. It's a conflict of interest. Your choices are to assimilate or give up your many years of hard work and walk away.
From a dentists perspective, a similar situation would be when new "patients" you worked many years to gain trust from are simply given to the new associates that you really may not like working with. You have ZERO CHOICE in the matter. The growth you spent a second lifetime to work so hard for and that reputation you had gained mean very little to the company that now TOOK OVER YOUR PRACTICE.
Is it good to work for a corporation where you become a valued member only because of your productivity. You feel like a number. To a corporation, you just may be only that.
So here you are. Just about to start your career as a dentist. You are looking for opportunity!!
Dear Doctor - you have some choices to make. There are more choices than you may know - and it's important to make some distinctions. It's important to get some good consultative advice.
Going the corporate route.
I don't believe that a successful business of any type will ever purposely try to hire people that aren't a good fit. Every business wants to hire the best of the best. The people that are able to deliver the premium product that will continue to make the business prosper.
A good business will have a formula. It will be a formula that will be profitable, but must work for the customer. It has to deliver a good experience at a fair price. If it does not deliver this - the business will suffer in the long run.
A well executed plan that will deliver long term results and growth can not gain a bad reputation. They must pay fair and offer an equitable proposition for every employee or they will suffer the consequences in the long run.
I am not a spring chicken. I KNOW these people that started the idea of corporate dentistry. It's based on good business principals. The same type I try to consult to my customers. There needs to be structure and formula. An understanding of people, process and product. An ability to use skill and garner efficiency in time.
Several well run corporations are delivering this. We are finally seeing valuations that make sense from a business stand point. There are returns on investments that have allowed private capital to grow this business. These companies are doing well because of the understanding of people, process and product.
They will hire people like me and you. They will be challenged.
The challenge will be to promote a culture that allows the individual to make choices with the best interest of the business in mind. An ability to take care of the entrepreneurs and allow them to succeed while trying to maintain the profitable formula that they used to get the business to grow from the beginning.
What I am trying to say is that despite the challenges - you CAN succeed in a good corporation. There are ways to SUCCEED in any position, but you need to understand and respect the limitations. AND YOU MUST BE ABLE TO ASSIMILATE.
Here are the benefits to working with a corporation:
The number one reason to work with a corporation is security. My DENTAL CONSULTANT business is well established. It's profitable, and I can pay my bills. I have an employer that contributes to an RRSP. They pay me "fair" and are well financed. They treat me respectfully. They continue to invest in me (as long as it's aligned with their philosophy). I am a good cotton roll seller, they like it.
Compared to PRIVATE ownership - I have a lot less say in how I want to grow my business. As an entrepreneur I am not even allowed to pursue certain aspects of the business due to conflicts of interest. It's tied my hands. I don't really get to say who is hired or fired, which customer base I want to pursue or which skills I might want to employ to grow my own personal revenue.
At first, I was well paid. In the long run, however, the contracts continue to change. Benefits have been reduced over the years. The compensation today, compared to when I started is about half. It's just slowly evolved, and working in a restrictive contract has painfully taken away some opportunity to grow in a way that I would have preferred. On the BENEFIT side - there have been more opportunities to grow my business - the way that THEY want to grow it. Yet, still it's been a good partnership overall.
As a dentist, you may experience a similar culture when working for a corporation. Benefits may change, staffing decisions are not exclusively yours (After all, you are just an employee now). You have to follow the corporate way, even if it is very different from how you conducted your business as an owner. You DID receive a healthy sum for selling your business to the corporation, day to day operations are no longer your concern, and you can just concentrate on dentistry!
Will corporations in Canada, due to competition and environment, be forced to adjust compensation? I predict this is highly likely! I think there will be even thicker contracts for the next generation of employees. More restrictive contracts. More complicated benefit plans.
This is NOT A FACT today. Corporate dentistry is a competitive environment. It may be tougher than ever to be a corporation trying to buy an established and successful clinic. There used to only be one or two well financed corporations and buyers...now there are a dozen larger corporations as well as many business minded private owners that are well capitalized. The banks are realizing that they can help private owners that are willing to take home less up front finance their operations as well and have been more willing to do this.
This increase in valuations has led to decreased potential profits. The leading corporations are VERY STRICT on their valuation methods. At this point, the target would be LARGER CLINICS which are harder for smaller corporations and less well funded investors to purchase using appropriate cash flow and accounting techniques.
Now we see the smaller corporations and "investor dentists" scooping up the remaining practices at "insane valuations"....but the market continues to drive prices up.
The cost of excellence in human resources will continue to be a challenge. A typical associate fee is still 40% in Canada. You will still need to compete to hire the most skilled Dental Assistants and Hygienist and team members that are also in short supply in Canada - also putting pressure on the profit.
The only way to reduce these costs is with efficiency. Slowly increasing the "rewards for production" while making the "goal" harder to attain. Perhaps its a 5% growth target every year in order to continue to keep the strong associate fee. The business plan will look attainable, but in the long run will need to cater to the average....which will be a challenge the larger these companies get. Or at least harder for the smaller companies to maintain without a lot of backers and cash!
Maybe it will EVOLVE the way the same way my career did. Many of you working for an independent, smaller, family owned business, transitioning to a larger, private owned company, only to be bought by a large corporation and having to find your own way to just make it work without compromising your values.
Yet always hungry for a little more....