Moving on Up

This is a brief story about a friend of mine, an ODA member who practised dentistry in central Toronto for more than 20 years.  He owned a modest-sized, high-quality, adult crown and bridge practice.  He ran it on a part-time schedule for all those years, mostly because he was very active in organized dentistry.  He and his wife enjoyed many years of working with wonderful, regular patients in Toronto, yet they always yearned for the life outside the metropolis.

In 2002, he contacted our firm and we proceeded to sell his Toronto practice. With that behind them, he and his wife looked north, to the growing communities of the Muskokas.  They found that Huntsville was the most appealing for their lifestyle and they have now opened a brand-new, compact, tasteful, solo, dental practice.  The other dentists in town have welcomed him into their community.  I find that the professional environment in many of these growing communities is generally less competitive than in the big city.

My friend and his wife intend to run the practice on a carefully designed, efficient part-time schedule of three or four days per week.  They will rarely work evenings and weekends, which allows them the luxury of enjoying their chosen lifestyle.  They report that their new patients are very kind, easy going, and most are receptive to his comprehensive treatment planning, which fits nicely with my friend’s style, adopted from his extensive participation in continuing education programs.

Does this scenario appeal to you?  I view it as a “part-time for life” dental practice, with little financial or competitive pressure, situated in a unique, custom-designed, low-overhead office. You could enjoy the freedom to plan treatment and practise exactly as you always wished, with much less urgency to meet budgets or produce beyond your energy or comfort levels.  Start at 10 a.m. if you prefer.  Close at 3 p.m. a few days and go skiing, boating, golfing or perhaps just take a walk.

It is not common to see this situation discussed in the practice management journals or to hear about these success stories from the experts who frequent the lecture circuit.  Why is this? I believe it’s because the people who profit from this practice style are the owner, the staff and the patients, not so much the third party advisors they employ.  Some big city practices may produce big problems and need considerable management help – the type of aid that generates higher management fees.

Many dentists tell me they dream of the solo operator style as their last practice.  Why not make it your first?  Some admit they feel accidentally trapped in a system of high rent, large staff, too many patients and a host of other obligations that they feel compelled to maintain. The question I ask is, “Who are they really working for?”

I believe that you, and only you, are in control of your life and your career.  If the big city hassles really do seem like too much, consider the simplicities of rural and northern communities and the extensive lifestyle benefits that accompany them.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?  You may wish to look north.  The lifestyle, the freedom and the practice opportunities are abundant.

Ontario Dentist – September 2003