When I got my driver’s license as a teenager, one of the first things I did was drive my car to the neighborhood with the biggest houses I could find. At that time, that was my idea of success. I got out and started walking door-to-door with a pen and notepad in hand, donning my best dress clothes. I rang dozens and dozens of doorbells that day and asked the owner’s of the homes, “What does it take to become successful and get to where you are in life?”
Exactly zero people gave me an answer. It was a secret for them to know, and not for me. I got the door slammed in my face repeatedly and I got cussed out by several complete strangers. At 16 years old, that was an experience I would never forget.
My role models and future mentors would largely be found in books. In college I began to read books voraciously, maintaining a steady average of about a book per week. I’d take these lessons and apply them to my life and my goals. That experience at 16 years old taught me to take my success into my own hands, and to become resourceful enough to learn on my own. I never stopped asking and never stopped learning from any person or resource that I could find.
It’s a common denominator that most dental students start out in dental school wanting to own their own practice some day. Dental school in its current state was, and so far is, great for clinical basics, but an epic failure for business preparation. For a career path which has historically churned out aspiring small business owners, I thought there would be more of a priority on small business education. Zip. Nada. In a profession that pumps out graduates with $300,000 — $400,000 — $500,000+ of high interest student loan debt, one would think we would be prepared to pay it back. Nope. Nada. The average dentist associate salary of ~$125k,000 per year does not result in the ability to pay off the debt and have anything left over at the end of the month — unless you “take advantage” of the multiple long-term payment plans, which if you pull back the curtain on them are really taking advantage of us.
When does it become unethical for dental schools to saddle it’s new grads with insurmountable debt, and not prepare them to pay it back? The fastest way to high income in dentistry is through ownership. Dental School Faculty (some not all) and Corporate Dentistry (“you do the dentistry, and we will handle the rest!” — handle the rest of the money) have done a supreme job of scaring young dentists and dental students from even entertaining the idea that they can take their future into their own hands through ownership.
I devoted every spare minute to learning the business of dentistry, and still have a lot to learn. I interviewed dozens of dentists and analyzed what made a dental practice tick from the inside out. Obtained hours and hours of recorded interviews and financial numbers. I skipped out on dental school courses (still got A’s) to sit in on classes in the business school instead.
- How do you hire employees?
- How do you keep employees happy and bring out the best in them?
- Should I buy or lease a space?
- How do I know where I should buy/build my practice?
- What is the optimal way to design and build a practice?
- How do I negotiate a contract?
- What supplies should I be ordering?
- How do you know where a dental practice will succeed or fail?
- How do you pay taxes?
- How do you analyze profit margins on a dental procedure?
- How do you run a successful marketing campaign?
These are the type of things that I needed to know. Needing to know them kept me up at night searching for information. Information that would allow me be prepared for what I felt I had always been preparing for — dental practice ownership.
I began the process of building my practice from scratch almost immediately after my 2016 graduation. I had a business plan and was approved for start-up financing when I was still a D4.
According to Bank of America, the average dentist spends around $400,000 for a new practice. I spent around $85,000.
In my research and prep, I learned how to start one modern, brand new, all digital dental practice for 1/4 of the traditional cost. I could open 4 dental practices, for the cost of one – and still have the nicest, newest practice in town. My first month in business I had over 50 new patients scheduled. There were obstacles along the way, but I don’t believe in mistakes or failures, it’s all part of the journey.
I’ve learned a lot. But I’ve still got SO MUCH MORE to learn.
This is why I made Practice Biopsy.
Unlike the people who slammed the door in my face at 16 years old, my door is open for other people to learn from. So – shoot me an email, ask me a question, give me your opinion. Let’s learn and explore together – let’s look inside the business of dentistry!
-DeAngelo S. Webster, DDS