The Joy of Solo Private Practice
Work hard and be nice to people. (By British graphic designer Antony Burrill.)
The Victorian poet William Earnest Henley (Invictus, 1849–1903) wrote, “I am the master of my fate: I am the master of my soul.” Thus is the essence of solo private practice. As a solo dentist in private practice, all of the responsibility is mine, as is the joy, worry, and financial reward. I have not always been in a solo practice yet my career has evolved as such.
Originally, I was in a group of three. In the beginning, it worked well. We all had young families and co-sharing space led to a group practice. The collegiality was exciting, being able to discuss cases, to have “back up,” and to interact with the other two dentists was welcome. What was not so ideal was the struggles that every partnership can encounter: the lengthy discussions of everything, including what materials and equipment to buy, the employee favoritism of one dentist over the other, and the fact that not all three of us worked with the same production goals, yielding different monies collected. In brief, the three of us had different practice personalities. It is these conflicts that led to partnership problems that could not be resolved, and thus a parting of the ways. Our saving grace was that when we had originally established, a partnership agreement was written that detailed everything including the buyout.
Starting a private practice is similar to developing a garden. First, choose a location. This may vary depending on your practice style. You may choose a location close to where you choose to live, or one where there is increased potential for patient traffic, such as a corporate center. Ideally choose a location where there is potential for patient growth. Keep in mind that if circumstances change that you can always change as well. Be careful not to “marry yourself to only one option.” For example, a well know dental plan recently announced at significant percentage cut in payment to participating providers. As a participating provider, you are considered a preferred dentist for the plan. However of the majority of your practice is dependent on only one plan, then be aware that if the terms of the plan changes, as in this case, then you may find yourself at disadvantage.