Becoming a principal, now what?

Buying your first dental practice is a huge milestone in your career and your life. But while it brings opportunities, becoming the owner of your own business also brings challenges which you must ensure you are prepared for.

It is hugely important you are aware of what you are taking on before you decide to become a Principal and entrepreneur, and that you seek advice if in any doubt.

Amanda Maskery, Head of the Dental Unit at law firm Sintons, offers some advice on key considerations before making the move from Associate to Principal.

Considerations during the transaction

  • Can you secure sufficient funding to purchase your own practice? Beware of the pitfalls of a ‘cheap’ practice. Thorough due diligence is crucial and something your lender will require assurance of
  • Handing in notice at your current practice, can you commit to this before exchanging contracts? Will this affect the timing of the transaction necessitating a split exchange of contracts and completion of the acquisition?
  • Dealing with the outgoing Principal. Are you going to retain their services as an associate? Fraught negotiation of the Purchase Agreement, and the requisite associate agreement, might colour the relationship when running the Practice post-completion
  • Regulatory requirements. You will need to make an early application to the CQC to become a ‘Registered Provider’. This will require an up to date DBS check which can take several months.
  • Rigorous due diligence and a well-negotiated Purchase Agreement will allow you to walk into a Practice on day one with open eyes and sufficient information to hit the ground running.  You should be in a position to start seeing and treating patients as soon as possible.

Post-Completion considerations

  • A lot more of your time will be taken up with administration, if you have targets (be they UDA or purely financial) you must ensure you are continuing to maintain the level and quality of treatment
  •  Management time. Good organisation is key. Are policies of insurance up to date, are you aware of the key commercial contracts at your practice and their terms?
  • Are you aware of the risks of business ownership, if you are a sole trader you will have personal liability for business debts to your creditors. Have you made financial arrangements for the future. Professional accountancy and financial planning advice can assist in this regard.
  • Keeping in touch with the LAT, have you been able to make any contacts or build relationships?
  • Are you able to maintain your practice and treatment to the requisite regulatory standard, do you have a set of policies in place should the LAT or CQC come calling?
  • If you are now an employer; do you know your duties to your employees and associates and their entitlements under their employment contracts? Having possibly navigated TUPE during the course of the transaction do you have systems in place for managing, safeguarding and monitoring the performance of your employees, including your self-employed associates?
  • Growing your practice – do you have a business plan? Have you considered developing your private practice through a capitation scheme? Do you offer a sedation service? Are you able to meet your UDA targets, are you able to make contingencies for under or over performance?
  • Would you consider employing a non-dental member of staff to assist so that you might focus on treating patients?

Amanda Maskery, also Chair of the ASPD in the UK, is a Partner and Head of Dental at law firm Sintons, in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Contact Amanda Maskery on the details below:

Amanda Maskery
0191 226 7838

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