50% deal or buy your own practice?
50% deal or buy your own practice?
However much better it sounds in your own head or when you’re introducing yourself at parties, there’s no intrinsic benefit to being a practice owner over working in a good associate deal.
July 28, 2016

By Ross Martin, Accountancy Director at Hive Business

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. Take, for example the very common aspiration among associate dentists to become practice owners.

However much better it sounds in your own head or when you’re introducing yourself at parties, there’s no intrinsic benefit to being a practice owner over working in a good associate deal.

The trouble is, once people get that first practice in their sights, all the healthy analysis about the pros and cons of swapping one life for another seems to go out the window. Associates just love the idea of owning their own practice.

Let’s be clear, I’m talking specifically about trading in really good associate deals for the practice owner life. Say, for example, you’re on a 50% deal and you work four days a week and gross £300k, so after lab your share might be £135k.

Take a step back and consider that for a minute; £135k for relatively little hassle. Have you ever stopped to appreciate how good that is, in any line of work, or were you always straining for the next step, always onwards and upwards?

Because you are going to need to work harder and sharper to make the next step pay off, it’s likely the maths will make a convincing case to shirk the extra work. Remember, owning a practice isn’t the golden goose it once was. There’s a very real risk of losing a lot of time and money if you don’t get it right and, even if it goes according to plan, you will be shouldering the burden of an exponentially higher workload and the responsibility of other people’s livelihoods.

All told, it’s not even remotely the same job as being an associate. Ask yourself: do I really want to do this other job, or am I conceiving of practice ownership as simply the obvious next step in my career because that’s what I’ve seen other people do?

Another thing you might want to ask yourself is: have I really played the cards I’ve been dealt properly yet? Because if you do go ahead and buy a practice you are taking on double the stress for no guarantee you’ll even earn the same as what you’re on now.

In any line of work, that’s an incredibly risky proposition. I’m not saying this because I’m against risk — actually I’m pro-risk, so long as it’s mitigated properly, by which I mean thought through, researched and mapped out.

In the case of buying a dental practice that means a business plan with all the necessary constituent parts, but before that it means a realistic survey of what you stand to lose after taking the plunge. That’s the bit most people forget because they’re so busy making forecasts about what they expect to gain.

That said, there obviously is a time and a place for making the move from associate to practice owner. What is it? Well, it’s different for everyone, but I’d say the appropriate situation would involve some or all of the following ingredients:

  • you want more control over your career and have a driving sense of ambition
  • you are no longer on a great associate deal (50% or above)
  • you want to earn £300k or more
  • you are ready to work harder than you ever have before and take responsibility for others while learning on the job
  • you can devote your life to your new business for the next five years (ie there is nothing going on in your personal life that you can’t afford to give less time to)

If you’re an associate who’s trying to reconcile your personal goals with your professional opportunities all you need to do is pause, take a step back and audit the pros and cons of your current position. If you need some help mapping out the realistic pros and cons of practice ownership, whether or not you have a specific practice in mind, I can help. Call 01872 300232 or email us at hello@hivebusiness.co.uk.

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Hive Business and does not constitute formal tax advice. Any tax outcomes will be based on individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future. You should seek specific advice before embarking on any course of action. Hive Business does not provide regulated Financial Advice, including advice on investment, insurance or lending products or their suitability for you. This article is provided for information only and does not constitute, and should not be interpreted as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or otherwise transact, or not transact, in any investment including Bitcoin and other crypto. Any use you wish to make of any information contained within this article is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

By Ross Martin Group Chairman
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please get in touch.
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