Dec 21, 2015

Profitable Practice Rule #3: Avoid the Taj Mahal

Written By: Nate Williams

In this post I’d like to speak about your physical space – your office. This is a tough post to write as many of the readers have already made the decision about where to practice. I might contradict decisions you’ve made. I’m sorry for that. Even if you have already signed your lease or purchased your building, hopefully there is something here for you, or hopefully you can help someone else by passing this on.

The Principle of Non Distraction

Years ago I served as a missionary for my church; we had a strict dress code, which included a suit with a white shirt and tie, and to always keep our hair combed with a conservative style. I often wondered why we did this until one day I learned that the purpose was to not distract, by our appearance, from the message we had to share. If we looked sloppy the listeners would question the quality of our message. So we wore a suit, white shirt and a tie; and we tried to keep our shoes shined. To emphasize, the point was to not distract, not to draw attention.

Therefore, it did not matter if our shirts were from Nordstrom or Van Heusen, or if our suits were from Armani or JC Penney, or if our shoes were from Brioni or Payless. Our attire simply needed to be nice enough to not draw attention.

This principle applies perfectly to your building. Your facility needs to be nice enough so that your patients don’t question the quality of your work by the appearance of your building. Beyond that and you’re simply wasting money.

In fact, one of our highest producing clients furnished her office from IKEA!

Your building doesn’t make you money; it costs you money

Most dentists get this wrong. They think a bigger, nicer space is going to make them more money. Wrong. Actually, you doing dentistry makes you money; your building is included in the long list of things you have to pay for just to have the privilege of fixing teeth. So if your building is more expensive, that simply means that you have to pay more for the pleasure of making people smile.

To be clear, in dentistry, dentists make money. Buildings cost money. If you can figure out a way to get patients to come see you in a tent, do it!

To become wealthy, you actually don’t have to own the building

This is not my opinion: several of the wealthiest dentists I have ever seen do not own their own buildings. I recently talked to one doctor who is taking home over $1.3M annually out of a building he rents and our conversation went like this:

Me: “Do you have plans to buy your building or to build a new building?”

Him: “No, why would I?”

Me: “I don’t know; most dentists naturally want to do that when they make as much money as you.”

Him: “Will it give me more time or money?”

Me: “Well, no.”

I can’t wait for his retirement party at age 48. He’ll be happy at that time not to have the hassle of dumping an expensive building onto the next guy.

Your building is not that great of an investment

Most doctors think that they’ll buy a building, then they’ll sell the practice and rent the building to the new owner forever. Maybe. Or that they’ll sell it for a huge gain. Perhaps. But think hard on this one; when you’re ready to sell the building it could be 30 years old or older; how many of you are excited to pay top dollar for a 30+ year old building?


When you’re looking for your next place to practice, or looking to remodel, or upgrade or whatever, you will be wise to remember the purpose of your building: give you a place to do your work that doesn’t distract from the perceived quality of your work.

Also, you will be wise to remember that the financial goal in dentistry (assuming you want to reach financial freedom as efficiently as possible) is to maximize profits, not collections. Regarding your building, most of the time this means doing as much as you can in a modest building; if it’s a little smaller than you’d like, perfect!


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