Medical and dental professionals invest an enormous amount of time, hard work, and money into their educations. Unfortunately for MDs and DDSs who have an entrepreneurial spirit, all that classwork rarely prepares them for the challenges of opening and operating their own practices. And while owning your own business can provide a greater Return on Life, there are significant pros and cons to consider.
If you're thinking about opening your own medical or dental practice, start by answering these two questions:
1. Is work-life balance or maximizing income more important?
As an employee, you'll never have complete control over your schedule. And for the best doctors and dentists, there are always times when the needs of patients extend past normal business hours. But if you're not in charge of the business, you will have better control over the On/Off switch you flip when you leave the office at the end of the day.
Moreover, many of the same innovations that have reshaped other professions are changing the medical field as well. Telemedicine, job-sharing, and referral networks could add some additional flexibility to your schedule. And with high competition for top talent, you might also have some additional leverage to negotiate for more vacation days, volunteer hours, or sabbatical benefits.
One of the biggest benefits of owning your own practice is the profit potential. As a medical business owner, you'll earn from both the patients you see and from the overall business. You might also be able to invest in commercial real estate and own your office space. Once you start eying retirement, selling that total package could add some significant padding to your nest egg.
2. Is the freedom to run the practice your way worth the extra administrative work?
Of course, between now and then, you'll have two jobs: doctor and business owner. Either can be stressful enough on its own. Combine the two with an ongoing pandemic and that On/Off switch is going to be much more difficult to flip.
When you're only seeing patients, it's not your responsibility to manage staff, oversee payroll, and contract with insurers. Those are just some of the additional responsibilities you take on as the owner of your practice. Plus, as the business grows, you may have to devote more of your time to running the business and less to seeing patients. That's an acceptable trade-off for some doctors and a non-starter for those who want to spend the majority of their time helping people.
The fallout from the pandemic also poses unique challenges to aspiring private practitioners. The extraordinary toll that fighting COVID-19 has had on our medical heroes has created high levels of burnout and turnover. Instead of being a doctor with the flexibility to reconfigure work-life balance, you'll be a boss trying to find enough staff to see patients and run your office.
Dentists and specialists have also had to cope with inconsistent revenue as many patients delayed non-emergency treatment. For example, according to the American Association of Endodontists, more than 50% of Americans have delayed routine dental check-ups since the arrival of COVID-19. And even before the pandemic, rising health care costs and economic uncertainty had created a surge in medical mergers and acquisitions that has only accelerated since 2020. Are your business plan, team, and potential patient pool all strong enough to compete with larger firms as you're getting off the ground?
Like most aspects of your life and career, the best path forward depends on connecting your assets to your goals. Our Life-Centered Planning process can help to strengthen that connection and make your working life and eventual retirement more fulfilling.