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a blog by Chris Barrow

A bright future in dental practice ownership

Who would have thought that you could come away from a UK dental trade show feeling optimistic? It feels like a long time since I've been able to say that.

I was only able to attend The Dentistry Show for one day on Saturday and wish that I could have been there both days, and not so busy giving talks to be able to listen to more of the speakers and visit more stands.

With three presentations, a podcast interview and a few important meetings with strategic alliance partners, there wasn't any bandwidth for me to have a wander about and feel the pulse - I don't know if "the trade" felt that their investment in stands was worthwhile.

However, talking to the existing and potential (of which more in a moment) dental practice owners was confirmation (if I needed it) that we are turning a corner for independent practice.

Whether it was the other panelists in the Practice Plan theatre, audience members or those I did have the chance to chat to in the corridors, we all agreed the following:

  • The corporates are distracted by EBITDA navel-gazing - in their attempts to stop the rot on diminishing profit margins as a result of increasing costs, poor production and unsuccessful recruitment;

  • The media are doing their best job ever of educating the public on dental deserts and lack of access;

  • The demand for private dentistry continues to defy any concerns around consumer confidence;

  • The recruitment and retention cycle is turning back in favour of independent practice as both team member and clinicians migrate to the private sector.

Perhaps the most significant factor that was reinforced by The Show was the number of younger dentists who are seriously looking at Private Squats as an alternative to buying an existing practice.

I see this as a growing trend and it fills me with optimism - partly from self-interest as I know I can help - but mainly because, after what seems years of negativity, we are entering a new cycle of young, enthusiastic, would-be dental entrepreneurs.

It confirms a growing realisation that the ownership model in dentistry is changing rapidly.

  • For existing practice owners - the "grow it and sell it to a corporate" cycle is, I suggest. coming to an end and we are all going to have to come up with some new ideas to assist our clients with their exit strategy (mine with The Extreme Business 100 is "grow a self-managing dental business and then keep it.")

  • For potential new practice owners - open your own business - there has never been a better time.

Saturday at the NEC was my 26th year at a dental trade show - and one of the best.

We have a bright future.

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