So, you’re considering going into business with another practitioner or practitioners and entering into a formal partnership. Good for you! Dentists have many options when forming a legal entity for their practice, and partnerships are one of the most common. This is an exciting time for you, I’m sure. Along with the excitement likely comes some feelings of anxiety:
- What if our personalities and ways of doing business begin to clash?
- What if we have different goals for the practice?
- What if we don’t structure it correctly and one of us ends up adversely affected financially?
People enter into a partnership with the thought that it will be beneficial for all parties – and that can often be the case if the partners do one thing: due diligence. If they spend plenty of time on the front end doing their due diligence and hiring the right professionals to walk them through it, they can avoid many headaches down the road.
While it is impossible to cover all of the things to consider in one blog post, the idea behind this post is to get you off the ground running. You will need to consult with a CPA to be sure you are on the right track, and a lawyer to draft the legal documentation to move forward.
Today we’ll look at some of the benefits, drawbacks and overall considerations when forming a partnership.
When forming a dental partnership over a solo practice, there are many benefits. This can include:
- Shared knowledge among partners
- Potential to expand into specialty practice areas
- Reduced overhead
- Business continuity
- Strength in numbers
- Higher morale when working with partners who relate with the challenges of running a practice
- Shared advice on unusual treatments or procedures
- Mentor / mentee relationship possibilities among partners
- Varying perspectives and backgrounds can bring a more well-rounded practice
Dental partnerships have their drawbacks as well, especially when the written agreement is not clear or present. Here are a few potential drawbacks:
- Overall direction can be unclear
- One partner is more motivated, or has different business goals
- Compensation can be more immediate and easily attainable somewhere else
- Potential for a poorly structured partnership which can lead to financial disparities among partners
Dental Partnership Agreement
So, if you have decided a partnership is right for you, how do you set yourself up for success? We recommend having a comprehensive, written dental partnership agreement, drafted by an attorney that covers a wide range of topics such as:
- Management rights
Consider who will legally have the decision-making abilities. One partner might have no desire to manage. Another might prefer it. Outline the structure for not only management rights, but also clarify overall obligations and rights.
- Adding / removing partners
Outline the process for expansion when a practitioner wants to buy in. And what are the grounds for removing a partner? What does that look like?
- Exiting partners
Have an exit plan outlined in the partnership agreement and how the practice will be valued.
- Patient Records
Which partner will be the custodian of the patient records and ensure the practice is compliant with HIPPA and government requirements?
- Profit sharing among partners
This would cover who is entitled to what percentage of the practice’s profits.
- Expense splitting
Who cover’s the practice expenses? Is it based on ownership percentage, production? Both?
What if one of the partners becomes disabled and unable to continue working?
What happens if one of the partners were to pass away? What would happen to the practice? How would the surviving partners be protected from undue financial hardship while still providing the deceased with their estate?
- Non-compete clauses
What if a partner decides they want to leave and start their own solo practice or join another practice and want to take their patients with them? There should be something in place that prevents this from happening in a way that would cause undue hardship to the practice.
These are just a few of the things that would be covered in the dental partnership agreement.
The other thing we didn’t talk about is the overall purpose of the dental practice. This can also be (and should be) formally documented in the dental partnership agreement. This should be done with a degree of specificity, so each partner is in agreement. This will help to eliminate confusion and promote unity among the partners in their shared goals for the practice.
The underlying theme of this blog post, if you haven’t picked up on it, is that entering into a partnership is not just about the agreement. It’s more than that. It’s about communication. You are entering into a long-term relationship. And we all know the key to successful long-term relationships… communication! Having that open line of communication, and discussing all of the uncomfortable topics ahead of time, will be healthy and necessary for long-term success.
We hope this has given you a few things to think about as you start the process of forming a dental partnership. Please reach out when you decide to pursue it further. No matter where you are located in the country, our team is prepared to come alongside of you and help you navigate the path to a better, more secure future. We’ve been helping dentists achieve success in their practices for over 30 years. It’s what we do, it’s what we know.
Give us a call!