Juggling Your Practice Bills

My partner and I started our office three years ago.  We built it from scratch and started with zero patients.  It’s been a stressful journey but we’re proud to have our own office still standing.

I’ve shared many stories on this site about what we’ve done right and wrong along the way.  But there is one painful topic I haven’t discussed that has been a real challenge for us: paying our bills.

When you open you office you’ll have dozens of salesmen and women falling over themselves for you business.  They’ll say that their products and services will be of additional value to you because you’re a start up.  Whatever gadget they have will grow your practice, save you time, etc. etc. and it will be oh so nice for you because you’re new to the business world.

Well let me tell you something: most of that talk is nonsense.

The main resource a vendor can offer me is flexible payment arrangements.  I’m a new business, I have a massive overhead, and I’m still figuring out how to juggle everything that I didn’t learn in dental school.  Oh, and I’m starting with no patients, so my cash flow is non-existent.

Let me tell you about one of my vendors, a lab named Marotta Dental Studio.  They are a family-owned business that does some of the finest lab work I’ve ever seen.  Beyond that, they understand the plight of young dentists.  They have always been sweet and accommodating to me as a new business owner.  I make sure to pay them in a responsible manner and to the best of my ability.

debtLet me tell you about another lab.  Let’s call them… “Schmidewell Lab.”  They have a policy to change your account to COD status plus an additional fee if you don’t pay them on time.  You’ll get a letter a couple of days in advance but you’re in a tight spot because you’ll probably already have a few cases in their hands.  Or how about another lab that simply doesn’t return your cases if you have an outstanding debt.  You only find this out when you call them to ask why the case didn’t show up.  That’s pretty passive-aggressive.

If you are thinking of opening your own office from scratch, I wish you all the best.  It’s a long road but it’s totally worth it.  Please take the time to develop relationships with vendors who respect what you are doing.  The amount of overhead we assume as dentists is bordering on oppressive.  This is even more worrisome if we’re starting a business with no cash flow.  Find the vendors that will work with you, not against you.  Whether the vendor is your lab, supplier, phone company, etc, don’t let them bully you around.

Yes, you owe them money, but they should respect you for being a trailblazer.  As a brand new business owner, you’re unique and you have unique challenges.  We can discuss payment arrangements that are fair to both parties.  If they don’t want to even acknowledge that then you should bring your business elsewhere.  Someday you’ll be a powerhouse practice.  They’ll come back asking for you to give them some of your business and you’ll say, “Sorry, you weren’t there for me when I needed you.

There will soon come a time when I can pay off my bills every month.  I won’t need the occasional payment arrangement to make ends meet.  A vendor like Marotta will be with me a very long time because they were with me during the tough first few years.  As I’ve written before, this is a challenging time for private practice and we need business partners that respect what we’re going through.

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Please note that I can no longer answer questions from the public regarding their personal dental care. I am unable to properly diagnose or recommend treatment over the Internet. If you are looking for a dentist, please visit the "Find A Dentist" feature on healthysmiles.org