art of quitting

The hidden art of quitting: How do you know when it is time to go?

We are often told that the secret to a successful career is hard work, determination, persistence and resilience. What we aren’t told is that another crucial skill in determining the success of your overall career is the exact opposite … knowing when and how to quit.

There are many reasons to celebrate grit. The things that we value most will often require us to persist through challenging times. Despite its many virtues, though, it is possible to overvalue grittiness. Just as important as the discipline of grit, is the self-awareness to know when to quit. 

For a dentist practice owner, there are two crucial and very separate “quits” that they will need to time and sequence correctly in their career:

  1. When to quit practice ownership and
  2. When to quit clinical dentistry

There is an epidemic in the dental industry of poorly timed quitters. Dentists who hold onto their status as owners and clinicians far too long, past the point at which their financial capital, health and/or clinical reputation have been eroded and compromised.

When to quit practice ownership

It is important to make clear the that selling your practice is not the same thing as quitting clinical dentistry. Most dentist practice owners will work for some time post sale, even if it is just to ensure a smooth transition of goodwill.

Selling your practice is simply the divestment of an asset and the release of capital. The right time to do this is the same as with any asset. We should aim to sell any asset when its value (usually reflected in its turnover, profit and likely prospects) is at its peak.

When to quit clinical dentistry

The right time to quit clinical dentistry is more complex. Many dentists think of quitting clinical dentistry as the day when they put down their tools for the last time. In reality, dentists usually quit dentistry slowly, by increments, =over their last decade of practicing.

Either due to age, fatigue, health concerns or the desire to spend their time elsewhere, they start slowly quitting. They quit:

  • The number of hours per day that they work
  • The number of weeks that they work
  • The number patients per day
  • Clinical range
  • Innovation in their practice

Quitting slowly like this is often necessary. Physical and mental health, and relationships with loved ones, cannot be maintained if an owner needs to keep up the long hours and intense pace that they worked in their youth. Quitting clinical dentistry slowly is often necessary for clinical longevity.

Sequencing the two “Quits”

Sequencing your two “Quits” needs to be done carefully, such that the timing of the second quit doesn’t compromise the first.

In other words, a dentist practice owner who is considering slowing down towards the end of their career should consider selling their practice before their reduction of their time/clinical range/speed in the practice compromises the practice’s value (reflected in turnover, profit and likely prospects).

Dentist practice owners should also realise that a purchaser will usually pay more for a practice where the vendor stays on clinically post sale (even if it is part time, with long holidays each year) to give the new owner an implied endorsement and ensure a smooth transition. From a practice value perspective, it would be ideal for a dentist practice owner to plan on working for the buyer of their practice in some capacity for at least a year.

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