1. Where You Practice Matters - Know where you want to practice and the demographics of the area you are looking to practice. There are a lot of different websites and services you can look to in order to get this information. A lot of commercial brokers (Steve at Omni Healthcare Real Estate) will have data ranging from a breakdown of the age of the population, to ethnicity, income levels, how much money was spent on dog food per person, etc., There are several services such as Scott McDonald's that will help you gather data as well.
2. Knowing Your Market - Understand what the numbers and ratios of a typical dental practice should look like. Your state or national association has resources that will show how much you should be spending on staff salaries and benefits as a percentage of total collections, as well as rent, marketing and other financial data as a percentage of collections.
3. Basic Accounting - Start educating yourself on basic accounting principles. Specifically, learn how to read a financial statement - profit and loss report and balance sheet. You will be given these by the dental broker when looking at a practice, so you should at least know what they are and what a financially viable practice looks like vs. a not so nice practice.
4. Bank Financing - Contact a bank that specializes in dental practice financing before you start looking. They cannot necessarily pre-approve you for a certain practice, but they can tell you whether you can get a loan, approximately what rate and terms you can get and possibly how much you may be able to qualify for. You don't want to go after a $2 million practice if you cannot get a $2 million loan.
5. Looking For Red Flags - Knowing where to find the skeletons in the practice is a key element in the process. Where do you look for embezzlement in the practice? How about hidden staff incentives and payments? Over or under treating patients? Uncollected accounts receivable? Etc.,
6. Learn About Leases - What is a triple net lease? What is the market rate for leases? How much time is left on the lease? What's a tear down clause?,etc.,
7. Surround Yourself With a Good Team- Surround yourself with a good team; CPA, Broker, Attorney, Consultant, etc., Find those that specialize in your specific discipline. They can help you avoid some of the pitfalls you may miss.
By preparing yourself ahead of time with some of these things, you can avoid having to spend more than you need to and find a practice that will bring you great professional challenges and rewards in the long run.