Starting Your Network – Part 1 of 2


A question that I am often asked is “How do I start a DSO” or “What’s the first thing that I should do when starting a network”?

Just to clarify before we start, what we are talking about is not the corporate DSO’s but rather networks of no more than 15 to 20 offices.

Getting back to our question, a seemingly obvious answer would be to buy another practice.  While this is what many dentists do it is not the right way to start a network.  This would be like building a house without plans or setting off on a vacation without knowing where you are going.  No one should be doing either of those things but in fact, most networks are started exactly this way – with no destination in mind.

I am going to share a two-part strategy that should absolutely be completed before you start assembling a dental network.  This is Part One.

The first thing you need to be able to do is to explain clearly to anyone who asks you “why” you are putting a network together.  The process of being able to explain your “why” to someone else is very important because it will define how your network will be unique from any others. 

Sometimes we all have a fuzzy idea of why we want to do something, but it gets lost when we try to explain it to someone else.  From a macro perspective just about every dentist understands the “how” and “what” of a dental network and their “how” and “what” are all going to be very similar.  The “how” is you buy a bunch of practices and the “what” is a network is a bunch of practices with a common owner.

What will be different in virtually every case will be the “why”.

Why are you putting a network together or if you already have, why did you put your network together – your real answer to that question will be different from anyone else’s.  After almost 40 years I have never seen a dental office that was the same as any other and I have never seen a network, successful or not, that was the same as any other.  The reason for this is that successful networks all start with someone who understands very clearly why they are doing what they are doing.  Insomuch as everyone is a little different, then all the “whys” will be a little different too. Once you have an understanding of this – their network becomes unique.

In many cases, the most obvious answer to why is going to be “To make money”.

If that is your answer then you need to ask the underlying question, “Why do you want the extra money?”.

Your answer to the “Why” question should be the thing that gets you out of bed each morning.

It should be the thing that gets you excited about what you do.

Once you have clearly identified your “why” then you are almost ready to start putting your network together.  If you do not have a clear vision or understanding of why you are putting a network together how are you going to buy the right practices that will make up your network?  I deal mostly with dentists who have small to medium-sized (12 offices) networks and I am amazed at the number of these dentists who buy a practice only to sell it within 12 to 18 months.  Typically, in their words “It was not a good fit for our network”.  This is a perfect example of a dentist buying a practice without first knowing why they are buying any practice.  Buying a wrong practice is not only time consuming but also potentially very expensive. If you don’t know your why you will go through the acquisition process hunting and pecking – but if you know your why you can go straight to the acquisitions that will fit for you.

In conclusion – be extremely clear on why you are putting a network together before you start. This will help you find the best practices to add to your network in the long run.

Our second part of this information piece will be available next week in our next blog.

For Further Reading:

Two excellent reference books on the importance of knowing your why are Simon Sinek’s books “Start With Why” and his collaboration “Find Your Why”.

For further information on any of this or for help sorting our your why contact Derek Hill at or call his office at 905-984-5816 to arrange a conference call.