For the April edition of our video series, McNulty Minute, we interviewed Dr. Cameron Ellis about his experience of selling his practice and retiring. Dr. Ellis sold his practice in 2017 after 38 years in dentistry.
Our goal in sharing these types of stories is to help dentists build a clearer vision for the future at this critical stage in their career.
Mark: What age were you when you sold your practice?
Dr. Ellis: I was 60. I had just turned 23 when I graduated so I ended up practicing for 38 years. I did the practice appraisal, and it came in favourably the summer of 2016, so I just decided to carry on. After checking with you and making sure the numbers lined up, I hired the broker back and had five offers within two weeks.
Mark: Did you associate afterwards?
Dr. Ellis: I agreed to stay on two mornings a week for six months, and I had been doing some orthodontics so I wanted to finish those cases.
Mark: Were you happy with the whole process?
Dr. Ellis: Absolutely, and the broker was really good, very experienced. It all went really well - a couple of little hitches near the end. My lawyer had gone away on holiday so, his partner was looking after some of those things. There were a couple of little hitches, but we got through it.
Mark: I’m very interested in sharing with dentists who are thinking about selling and retiring, some of the nuts and bolts, some of the things they don’t think about. For example, telling your patients - how did your patients react to you selling?
Dr. Ellis: Well, patients had been asking me for a couple of years asking, “When are you going to retire?” When we finally decided to let the patients know, we sent out a letter. It was difficult to arrange for some reason on the computer, but we sent every account holder a letter and I thanked them for allowing me to be their dentist. [I told them] that I was handing off the practice to this nice young fellow and I was sure they were going to like him. We also had an open house in about the middle of December.
Mark: An open house?
Dr. Ellis: Yeah, we had an open house with the buyer present, and we invited everybody to come and meet him. We had quite a good turnout and I actually had several patients approach me and say that they were really pleased on how we did that. It was really important that they got the letter explaining [everything] and then, to have this open house and meet the fellow. They really liked it so that worked out, went really well.
Mark: So, what would you have done differently in your practice transition?
Dr. Ellis: Well, as I was saying I had a very good lawyer. He just recently retired, very experienced in lots of ways, but I don’t think he’d been involved in the sale and closing of an incorporated practice. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an accountant, so that’s why I hire the lawyer and accountant to look after this stuff. Just tell me when it’s done. There was a bit of mad scrambling. So, you want to surround yourself with really good people who have experience in that kind of transaction.
Mark: So how did you decide what you were going to do in retirement? 38 years of doing one thing…
Dr. Ellis: Yeah, well you know and maybe part of it was I really enjoyed being a dentist, but it wasn’t a passion for me like it is, I know, for some dentists. I didn’t live it, sleep it, breathe it. I took lots of continuing education, I learned new things. It was great, but I also had other interests so, I’ve been doing carpentry and woodworking [for] a long time. I’ve got the bagpipes, I play at pipe bands, bought this hobby farm a couple years before I retired. I need tangible results from what I do and that’s why I like being a dentist because I could do something and say, “Look what I did.” So, we have this hobby farm where I built a workshop in what used to be the milk house in the barn, and I do carpentry and woodworking. There’s lots of things in the barn to fix. There’s lots of things in this whole farmhouse to fix. There’s lots of things up in the cottage to fix - there’s property to look after. I go to the pipe band practice and play parades and we compete. So I have lots of reasons to get up every morning.
Mark: That’s great. I think that gives us a really good idea, Cam, I appreciate you spending the time and sharing this with your colleagues.
Dr. Ellis: You’re very welcome. My pleasure.
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We had an open house with the buyer present, and we invited everybody to come and meet him. We had quite a good turnout and I actually had several patients approach me and say that they were really pleased on how we did that.