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Building Machias Dental
The skeleton is complete!
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Maine Dental Practice Constructs New Facility

If you haven’t been following this story, you’ll want to read my editorial on how Machias Dental is building a new dental practice. You can also read about the costs of construction, and catch up on update #1 and update #2.

Building Machias Dental
There are a lot of rocks in Maine.
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The rocky New England ground didn’t make the job any easier for Dr. Sparaga and his wife, Kathy. However, it was essential that all digging be completed before winter came and the ground froze.

Fortunately, they made the deadline. Digging was completed. The roof took shape.

Next week: further updates on the building’s progress. Will the roof be completed before it snows??

Building a Dental Practice from the Ground Up

The Story of Machias Dental’s New Headquarters Continues

Building a practice from the ground up is no easy task – something that Dr. Sparaga and his wife, Kathy, know quite well. (Read about their plans for a new dental practice building, the finances of construction, and my latest update on their progress.)

The foundation laid, the walls slowly take shape. One can start to see the dental practice taking form amidst the construction equipment.

Building Machias Dental Building Machias Dental
And finally there were walls!
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Getting closer…
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Construction moves along briskly, but not without hiccups. Rains pour down. The hole that marks where the building will stand slowly fills with water. Mud is everywhere. Fortunately, the foundation has already been laid.

When they realize that their dental practice design firm didn’t actually think through all of the details of construction, Kathy Sparaga holds weekly meetings with the contractor and subs. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but what else can they do? The Sparagas know they need to put in the effort if they’re to have the practice of their dreams.

Check back next week for another update!

Dental Practice Construction: One Dentist’s Tale

Machias Dental Sets Out to Build New Headquarters

I’ve been telling you the story of Machias Dental, a practice in Maine that is outgrowing its building. (Catch up on the project overview and the financial considerations.) Dr. James Sparaga has launched an ambitious project to build a brand-new, state-of-the-art dental facility that will feature 7 operatories, 5000 square feet, and the most current technology.

Building Machias DentalFirst up was developing the basic concept for their new practice. “If our building were re-buildable, or bigger as it is, we’d have been happy to stay put with one doctor and four chairs,” the dentist told me. “But the building is coming down around our ears, and that’s what prompts us to build another.”

The Sparagas decided to go big. They would construct a new practice big enough for an associate.

Building Machias Dental
Laying the foundation
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Next, of course, came the logistics of planning. Dr. Sparaga obtained land in return for a dental trade. They spoke with architects and contractors. Blueprints were drawn up. The Sparagas started spending some real money on the project.

Finally, ground was broken. With rain expected in the fall and snow in the winter, timing was critical. Fortunately, the foundation was laid before the rain struck. Whew!

Check in next week for another update!

Dental Practice Construction: What You Need to Consider

Why Machias Dental Decided to Take the Plunge and Build a New Dental Facility

Last week I began the story of Machias Dental, a practice in rural Maine. Dr. James Sparaga and his wife, Kathy, are currently building a brand-new dental facility. With 7 operatories, 5000 square feet, and all the hottest technology, the new building promises to attract both patients and dental associates.

Machias Dental
Proposed plans for the new Machias Dental
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But before the Sparagas began construction, they took a long, hard look at the bottom line. I asked Kathy Sparaga about the process. (She is a registered dental hygienist and a certified dental assistant who now manages the dental practice’s administration.)

Will the new facility require an associate?

“Though we’re planning to bring in an associate, it’s not actually necessary in order for us to afford the new building. In fact, one of my requirements before our taking on this project was to be certain that we could handle the debt service if we didn’t attract an associate. In our rural area, I knew that it potentially could take years for us to find an associate dentist. I didn’t want us to sink financially because we only had one dentist staffing a two-dentist facility.”

How much will you need to increase production in order to afford the new building?

“Our accountant crunched the numbers, and he determined that we needed only a 5% increase in production to afford the building and to keep our personal income at the same level. We and the team were certain that the increase in production would be easy to do.

“I had our accountant figure the worst case scenario: no increase in production. He reported that we would have a $1,000 per year drop in our personal income with that scenario. As you can imagine, we didn’t think that that would crimp our lifestyle too much for the tradeoff of a new office.”

What was the problem with your existing facility?

“In our current building, we often turn away new emergency patients just because we don’t have a room or chair in which to seat the person. Our team is trained and ready to facilitate care for the emergency patient, but unless we put a folding chair in the employee lounge or the garage, we can’t bring in the new patient. Just by giving Dr. Sparaga a fifth dental chair and the team’s support, everyone felt certain that a 5% production increase was achievable.

“We even considered renovating our current building, but three dental equipment companies essentially said ‘Forget it.'”

Tell me about associate dentists and any other options you may have considered.

“While it wasn’t necessary for us to have an associate to build the new office, it was necessary for us to have a new office in order to bring in an associate. There is absolutely no room for us to add another dentist at our present location. From our point of view, an associate is key to our being able to eventually cut back on the number of days that my husband practices dentistry and is a big part of our retirement plan.

“Before we committed to the new building, we investigated ‘time sharing’ the current space with another dentist: extending hours, working Saturdays, etc. We decided that in our rural community, people would not book a dental appointment much later than 6:00 pm. (We tried later hours once, but the no-show and cancellation rate for the 7:00 pm appointment was high, especially during the snowy winter months.) Several dentists in our area tried offering Saturday appointments, but found that the cancellation and no-show rate was so bad that they actually lost money being open that day! Given the limited number of hours that we believed our community would accept dental appointments, we realized that our personal financial goals would not allow us to cut back our schedule enough in our existing 4-chair facility to give an associate enough hours to meet his or her financial goals.”

Any advice for other dentists considering construction?

“We didn’t go into the construction project without doing our research. There is definitely some work involved in providing one’s accountant with the information needed to prepare a financial projection, but it’s essential for peace of mind. There are going to be some sleepless nights once construction begins when you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. Being able to look at a black and white report that says you are making the right move is well worth the effort. Besides, if a dentist does decide to build a new office, the lender is going to require those financial projections anyway.”

Want to learn more about the Sparagas’ project? Stay tuned for weekly construction updates!

Do you have a dental practice story you’d like to share with The Wealthy Dentist? Submit your project for review

Meet the New Machias Dental Practice

When Your Dental Practice’s Building Just Isn’t Big Enough

Dr. James Sparaga built himself a healthy dental practice in a coastal Maine town. Machias Dental grew slowly but steadily, meeting the dental needs of neighboring townsfolk.

Finally, after 27 years in practice, Jim and his wife, Kathy, decided it was time to upgrade.

They were thinking forward to their retirement. Constructing a new building would be an ambitious expenditure of resources compared to other options (i.e. staying the course or expanding the existing facility). For the Sparagas, staying the course was not an option, as their building would have been prohibitively expensive to renovate. As a husband and wife team, they did a preliminary projection of their potential earnings. They realized that although Jim working by himself could carry the new building, it really was time for an associate.

Machias Dental
Proposed plans for the new Machias Dental
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A well-placed dental trade netted the doctor land for his new building. A colleague helped him draw up plans for the new practice. And the Sparagas invested a healthy pile of money. “We’re already on the edge of the waterfall, with no turning back,” Dr. Sparaga joked. “All we can do now is scream on the way down…”

And so ground was broken on the new Machias Dental, a 5000-square-foot building with 7 operatories. For a town in rural Maine, this is staggeringly ambitious. I asked Dr. Sparaga about the scope of the project.

Machias Dental blueprints
Plans for the new Machias Dental
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“I want to have a practice that can attract quality associates,” he explained. “That’s why we’ll have Cerec, laser, conscious sedation, and other accoutrements, so that any associate with ambition and brains may pick us out of the crowd (despite our desperate location – this is truly a berry and twigs local marketplace!) as a practice they can grow with.”

With no children, it was a logical choice for the Sparagas to invest in their retirement via the new practice and the associate route. “Having just completed coursework for a fellowship in the AAID and NYU in implants, I’m just now at the peak of my game, and starting to really enjoy dentistry. Implants are the most exciting (and hardest) thing we do. It keeps me passionate about dentistry!”

I was understandably nervous about his plan; finding and keeping associates can be one of the biggest challenges a dental practice faces. “Think through the staffing issues that you have faced in your area from day one and multiple them by three,” I advised.

But Dr. Sparaga was undaunted. He’d already written up an ad for an associate opportunity. “Soar with eagles on the rugged coast of Maine with a dynamic team in a state-of-the-art facility,” it read. “Instead of fighting traffic, take part in our adventure: providing complete dentistry to our neighbors in our rural coastal town. An unusual practice opportunity: practicing big-city dentistry in an historic village.”

It turned out that I was more dubious than potential associates. Dr. Sparaga shortly had several qualified candidates ready to check out the new practice. “We’re delighted that we’ve found an outstanding dental student from Pitt, and he’s planning to join us in June,” the doctor told me.

Other dentists will wonder if taking such a big plunge would be right for them. Dr. Sparaga told me that he couldn’t have done it without the help of various advisors. “You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. It makes all of us bigger people.” He continued:

“My dental consultant helped me redefine my definition of success. He said, ‘Success isn’t necessarily doing what you like, but learning to like what you have to do.’ I wanted to continue flying airplanes for a hobby and knew I’d have to work for it. So I decided five years ago to create a practice I could love. That’s what we’re doing with our new facility, and we’re building a dynamite dental team that enjoys coming to work. It’s a tall order, but life without a quest is pretending to climb mountains on flat ground: there’s no excitement in it and no view from the top.

“Years ago, Jim and Suzanne Du Molin studied our demographics. They vigorously told us, ‘You have to move – the demographics of your area clearly won’t support your lifestyle!’ When confronted with our refusal to listen to conventional wisdom, Jim showed us how to change our demographics by marketing. Instead of moving the office to better demographics, we brought the demographics to us via marketing. So now people come from all over the upper half of Maine to see what we’re about.”

Stay tuned… I’ll continue to give you weekly updates on the status of the new Machias Dental.

Dr. Sparaga is thinking big. Are you? Post your thoughts on Dr. Sparaga’s plan below.

Do you have a dental practice story you’d like to share with The Wealthy Dentist? I’d like to hear it! Submit your project for review

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