Straightening The Path Toward Practice Ownership
For Krista Kappus, DDS, there was no lightning-bolt moment when she knew she belonged in dentistry. After a childhood marked by frequent dental procedures, her decision to become a dentist was a gradual one. But throughout her studies, one thing was absolutely certain: Dr. Kappus wanted her own practice. Like most things in life, it was a journey of many steps, beginning with a major relocation.
“We knew we wanted to move somewhere a bit warmer than Michigan, so about two years ago we put out some feelers with our Henry Schein reps and located a dental office here in Healdsburg, CA, whose owner was retiring,” Dr. Kappus explained.
Together with her husband, Dr. Daniel Lingenfelter, Dr. Kappus purchased Villaggio Dental, a full-service practice nestled in the heart of Sonoma wine country.
“We needed to make sure that the office was large enough to support both of us, and it has turned out to be a great little community that has welcomed us with open arms. We are very fortunate here,” Dr. Kappus added.
A Full-Service Dental Practice
Villaggio Dental provides a full spectrum of dental services—everything from cleanings and exams to same-day ceramic crowns, implants, root canals, cosmetic dentistry, and oral surgery, all in a beautiful, welcoming office featuring some of the most advanced dental technology in Sonoma County.
Your Own Practice Philosophy
“I think that owning your own practice is something that everyone probably wants to do to some extent,” noted Dr. Kappus. “I realized that I wanted more say in how I provide dental care to patients and I wanted to be able to blend my treatment with my own philosophy as well. You can only do that with your own practice,” she added. “You also have the purchasing power to obtain the tools and equipment you desire, and you have control over the procedures you plan.”
In addition to the freedom and flexibility that comes with providing dental care that follows your personal treatment philosophy, there is also the business side. “Especially when you begin to examine business models, and the potential for added profitability, you can see right away the advantages of owning a practice,” Dr. Kappus commented.
Responsibilities—And More Responsibilities
Dr. Kappus was quick to point out that, while the advantages to owning a dental practice are many, the responsibilities are almost endless.
“Our work really never ends,” she noted. “Owning a practice requires you to be an expert in everything—you need to understand insurance billing, payroll, patient concerns, building maintenance, even equipment malfunctions, because things break and it all falls on you.”
What nuggets of advice and helpful hints would she pass along to those considering opening their own dental practices?
“A lot—where do I begin?!” Dr. Kappus said. “First and foremost, there’s so much that goes into the purchase of a business and so much that we just didn’t know—you really need the help of a transition specialist, like Henry Schein, who can guide you through the paperwork, the licensing, the leasing and purchase agreements, attorneys, and the costs.”
A Helping Hand
Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions can help make the process go smoothly, with a team of trusted and knowledgeable consultants, many of whom are retired dentists themselves. Whether it’s selling or buying a dental practice, adding partners or offices, or providing accurate dental practice appraisals, the nationwide network of professionals provides expert guidance and can make the series of intricate steps seem easy—and pain-free, a word used often in the world of dentistry.
“I really think having the transition specialist to guide you is extremely helpful,” Dr. Kappus added. “We’ve had a couple of friends whose experiences have not gone quite as smoothly as ours. You need to have a good understanding of where the profitability is—where the practice is earning money and where it is losing money. I think a lot of dentists aren’t super familiar with the business side of things and go with more feelings than actual numbers.”
Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions advised Dr. Kappus on more than a dozen steps in the buying process—such as obtaining a business license, applying for an NPI provider number, and opening a bank account—and detailing when each step should be completed. The Buyer’s Checklist includes details many dentists may not think about when opening a practice, such as obtaining a credit card terminal, reviewing staff manuals, designing a pension plan, and examining the marketing activities the seller previously used and adapting them to suit the new practice.
“Our Henry Schein rep also recommended some local accountants and attorneys to us, which was very helpful, since we were new to the area,” Dr. Kappus added.
Basic Business Savvy
And, under the category of “Things I Know Now That I Wish I’d Known Then,” Dr. Kappus lists the overall importance of being business savvy. Even trying to work in an occasional college-level business course while pushing through dental school is helpful in the long run.
“I went to the University of Michigan, which was a great dental school, but my coursework on the business side of things was really minimal,” she explained. “My husband is very business savvy, and I have learned a lot over the last 2 years since we’ve purchased Villaggio Dental.”
Another tip? Try to work in a DSO first, before moving into practice ownership.
“I think for me, working in a DSO first was extremely helpful because I had a better idea of what percentages needed to look like, such as lab and staffing percentages, and what those numbers needed to be in order to be a successful practice,” she pointed out. “I would imagine that if you’re an associate at a private practice, you likely might not have any idea what that’s all supposed to look like—and you need to know that. I was lucky because the DSO was small and I learned a lot from the owners.”
Looking back on the many decisions she’s made over the last several years, Dr. Kappus feels very fortunate to own Villaggio Dental. The practice will shortly be renamed Fitch Mountain Dental—a business decision made to enable the practice to better fit into the surrounding community.
“This is a small, tight-knit community and we’ve put down some deep roots here,” she said. “It’s definitely our goal to make sure that we’re treating this community the best we can, by bringing in the newest technology, staying up-to-date with the latest treatment options, and providing our patients with the best care available.”
Dr. Kappus’ Top 3 Reasons To Own A Practice:
- Reason #1: You can make your practice whatever you want it to be—you decide everything.
- Reason #2: Earning potential is significantly higher, there’s no capping out.
- Reason #3: FREEDOM! Schedule days and hours to suit your needs.
A Journey Of Many Steps
Dr. Kappus’ path to purchasing Villaggio Dental was several years in the making and marked by a series of important milestones, which led to her ultimate goal of owning a dental practice.
- Awarded DDS from University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI, 2014.
- Practiced as an Associate Dentist at a community clinic, then a private practice, and later at a small DSO (2016-2020) in Portland, MI.
- Relocated to Sonoma County, California, June 2020.
- In 2020, Dr. Kappus and her husband, Dr. Lingenfelter, purchased Villaggio Dental, soon to be renamed Fitch Mountain Dental.
- Today, Drs. Kappus and Lingenfelter provide comprehensive dental services to over 3,000 patients.