• Drive for show, Putt for dough
Mar 6 2019 - Simon Palmer And Kevin Koton - Seller : timing/ retirement

Many teachers believe that the best way to engage students in a subject is by using relatable metaphors. We make sense of new information by forging connections to something we already know. In that spirit, this article on exit planning uses subject matter that engages dentists like no other….no, not clinical dentistry…GOLF!

As dental business brokers and golf enthusiasts, it strikes us that exit planners can take many lessons on how to exit successfully from the golf course.

Drive for show, putt for dough

In 1996, Greg Norman was 41 years old and had been topping the world rankings in golf for 16 years. In all that time he had developed a fixation on winning the US Masters, arguably the most prestigious tournament of the pro-golfing circuit. That year he started off the tournament in amazing form and went into the final round, leading by six strokes. Everyone thought he was sure to win and finally claim the green jacket that he and all of Australia had been dreaming about.

Alas, anyone who follows golf will tell you…it was not to be. Norman executed one of the greatest “chokes” in sports history and managed to lose the tournament to Nick Faldo.

For avid golf spectators and to Greg Norman’s eternal irritation, he is perhaps as well remembered for his consistency in finishing poorly as he is for the 90 titles he won worldwide. On no fewer than nine occasions, the great white shark lead when going into the final round of a Major. Only once did he win.

The saying “Drive for show, putt for dough” illustrates the importance of a strong finish in golf. You can have the longest, most accurate drive from the tee, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t putt. Equally, you can’t be a strong golfer if you are only good in the first few holes and terrible on the back 9. In golf, your endurance and endgame is as important (if not more so) as the way you start.

The importance of how you finish is one way that golf is very similar to your career as a business owner. You can make big strides in business in your early years as a dentist, have a massive practice and be the envy of all your peers. Unfortunately, when it comes time to sell your business, all that matters to the buyer is the most recent year or two. All that matters when you are selling your business is your endgame.

Planning ahead

Decades ago, 99% of pro-golfers would have eyeballed their distances from shot to shot during practice rounds. In 1961, in preparation for a game in Oakmont, Jack Nicklaus paced off every hole, creating one of the first “yardage books” in professional golf.

Today, all pro-golfers have yardage books that they use as course bibles. They are well-guarded and annotated with meticulous notes. A plan like this is what separates out the pros from the amateurs. A hobby golfer will stand at the tee and hope to hit a fairway; pros know which shot will maximise their chance of success on the green; they have already figured out what shot they need in order to get as close as possible to their target. They know from which location they want to putt.

A yardage book is a pro golfer’s business plan for success.

How many dental practice owners plan their businesses this way? Sure, it’s easy to turn up to work every day and go through the paces, hoping that at the end of their career they have ended up somewhere successful. However, if you want to ensure success, what you really need to do is plan backwards. Decide (approximately) when you want to sell, decide when you want to retire. What is your likely buyer profile? What do they look for? What do they value and what don’t they? If you look at your exit plan in a manner that is goal-focussed, you can gain the appropriate tools, run your practice accordingly and make course corrections along the way to ensure you exit the practice on your terms.


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