WSDA Endorses The Dental Group, LLC
Recently we sat down with three principals of The Dental Group, LLC to get the inside scoop about the organization’s beginnings, the services they offer, and the exclusive discounts they’re offering to WSDA Members. Sam Martin and Maggie Boyle are co-owners and client advisors at the firm, and Jennifer Paine is a project manager for practice transitions and new client services.
The Company’s Foundation
Martin founded the company 25 years ago after working for a decade with another firm that served both physicians and dentists. He decided to focus on providing accounting services for the dental profession for a variety of reasons. He knew that as a tax provider or accountant he could easily service a wide variety of clients, but as an advisor, he felt he and his team could be far more effective if they focused on just one profession. “You can’t be a good advisor to a wide range of businesses from the standpoint of helping them become profitable and managing their overhead effectively.” said Martin, “We chose to focus on dentistry because we thought the work would be more interesting, and because we thought that working with dentists would be more fulfilling than working with physicians. Even then, the majority of dentists were operating as solo owners. They weren’t in the giant groups we were seeing in medicine, so we thought we’d have more impact. We knew we’d be able to dovetail the cash flow of the practice with the needs of the personal financial plan much more effectively for our dental clients.”
Growing the Business
What started as a three-person shop in 1990 grew to five people in 1995. Today they have a staff of 16 people. Their original offering was proactive tax planning, which seemed to be the single biggest need of the dentists they encountered. “No one got in the door without agreeing to a semi-annual tax assessment as part of what we were doing,” he explained, “That allowed us to keep them out of trouble, and it allowed us to have a conversation about how we could help to improve that tax picture through proactive planning.” By the mid-90s the group added two additional services. “We started working with buyers of practices.” says Boyle, “Sellers had brokers, but buyers didn’t really have anyone out there advocating on their behalf in the evaluation and buying process. We did that as people were referred to us by attorneys and others in dentistry.”
“In 2000, we realized that the financial planning piece was helpful, but without an implementation piece, it wasn’t as valuable as it could be,” explained Martin. At the time, they weren’t sure the Dental Group could be the solution, so they started looking for someone to partner with — but brokerage houses really didn’t provide a sane process for investment. “We began searching for the right fit, but it wasn’t easy to find someone who embraced modern portfolio theory: asset allocation, smart diversification, tax efficiencies, and so forth,” Boyle explained. Ultimately, they were directed to a St. Louis firm, Buckingham Asset Management, who shared their same, systematic approach to long-term investment. BAM had the right providers of low cost tax efficient mutual funds based on asset class descriptions so that Martin, et al could put together a sane and efficient portfolio allocation. Additionally, they operated on the theory that CPA firms were the best ones to provide the service because investing wasn’t a “smoke and mirrors,” crazy secret world of buying and selling, but rather was the next logical part of the financial planning process. To that end, BAM started a firm to help CPA’s offer investment management, and Dental Group, LLC has been with them ever since. “It is a fantastic relationship,” said Martin, “we’re allowed to be a local boutique firm that focuses squarely on dentists and their families, and they get to work with an owner or principal of the firm, not an employee. At the same time, we’re supported by Buckingham, which has tremendous resources including software for monitoring and top-notch intellectual capital in the form of experts in many areas. We have the advantage of having access to the kinds of expertise that only a large firm can provide. We are proud members of the BAM Alliance working with 150 or so like-minded firms across the country and we are recently founding members of the BAM Dental Alliance a group of like-minded firms that serve dental professionals and their families.
Why Dental Group LLC?
With so many CPA/Asset Management companies dotting the landscape, why should you choose Dental Group, LLC? First of all, WSDA has vetted their accounting services fully — so you don’t have to. Like many of our other endorsed companies, they work exclusively with dentists, so they understand the business, and that the practice is the driver of the cash flow that will fund their long-term plans. Secondly, Martin explained, “We take a planning first approach, and there’s not a lot of that out there. Wall Street talks about it, but they rarely deliver it. We develop a comprehensive plan that includes investment strategy, but the other critical pieces are a part of it as well.” Those other pieces include estate planning, insurance review, and a tax review both inside and outside the investment portfolio. Boyle continued, saying, “We’re deliberate in the planning process and do everything in writing. It can be amazing for someone who has never had a written plan to participate in creating one, setting up a monitoring plan, and determining how often we’ll get together to review the plan. It turns a lot of people into much better savers.” Most CPAs don’t help with financial planning and financial planners who aren’t well versed in the dental niche won’t be much help on the income side of things. The team at Dental Group, LLC looks at what the practice provides in cash flow, then examines taxes, debt service, lifestyle, and any goals they’ve quantified. Then they look to see if those numbers match, and they rarely do. Options to reach those goals can include spending less, working more, putting less or more into retirement. “We can also say ‘We need another $1,000 a month to fund this plan, and in order to do that we can tell you how much you’ll need to increase productivity at the office.’ If I give you a goal like that, I’ll bet you can make it happen.” said Martin, “And while you might think of the tax piece as a CPA thing, it’s really about financial planning because we’ll optimize your after-tax outcome.”
Additionally, they offer exclusive discounts to WSDA members. They’ve developed an Associate Package on the financial planning side for a dentist who does not own a practice. They normally charge $2,750 for a full plan for a dentist with a practice, but they’ve reduced that to $1,750 for a dentist without one ($1,500 for WSDA Members). “Truthfully, we don’t know that we’ll have a lot of takers,” said Martin, “so we’re also offering free, one-hour complimentary meetings where we counsel about debt management, tax help, estate questions and insurance — and then refer them to the right people.” For insurance needs, Martin and Boyle refer to Matt French and Kerri Seims of WDIA, of course.
Boyle added, “Most of the younger people we talk to aren’t ready to do a retirement projection because they don’t know what their lifestyle will be – it’s more important to focus on the next three to five years because many times the goal is to buy a practice, but they need to determine what to do in order to accomplish that. I think we give them a great value for $1,500, but I suspect we’ll do more of the free consultations. We’re happy to talk with any WSDA members — and sometimes we’re not the best fit, or they just need some direction and resources and that will take them through the next year or two.”
“Jennifer Paine is one of a number of important people here,” explained Martin, “Every call or contact we get here goes through her. She’s very skilled and understands what we do, what our story is, and she’ll spend time on the phone ferreting out what an inquiring dentist needs and wants so that she can get them to the right person on the team. She stays with them through the onboarding process until they are fully integrated with the team. She’s a key person in the process.”
Boyle has spent a lot of her time developing the CPA side of the business. “I have a lot of CPA clients, but each one of them is also tended to by a CPA account manager, who is an accomplished person with a number of years of dental experience.” Boyle also specializes in partnership projects and issues. She’s an excellent consultant about the process of bringing a partner in or buying one out and the logistics of combining groups; but she’s equally well-versed in general business planning. Martin performs many of the same duties as Boyle but part-time, which allows him the time to devote to wealth-management and transition business.
Other Key Players
“Nate Ricks is our senior wealth advisor,” said Paine, “he does financial planning, investment and wealth management. Rich Seims, who is well known to many WSDA members, is our lead transition advisor. He does what I describe as the “people part” of the work, meeting with sellers and buyers, helping them set up a tour of the office, working to build a team of lenders, insurance brokers, and the other people central to a practice purchase when they don’t already have a team in place, which they often don’t.” Seims is out in the field, while Martin & Boyle’s team crunches numbers and prepares practice opportunity portfolios. “For 20 years we were working with buyers,” explained Martin, “and from time to time a seller would drop into our lap. So for the better part of 18 years we had a part-time practice transition offering, but it was more based on referrals. When Rich came available I was excited to have him come to work for us. He’s helped us to become a full service transitions company.”
Contact the Team Today!
Martin and Boyle are quick to recognize that not all of their clients will utilize all of their services, although they’d certainly like them to. “We feel that if we’re handling your practice work and your personal financial planning we can offer you a better value, but we have quite a number of clients who have come to us for one service or another,” said Boyle, “and we make sure that we tie in with the other members of their team. Whether you opt for the complimentary 60-minute consultation or the full plan, Martin, Boyle and their team are ready to make your financial goals a reality, so contact them today!