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Entrepreneurship vs. Intrapreneurship; What’s the Best Choice For Your Dental Career?

Entrepreneurship vs. Intrapreneurship; What’s the Best Choice For Your Dental Career?

There are so many seasons of dental business ownership, and some of the roughest are those coming right out of dental school. Many of us graduate with half a million dollars in debt, and the idea of buying a dental practice and running it almost sounds ludicrous. If we buy a practice only to screw everything up, we’re not just putting ourselves behind—we’re adding onto our enormous debt.

If it’s not concern about putting ourselves into deeper debt, it’s the prospect of adding undue stress to our lives. Dental school was tough enough, and it rarely teaches us enough about entrepreneurship in dentistry. The idea of starting an entrepreneurial journey just seems daunting, to say the least. Thus, when it comes to career paths for dentists, many of us would rather pursue intrapreneurship and work within a dental practice rather than own one.

So, let’s get to the question at hand. Between the dental career choices of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, what’s the best choice for you?

First off, it’s better to not learn the hard way.

It’s not uncommon for someone to graduate dental school, become pumped about pursuing the entrepreneur life, and soon realize they hate dental business ownership. Worse, some people go into dental business ownership not because they’re pumped about it but because the idea that entrepreneurship in dentistry is a must for financial well-being becomes ingrained in their head.

Some folks simply find more emotional fulfillment and financial stability by being intrapreneurs—or associate dentists—in contrast to owning their own dental practice as entrepreneurs. Once they learn the ropes, perhaps entrepreneurial pursuits become more of a possibility. But, at the start, it’s simply an unwise decision to own a dental practice of their own, and intrapreneurship in dental practices is the best career path for them.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re trying to discern between those two dental career choices—whether you’d be better off owning your own dental practice or joining one as an associate. The fact is, it might be best letting some people mentor you during your early years. You can always pursue dental business ownership down the line, and intrapreneurship in dental practices can leave more room for error whilst you gain your footing.

Running a business isn’t just about what happens during work hours.

Taking continued education courses (CE) is a necessity for any dentist, regardless of whether we’re entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. However, entrepreneurship in dentistry means focusing particularly on taking CE courses that revolve around developing business acumen, learning about practice management, implementing savvy strategies, and more. If these kinds of courses sound like they’d bore you out of your wits, then dental business ownership simply won’t come easy to you.

On top of taking CE classes that focus on entrepreneurial know-how, any good dental entrepreneur understands the importance of reading books and listening to podcasts that provide a wide array of business knowledge. The best of us will go so far as to join masterminds where we surround ourselves with business minds who operate outside of the realm of dentistry.

Know thyself before pursuing a path.

There are so many dental career choices and avenues we can explore as dentists, with so many options on the table. We often get advice from experts and other business leaders based on what’s worked for them, and we get a fire lit inside of us to follow the path they’ve chosen. 

When it comes to career paths for dentists, it’s so important to pursue a path you can consistently stay passionate about. The worst thing you can do is set a destination for yourself that’ll leave you feeling miserable. While the end result somebody else is enjoying may seem super appealing, you ought to ensure that pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into getting there will be worthwhile.

What excites you? What end result would be worth the grind? You need to break down your true why—your vision—and pursue a path that fits into your authentic self. Once you hone in on what you’d be passionate about, you can pursue the tactical aspects.

Don’t just chase the money.

Speaking of the tactical aspects, we can’t ignore a motivator for many entrepreneurs: making the dough. It’s not worth earning more, though, if dental business ownership is going to leave you feeling miserable. The beauty of dentistry is that the money will come regardless, but no grind will be worth the money if you end up hating what you’re doing. It all goes back to staying within your vision, and the fact of that matter is that your vision should never revolve around making big bucks—your dental career choices should revolve around what you’re passionate about.

Again, before you think about going into dental business ownership, decide what motivates you. What do you like? What makes you anxious? Hone in on what you like rather than what you want, because you’re in this for the long-run. If you’re an introvert and don’t like to be around people, then maybe it’s not right for you to run a team and interact with tons of patients on a daily basis. 

Don’t feel shame if you choose the latter option.

There are so many stereotypes about entrepreneurship in dentistry. We’re usually classified as visionaries who can’t sit still, constantly hungry to tackle the next new thing and take on another project. We’re like sharks who can’t stop swimming if we want to breathe.

Dentistry is full of high-functioning people. While this leads to a lot of accomplishments across the board, it can also lead to a sense of shame for those who pursue intrapreneurship in dental practices. I urge you to not let the idea of being an associate be something you feel lesser than because of. You’re totally living up to the extent of your profession, and being an associate doesn’t necessarily add up to earning less. I know tons of associates making a very comfortable living and bringing in six figures. Don’t belittle yourself for working smarter, not harder.

Entrepreneurship in dentistry is totally possible as an associate, too. There are so many opportunities to own a business on the side whether it comes through real estate, personal coaching, or whatever else floats your boat.

It’s up to you!

The entrepreneur life isn’t for everyone. For many of us, it takes time to develop the mindset needed to pursue that lifestyle. There’s no problem with playing the role of an intrapreneur until you gain your wings. It’s better safe than sorry, after all, and there are so many career paths for dentists beyond dental business ownership.

I run a community full of dental professionals who can give you some nuggets of wisdom about your running all sorts of dental practices. So, join the Nifty Thrifty Dentists Facebook group and reach out! People from all across the globe will be happy to let you in on their two cents.



Glenn Vo
Author: Glenn Vo