The Future of the Industry
Many dentists think hiring an associate will solve all their problems. They’ll finally have someone else in the practice to ease the workload, relieving their stress and making their schedule much less chaotic. These dentists have visions of working less while actually increasing production and growing their bottom line. Sounds great, but that isn’t necessarily what will happen if you decide to bring on an associate.
All too often, hiring an associate leads to more stress and actually costs the practice money. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, here are four things to consider before you hire an associate and advice on how to make the arrangement work for you both.
1. Ask yourself if you really need an associate. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you need to bring on another dentist. If you find yourself constantly stressed and running behind, it could be because your practice has broken systems. Maybe you have several people managing the schedule so you’re always double-booked, or rather than communicating with you and your assistant, your Scheduling Coordinator just guesses at appointment times and often only allows 30 minutes for procedures that take 60.
The point is, it’s important to take a good, hard look at your systems before you make any hiring decisions, especially one as important as bringing on an associate. Fix any problems you identify, and if you find you still have more patients than you can handle on your own, it might be time to start your search for a talented associate.
2. Make sure you have enough patients. If you don’t, hiring an associate will prove to be a huge, costly mistake. There really must be no doubt that you have enough patients to keep you both busy as well as support two dentists and the practice. How many patients do you need, you ask? A healthy solo practice sees 25 patients a month, according to industry data, with 85% of those patients accepting treatment. So if you want to hire an associate, you’ll need to attract between 30 and 35 patients to your practice each month. If that number seems out of reach, your practice isn’t ready for another dentist.
3. Remember not just any associate will do. Once you determine your practice actually needs an associate, don’t just hire the first one who impresses you, as tempting as that may be. Take the time to get to know the dentist you want to hire and make sure you share similar goals and the same philosophy of care. Remember this dentist could someday be your partner, making this an arrangement you don’t want to enter into lightly.
4. Realize you have to clearly communicate your expectations. Unfortunately, many of these arrangements don’t work out, and it’s usually because there’s unclear or mismatched needs and expectations.
For example, a new associate won’t just swoop in and fix all the problems in your practice and start producing right away – though this is what many dentists expect. Most associates are young dentists who want to improve their skills. They’re usually still trying to pay off large sums in dental school debt, so they want to be part of a stable practice with a well-trained team and a dentist who is willing to serve as a mentor and help them grow as a clinician.
All too often hiring dentists think their new associate will produce with little to no guidance from them, while also taking on tasks they’d rather avoid. But if associates have to put out fires all day, they don’t have much time to actually diagnose and treat patients. When this happens, the associate isn’t growing practice production or doing much to improve his skills, and it doesn’t take long for everyone involved to become frustrated with the situation and left wondering how it all went so wrong.
Hiring an associate is a big decision. It really is unlike any other practice hire, and is one of the most important career choices you’ll ever make. Be sure you actually need an associate before you start the hiring process, then find someone who understands your goals and shares your philosophy of care. You’ll invest thousands of dollars in this relationship so you want to make sure it works, rather than adding stress to your life and doing damage to your practice.
Think you’re ready to hire an associate but not sure where to start? Feel free to contact me and I’ll help guide you through the process.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm. Working on-site with dentists since 1980, McKenzie Management provides knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.877.777.6151.
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