Jason P. Wood, Esq.
Wood and Delgado
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The Future of the Industry
By Jason P. Wood, Esq.

As an advisor who speaks all over the country to dental students and young dentists, I find myself very concerned by where the industry is headed. A host of forces desire to forever change this industry from one that has been a historical great success story of American small business, into a corporate practice akin to what has taken place in the medical industry. What are the driving factors of this and how can we prevent this from occurring?

Young Dentists Need to Step Up
Mounting student loan debt has caused otherwise sane people to become shortsighted and fearful of their future. Young dentists are increasingly seeking job security in the form of corporate employment over the unknown future of practice ownership. In an ADA study, 41% of dental seniors would now prefer to be an associate rather than a practice owner. This percentage is at an all-time high and is a dangerous metric for the industry.

The problem here is a simple one that many forget. The most secure way to financial freedom is to work for yourself, rather than relying upon someone else who has the exact opposite set of parameters than you do.

Importantly, your skill set, as it grows, actually becomes a liability for your employer because with a greater skill set comes your desire to make more money. This can work for a while, however eventually the cheaper young graduate will be more important to the corporate/business owner than your skill set. Practical tip: work in a high producing office for one or two years out of school and then acquire or start your own dental practice. This will allow you to have the hand speed needed for a high production office of your own and will then allow you to focus on the business side of dentistry. (Dirty secret: it’s actually easier than you think!)

Female Dentists Need to Step Up
According to several ADA research papers, female doctors are half as likely as their male counterparts to desire to own their own practice and twice as likely to be “comfortable” being “career associates”.

Why is this so important to the profession? The majority of graduating classes from dental schools are now comprised of females and females make up 60% of dentists under the age of 44. Therefore, female dentists are critical at ensuring that the dental industry remains owned by private individuals, rather than large national (or international) corporations.

It concerns me that many female doctors are routinely told by others that they can’t be a practice owner and be a mother. Being a female does not suddenly change your ability to “have it all” after you have worked so hard to become a dentist. In fact, female practitioners who own their own practices end up being able to control their lives much better than their female counterparts who work for others. They are better able to schedule work times, treatment times, etc. around family events, vacations, sports, etc. In addition, many of my most successful clients are female/female partnerships who are extremely happy professionally and personally because they have the ability to control their own destiny and they are free from the guilt that other moms sometimes face of having to miss family events. 

It is pretty clear this generation of dentists will likely control the future outcome of this great profession. The data, statistics, higher compensation and personal quality of life all point to private practice ownership being the better career decision for dentists. All young dentists have a choice to shape their own futures – which path do you want to take?

Jason is partner in the law firm of Wood & Delgado, a law firm which specializes in representing dentists for their business transaction needs on a national basis.

Jason can be reached at (800) 499-1474 or by email at jason@dentalattorneys.com

Visit www.dentalattorneys.com for more information

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Sally McKenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management
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4 Things to Consider Before Hiring an Associate
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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 sally@thedentistsnetwork.net or call 1.877.777.6151.

Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

Hear Sally’s FREE podcasts at The Dentist’s Network - HERE

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