Do You Really Need to Hire an Associate?
You’ve decided it’s time to hire an associate. You’re just way too busy, and know you have more than enough patients of record to share with a new dentist. Hiring an associate will mean a reduction in the number of hours you put in and a lot less stress, and for once you can’t wait to begin the hiring process.
While the thought of bringing someone else on might seem like a huge relief, this new hire will only add to your troubles if you don’t do it right from the beginning. And that means making sure you actually need a new associate before you hire one. Sure, you might be so busy you can barely keep up, but is that because you have too many patients to treat, or because your systems are a mess?
Neglected systems throw practices into chaos, leaving dentists with the illusion that they’re too busy to handle it all on their own. They convince themselves it’s time to buy a new office, finish the extra operatories, or hire an associate – when in reality what they really need to do is get their systems in order.
Before you hire an associate, you must know without a doubt that you have enough patients to not only keep you both busy, but to support the two of you as well as the practice. A healthy solo practice sees 25 new patients a month, with 85% of those patients accepting treatment, according to industry data. So if you’re thinking about bringing on an associate, you should be attracting 30 to 35 new patients a month.
Once you determine that you actually need an associate, take the time to find the right one. Sadly, most of these arrangements don’t work out, and it usually comes down to unclear or mismatched needs and expectations. Many times hiring dentists see associates as extensions of themselves and expect them to fall in line and produce. Sorry, but it typically doesn’t work out that way.
Remember, any associate you hire is likely coming into the practice with about $250,000 in dental school debt they’re eager to pay off. New dentists want security; they’re not interested in taking unnecessary risks at this stage in their career. They want to work with a well-trained staff that functions well as a team. Associates look to their hiring dentist as a mentor, and see their time at the practice as an important opportunity to learn and grow.
All too often, “busy” doctors expect new dentists to step in and control the chaos. That’s why the doctor hired an associate in the first place – but it certainly isn’t why the associate accepted the position. The associate soon learns the practice doesn’t have the stability they’re looking for; instead it’s filled with chaos created by broken systems the doctor refuses to fix. The associate spends too much time putting out fires, instead of treating patients and enhancing dental skills. He or she certainly isn’t learning much or doing anything to boost practice production numbers, leaving both the associate and the hiring dentist frustrated with the arrangement.
Let me give you another scenario that often plays out when dentists bring on an associate. The senior dentist is ready to retire and only wants to focus on the cases he likes, giving the less pleasant cases to the associate. Not only that, the senior dentist has cut way, way back. At one point he had a thriving practice that brought in $800,000 a year, but now he’s only bringing in about $300,000 – with the same overhead costs. He’s not worried, though, because he expects his new associate to boost production and revenues as soon as he gets started. Unfortunately, the doctor is wrong, and this misguided assumption costs both the hiring dentist and the associate big.
Bottom line, bringing on an associate is unlike any other practice hire. It’s one of the most important career choices you’ll ever make, and isn’t something you should enter into lightly. Think of it as a marriage. The associate you hire could one day become your partner, making it vital that you understand each other’s goals from the beginning and share the same practice philosophy.
You will spend thousands of dollars on this arrangement, so take steps to ensure it will work. First, make sure you actually need an associate, then find the best fit for your patients and your practice. Not sure where to get started? Feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help.
Next week, 4 things every associate should ask before joining a practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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