As the senior dentist or practice owner, you may be a great mentor, but as you train your new associate, you also may learn from them. For instance, the associate could bring a better understanding of new equipment and techniques to your practice.
The new associate also can be put to work where needed, so you can focus your attention on the type of dentistry that you most enjoy, or perhaps you can have more free time.
Furthermore, the associate will expand your practice's availability. For instance, perhaps your patients' appointments are booked months out or there is no room to handle emergency procedures. An additional practitioner will expand availability.
Many practice owners bring in an associate to increase profit and value by generating additional revenue. If you are considering offering a partnership or a transition, the process is often smoother for an associate already working in the practice. The actual transaction can be completed over months or years, and your patients and staff will already be familiar with the associate.
How to prepare
As with any endeavor, you must have a plan to be successful. The practice should be well-established, and gross should surpass $800,000 per year, with an active patient count of 1,800 or more.
If the patient count is below the average of 1,800, implement a marketing strategy to bring in new patients to ensure enough business for two doctors.
“If a patient is more comfortable staying with the current dentist, don't force the change.”
You should introduce the new associate to your patients. Have business cards printed, modify signage, update your website, and prepare marketing literature, such as a patient newsletter.
Reactivating patients is a key ingredient to properly integrate the associate into your practice. Don't expect them to come into the practice with their own patient base. You also may add insurance plans that currently are not accepted.
The question of determining which existing patients will be assigned to the new associate is key. Be sure the associate remains busy and productive throughout the onboarding process to give them the confidence that will help them succeed. However, if a patient is more comfortable staying with the current dentist, don't force the change or you could lose that patient.
Keep in mind that it may take some time for the associate to gain total patient acceptance.
Compensation and schedule
Compensation and scheduling can derail the process of adding an associate. Do your research, and prepare a compensation package outline before you hire, including determining if you will offer a guaranteed income or if you will pay based on a percentage of the revenue generated or collected by the associate. Also, determine how dental laboratory fees will be paid.
You'll also need to decide on other items that will affect the associate's compensation, such as student loan repayment, relocation allowance, continuing education courses, health and malpractice insurance, license and dues, and vacation and personal time.
In addition, plan a schedule, including any on-call time, for the associate before they begin working. This is especially important if you have more than one location. Don't surprise your new associate with unexpected travel or hours. This should all be discussed during employment negotiations.
Space, equipment, and staffing
The office should have sufficient space and be adequately equipped to accommodate another practitioner. If the associate is just beginning their career, one treatment room may be enough. After several months of practice, the associate should gain speed and confidence when treating patients. At that time, a second treatment room needs to be available and should equal additional income.
It is crucial that your associate learns your policies and procedures. We recommend assigning an experienced dental assistant to the new associate. This may aid in both learning your policies and for quality control.
If you are planning to offer the associate an opportunity to buy in to your practice or transition your practice, you must have a plan before the associate begins working. There are many items such as purchase price, time of purchase, and details of the acquisition that must be agreed upon to avoid problems at the point of sale. Establish the value of the practice with a current valuation, and secure a meeting of the minds regarding the sale price before the associate joins the practice.
Prepare for the future by building a good relationship. You should begin with the same definition of a successful relationship. Offer extra training to your associate if needed, and remember that you were once in their position. Ultimately, these steps will benefit both of you.
Cindy Bickers is the manager of Henry Schein Nationwide Dental Opportunities. She can be reached via email or 1-866-409-3001.
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