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Hiring an Associate? Here's How to Make It Work


The busier you are in your practice, the more hastily you may make decisions. This is especially true when taking on associates, but according to our expert, doing so without looking at the numbers can ultimately create more stress. Continue below to find out what you should know before hiring another doctor to help with your patient load.

Hiring an Associate? Here's How to Make It Work

Hold off on publicizing a hire in the event that he or she is not a good fit for your practice.

For dentists nearing retirement — or those with an overflowing patient load — the thought of bringing on an associate can seem like a light at the end of a tunnel. But before dentists speed through that tunnel, DMD and MBA Tom Snyder has some advice.

“They’ve got to know their numbers,” said Snyder, the director for Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions.

A dentist needs to know the size of their patient base and how full their appointment book is. They need to consider whether they want to cut back their own hours and thoroughly consider what the associate will mean in terms of overhead.

For instance, will hiring the new dentist necessitate an additional hygienist?

Having a firm grasp on the practice’s financials is the only way to ensure that the expansion achieves its goal, Snyder said, and it’s the only way to ensure the associate enters the practice with a clear vision of what their new role will look like.

“If they don’t know their numbers, usually it’s going to end up with that associate probably not staying, and it’s probably going to become a revolving door,” Snyder said.

Snyder will be sharing insights on how dentists can successfully bring on an associate and create a pathway for that associate to become a partner during a course at the 2017 Dentrix Business of Dentistry Conference, Aug. 17-19, in Las Vegas.

According to Snyder, another reason it is important for a dentist to know the numbers is that new associates sometimes ask for guaranteed salaries at the start of their tenures so they can make the transition with the promise of income security. But promising a sizable salary can be risky if the hiring dentist doesn’t have a thorough understanding of how the numbers will work out once the new associate is on board.

Assuming the numbers work out, dentists need to make sure the potential hire is a good fit.

“What’s their clinical philosophy? What kind of experience do they have? Those are things doctors have to ask themselves,” Snyder said.

If an associate would be on the partner-track, does the practice’s location and workflow match the dentist’s quality-of-life goals? In other words, is this potential associate the kind of person who would want to stay with the practice for the long term?

Dentists should know whether the associate has business or marketing skills, Snyder said. Ideally, the associate will have ideas about how to grow the business. If they are on course to become a partner, after all, a growing business would help both dentists.

“The bottom line is: We want them all to be good dentists, because when you bring an associate into the practice, who are you transferring over to that dentist? Your patients are your good will,” Snyder said. “You’re telling your patients, ‘I picked this doctor and they’re a good dentist.’”

Snyder said he usually advocates a selective approach to spreading the word about a new dentist, rather than a large-scale marketing campaign.

That means training staff to talk about (and talk up) the new dentist to patients who will see them. Snyder also suggests having some kind of written material that can be sent out in advance to patients who will see the new doctor, giving a brief biography of the dentist and their credentials.

Once the associate has been at the practice for a while and proves a good fit, dentists can consider a broader marketing campaign, but Snyder said it’s too much of a risk to publicize a hire before it’s clear whether it will work out.

After all, if the dentist is a poor fit and must quickly be replaced, Snyder said that sends another kind of message.

It’s not just communication between the practice and its patients that matters — communication between the host dentist and the associate is also critical. Snyder suggests setting up regularly scheduled meetings on a monthly or weekly basis so all dentists on staff are up to date with how the office is running and address any issues regarding the associate integrating into the practice culture.

“You’ve got to spend time,” Snyder said. “And even if you’re busy, you’ve got to carve out time to try and make this thing work.”

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