Bringing on an associate can be a great step for your practice-if you go about it correctly.
Whatever your reason for hiring an associate, how you go about making this critical strategic move will have a profound effect on your practice and your career. Handled well, it will propel you toward your business and personal goals. Done poorly, it can have dire repercussions immediately and for years to come.
By taking a thoughtful, systematic approach-and taking your time-you can avoid the pitfalls practice owners often encounter when bringing on an associate. Ultimately, you’ll probably need to consult with your accountant, lawyer and financial planner, and you may also want to consult with practice management and transition experts, depending on your objectives. The range of considerations and details is broad and complex, but here are some basic guidelines to get you moving in the right direction.
Define clearly what you hope to accomplish by adding an associate.
Do you simply need an additional doctor to handle increased production? Someone to run a second office? A specialist to broaden the range of dental services your practice offers? Or a dentist interested in taking ownership of your practice as you transition into retirement?
It should be obvious that each of these purposes calls up a different set of requirements that your new associate must meet. For your sake, and for that of the new associate as well as your staff, you must make a firm commitment to your associate strategy... and not vacillate.
Calculate the financial impact of creating an associateship.
The Levin Group Data Center reports that more than 25 percent of dentists are not even moderately familiar with their practice finances. If you have only a vague idea of how your business stands financially, you need to correct this problem before giving serious consideration to hiring an associate. Then, once you understand your current financial condition, you can begin to figure out if you can afford an associate and what the impact will be on practice production, overhead, revenue, profitability and income over time. If you make overly optimistic assumptions, you could be courting disaster.
Evaluate candidates very carefully, not only in terms of clinical skills but also their personalities and career objectives.
In a way, chemistry matters as much as dentistry when hiring an associate. Naturally, you want to be sure a new associate will have the requisite dental skills. But personal chemistry will have a tremendous impact on whether or not the associateship turns out to be a success. You need to be sure the associate will have no problems getting along well with you, your staff or your patients.
To make sure you hire someone with the right personality as well as skills, interview a number of candidates and meet with leading contenders multiple times. Arrange for your strongest candidate to spend time at your practice in a kind of trial run. Observe interactions with staff and other signs of how the new person would fit in. If no one feels quite right, start the process over again. You can’t afford to get stuck with the wrong person in such an important role in your practice.
Whether for growing your practice or preparing for transition, adding an associate represents a major strategic move. Follow these guidelines and consult with experts to make sure it will achieve the desired results.
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