At some point in your career, you will consider bringing in an associate. Before you do, you will need to answer many questions in order to determine whether or not the time is ripe. The first question you need to ask is, “Why do I want to hire an associate?”
Of course, the reasons for this decision are as varied as the people making it. For many, the decision may be bittersweet since it can be interpreted as the signal of a career denouement. But we have a different perspective. We believe that hiring the right associate can be emotionally beneficial for established dentists in the middle of their career. We divide these emotional benefits into three categories.
By investing your new associate in the practice, you can alleviate some of the daily stress that comes along with ownership. Encourage your new associate to think of your practice as their own, and then prove to them on a daily basis that you respect their contributions and are considering them in your future plans. Your associate is a new referral source for the office, so the job of attracting and retaining new patients is no longer solely yours. Your associate may be capable of updating the technological capabilities of your office, helping you adapt for growth instead of for survival. In addition to providing you with a feeling of security, hiring an associate will do the same for your staff and patients. Knowing that patients are being treated in a more timely fashion, that there is a succession plan for the practice and that the practice will continue to grow and prosper is reassuring for all stakeholders.
When you bring in an associate, you’re given an opportunity to teach and mentor, both of which can help broaden your knowledge and increase your professional self-esteem. Hopefully, the teaching and mentoring will be reciprocal since recent graduates are likely to be trained and skilled in newer protocols, procedures and technologies. And while we’re sure you enjoy chatting with your staff and patients it’s also nice to be able to brainstorm with another dentist about how to best treat a patient, to bemoan the newest OSHA requirements or to sign up together for a continuing education seminar to introduce a new technology to the office.
The right associate can infuse the practice with a sense of hope and excitement. The challenge of having another dentist in the office might actually propel you to improve your own skills. (Nothing like a little healthy competition!) Furthermore, on a personal level, hiring an associate will give you the freedom to enjoy some more personal and family time.
Once you have answered why you want to bring in an associate, you’ll want to answer how. Here are some practical considerations you’ll want to address next:
- Do you have enough patients to support your decision? If not, do you have a plan to bring new patients to the office, or will you rely on your new associate to grow the practice?
- Will your patients transfer easily to someone new?
- Will your staff accept and respect a new dentist?
- Will you have to hire new staff to provide support for the additional patient load?
- Do you have the physical space, both in empty operatories and in the reception area, for increased traffic?
- Do your operational systems, including your electronic health record, support an additional user? Will you need (and are you willing and able) to update your office to support your new dentist’s technological advances?
Whatever your reasons are for hiring an associate, if you approach the relationship as one that needs to be valuable to both of you, emotional benefits will abound.