4 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a New Dental Associate

May 2016

By: Erick Cutler

Whether this is your first time considering the associate option or you’ve walked this road before, bringing on a new associate to your practice means big changes for you, your employees, and your practice as a whole. Because of this, anything short of deliberate planning and careful research could leave your practice in a less than optimal situation.

To help you begin the process, we’ve put together this list of four fundamental questions to answer before you make any decisions around bringing on a new dental associate. Use your answers as the backbone of any future plans you create.

1.      Why are we doing this?

This may seem frivolous, but state clearly exactly why you’re bringing on a new associate.

Knowing your “why” will guide you through the process and will help you know not only the type of dentist you’re looking for, but also other points including recruitment and compensation. Finding that “why” may even give you a clue as to whether bringing on an associate is necessary in the first place. For example, if your practice is considering bringing on someone new to increase revenue or to attract new patients, it might first  be worth considering other, lower-commitment solutions such as expanding your service offerings or upping your marketing efforts.

2.      Are we ready?

There are a few signs that indicate you might actually be ready to bring on an associate.

If your patients have long wait times for appointments (more than a few days), you can’t keep pace with referrals and periodic exams, and you’re working longer hours than you’d like (especially true if you’re headed into retirement), then it’s time to seriously consider bringing someone on and answering the question of whether your office is prepared.

A new dentist means an increase need in space and possibly equipment and support staff. You will also need to know whether your current patient excess is enough to support another associate (the industry benchmark is 1,800 to 2,000 active patients.) Ask the same question around your technological solutions too, as you may need upgrades or adjustments from your vendors depending on the type of software and platforms you’re currently working with.

On the financial side, you will also want to consider conducting an overhead expense analysis (something we can help you with) to best understand how a new associate will affect collections, productions, and staff usage.

3.      What kind of professional would be the best fit?

As you’re answering this question, begin to create a check list of requirements ranked by necessity.

Decide what type of education you require (school, degree, honors, etc.) as well as what continuing education programs will be important. Review state licensure requirements and make sure they are up to date before even considering an interview. Be aware of what skills, accomplishments, and special training would be a good fit with and beneficial to your office (cosmetic dentistry, implants, etc.) and your plans for future growth. Review references and work history carefully to help ensure a good fit with the culture and personality of your office and patient preferences.

Additionally, this area of questioning is where you’ll want to address the issue of the type of associate you’re looking for — something that can vary broadly depending on your long-term goals as well as your financial situation.

Choose an employee if you’re looking for a longer commitment (10 years+) from someone who is looking to help the practice grow. If you’re looking to retire soon, a buy-in partner might be your best choice (though it does require more work on the finance and accounting side.) The simplest option is an independent contractor, as they simply share office space and some resources for a fee. In this case, be careful to work out a clear contract that addresses expenses, time commitment, and other financial obligations and benefits.

4.      Where should we start (referrals, ads, recruiters, job sites)?

Depending on your goals, the approach you take to searching for a new associate will change. You have options that range from high-involvement to completely outsourcing the task of finding candidates, so you’ll have quite a bit of flexibility here depending on what you’re open to investing in the process.

Referrals will give you much more insight into a dentist’s personality and how well they might fit with your practice. Job sites are quick and convenient, but will require much more sorting on the part of you or your staff. Dental recruiting firms might cost a bit, but they’ll save you time and effort in the long run.

Again, take the time to work through these questions in an honest and thoughtful way. Make sure to also get input from your staff to help ensure you build the best associate-fit possible for your practice. Contact the dental advisory team at Goldin Peiser & Peiser for further information on hiring an associate or for information on ways to help your dental practice grow and thrive in this competitive market.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.

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