All to often I speak with practice owners that say they would like to add an associate dentist, but after speaking to them I find that they lack the revenues, patient base, or planning to really make this happen. First and foremost, as a practice owner, you have to ask the question, “Why do I want/need an associate?”

Reasons I often hear are: “I am much to busy to keep up with the demand on my practice.” “It is time I start transitioning ownership over the next 3+ years.” “I want to work less.” These are decent starts, but you have to take a look at several other factors.

Is the practice productive enough with one doctor?

You need to determine the number of truly active patients in the practice. A single practitioner needs at least 1500 active patients over 12 to 18 months. You also need to be grossing at a minimum $750,000 annually. Also, considers the types of cases. If your cases are generally very large producers then you patient count may be lower. Bringing on an associate dentist if you practice is doing less than the following will most likely cost you, the practice owner, money. Not make more.

Do you have enough patients for a new doctor?

You need to plan on several things in order to ensure your new associate will be busy and productive. You need to have at an excellent new patient flow. You are most likely not willing to give up your own active patients. That cost you. Marketing, is going to have to be addressed. If you only get 15 to 20 new patients per month you will have to step up the efforts to get more so your associate can work. Take a look at inactive patient records as well, and see what you can do to reach out to them, and get them back.

Do you have enough space?

How many ops do you need on the days that you work?  Do you have op(s) for your hygienist(s)?  If you are working in all of the operatories then where will this associate work?  Space is cruicial to having a successful and committed associate.

What do you normally refer out?

If you are referring out molar endo, oral surgery, or implants you should target associates that can add more value to your practice. Associates with the ability to do these procedures in your practice simply adds to your bottom line. More and more practices are taking this approach. NOTE: if you are looking to add an associate with these skills then you will have to be willing to invest in the necessary instruments and equipment required.

Is this your exit strategy?

If you are hiring an associate with the goal of transitioning out then you need a detailed, written plan for what will happen and when. Talk about these thing up front with candidates. Show them the plan. This allows the potential associate to know what is expected. Let the associate have input, and expect negotiation.

Do you know what Associate Dentist expect to be paid?

You have been in practice for 20+ years. You were paid $70,000 a year as an associate when you first graduated Dental School. Associates candidates now making around $120,000 in a good private practice associateship.

All in all you have to plan well ahead and make sure this will benefit you, your practice, and your associate.

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