Asking yourself if the dental practice you own is prepared to take on a new associate is an extremely difficult question to answer. Every practice is unique. Each has its own growth goals and strategic plan for success. Plus, it’s human nature to believe that our organization is ready to grow and develop into a bigger, better practice. But without being blunt, honest and critically objective in your analysis of your practice, you may be lying to yourself about now being the right time to take on an associate. And then there are the associates themselves. Unless your practice is in Beverly Hills or Denver, candidates may not immediately recognize your growth potential. And if you do land a young professional, it may take some time and coaching before an inexperienced dental associate is able to generate growth.

The key here is to remember that every dental practice is unique. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Instead, you need a considerable amount of quantitative and qualitative data to support any decision you make about the future of your practice.

SWOT (Strengths • Weaknesses • Opportunities • Threats)

Conducting a thorough SWOT analysis of your practice in relation to the proposed growth is highly recommended.

A SWOT analysis will help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Be honest with yourself. Or better yet, have an independent third party help you evaluate the practice. A careful, thorough analysis can reveal patient trends, market indicators and barriers to success. Some of these might be overcome by bringing on an associate. Others will need to be taken care of before considering the addition of another dentist. But you won’t know any of this until you conduct the analysis.

Within the SWOT process, carefully review and scrutinize the practice’s financial situation. As you analyze, be sure to pull data from a sufficiently long timeline to average out spikes or dips in income or loss. The more data you have to work with, the clearer the picture will be regarding the trending financials of your practice. It sounds obvious, but adding an associate is typically not a great idea if the data reveals a downward trend.

Although the financials are a large consideration, don’t limit your SWOT analysis to only the business side of the practice. Make sure you evaluate the working conditions, team dynamics and staff morale. A focus on the workplace itself and the team already in place will help you properly evaluate the sustainability of adding an associate. An office can only perform as well as the team within, and anytime you consider throwing another personality into the mix, you should be aware of the potential positive and negative impacts that doing so may have on team dynamics.

The more honest you are with yourself throughout the analysis process, the better you will be at evaluating prospects and choosing the dental associate who will mesh well with the practice and will positively impact the business.

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