Have you been busier than usual at your dental office – overwhelmed, even? You might be considering adding a new dentist to spread out the work more, or to grow your practice. But how do you know if it’s the best decision, and more importantly, the right time?
As an experienced dentist and business owner, you could benefit from a younger associate. Recent dental school graduates often have more exposure to the latest technology and dental health trends, and this knowledge can have a positive impact on your practice. In return, young associates will have expectations upon joining your practice, like advancement and learning opportunities.
Your goals and reasons for hiring an associate should be well-thought out so you avoid disappointment, or worse – risk damaging your practice’s reputation or patient service. Read on for tips and considerations when adding a new associate as you decide the best possible course for your practice.
Managing the Workload
If you’re too busy and you think adding a new dentist will help manage your days better, you need to have enough patients to support another dentist. There are varying numbers on what enough patients truly means: to go from a solo practice to two dentists, plan to have at least 30-35 new patients each month. For a multi-dentist office, you should have at least 2,500 active patients.
If you don’t have enough patients to spread between another dentist, work on cleaning up your systems and processes. Chances are, you have some inefficiencies in scheduling and patient flow holding you back.
If the number of patients is at an acceptable level, next look at the type of treatments you need help with. Do you typically get tied up preparing for the next patient? Or performing x-rays and other preventive treatment? Maybe your patients need more restorative work done, and your appointments are booking three or more months ahead.
In the first two scenarios, another dentist would not be the ideal solution: a dental assistant and dental hygienist, respectively, would better free up your schedule. Only in the third scenario would a dentist achieve your goal.
Looking to Grow
If you want to add a new dentist to help grow your practice, you must know your long-range goals. Where do you want your practice to be in three, five, and even ten years? Answer the following questions to better assess your growth goals:
- What kind of work am I doing, and do I want to continue it or focus on something else?
- Do I want my practice to be known for a specialty service?
- What kind of patients do I have? Are these the patients I want?
- How quickly do I want to grow?
- How quickly can I grow?
Answering these questions will help you determine your practice goals and where a new associate fits in. You’ll know the scope of the role he or she will play (full-time or part-time, type of procedures and treatments), whether your new associate will need to work a different schedule than you, and if you need a specialist or a generalist.
It’s also important to think about your ability to grow at a set rate. If your office can only accommodate two more chairs, but you want to triple the number of patients in a year, that’s probably not feasible.
Beginning to Transition
If your goal is to bring on an associate dentist because you want to retire in five or ten years, know that you’re hiring your successor and your future business partner. In addition to hiring someone who is the right fit for your practice – knowledge, skills, and training – you need to find someone who is the right fit for you.
Compatibility and cultural fit cannot be understated. Consider how the the rest of your staff will be affected by the decision, even if you have a small office with one front desk receptionist. Everyone should feel comfortable with this person, and he or she should feel at ease with you and your team.
Employment agreements are crucial. This is necessary whether your new associate is a future partner or remains an employee. A contract that specifies employment terms, duties, responsibilities, and compensation, as well as requirements for partner buy-in, will eliminate unnecessary confusion later. A non-compete should also be part of this.
There are many factors to consider when hiring a new dentist. We can help you evaluate your options and navigate your transition plan. Contact us today for more information.