Associateship – Is it right for you?

OKC Dental Practice Management

Associateship – Is it right for you?

By Tabitha Jaquay Fernandez

Are you feeling like you are doing all you can possibly do?  Yet something feels like it’s missing…if only you had a little more time to explore another avenue of your practice or just take some time off – right?  There are large parts of dentistry that ONLY the dentist can do leaving you to be the ONLY person who can produce the bulk of the practice income (with help from your amazing team of course).  Dentists are hard workers and huge teddy bears.  The more they accomplish and give to their patients, the more they want to continue to accomplish and give.  At some point the doctor reaches his/her max and begins to wonder what is next.  Where can he/she fit Ms. Jones with her toothache, and Bob and his broken molar who we told would need a crown three years ago, and now he absolutely needs to come in today?

Does this sound familiar?  Many of you start to think if only I had more hands….DING, DING, DING…I will bring in an associate!  It’s a natural thought pattern since many of you started as associates.  It began with a handshake, and you started work the following week.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of associateships don’t work out as a long-term solution.  In fact, it is estimated that only 10% of all associateships work out at all!

Why?  Not enough patients – possibly?  Senior doctor not willing to give up the “good cases”? Associate not able to make enough money? Or was the associate expected to bring in their own patients and grow their schedule themselves?  Was this what was agreed upon in the beginning?

There are two main reasons to bring on an associate.  First, you are ready to significantly cut back your personal production and therefore income, providing a sufficient patient flow for your new associate to be busy. Or second, your practice has a much larger patient pool than you can possibly handle.  Don’t be unrealistic. An associate will not build his/her own practice within yours without taking it with them WHEN they leave.  New patients aren’t going to come crawling out of the woodwork just because you added another doctor.  And if the associate is successful at building relationships and bringing new patients in, then it won’t take them long to see they can do this on their own. They can reap the full benefits rather than agreeing to purchase a patient base from you that they “helped to build”.  Remember, their perception is their reality.

A good associate does not want to be an employee forever, and you don’t want your office to become a revolving door for associates.  You must have a formal transition plan and timeline in place.  You will want to establish a compensation plan that rewards your associate based on productivity and allows for a return on future investment.  This way when the time comes (that you and the associate have agreed upon up front) the associate already has “skin in the game. This provides you security and stops the revolving associate door.

If you are considering bringing in an associate, do your homework.  Know how many active patients it takes to keep two doctors busy full time. Decide how many days you want to continue working each week. Look at the number of new patients you have coming in, and how you can increase this to accommodate the new doctor and overhead of additional team members.  Most practices find when they drill down through the numbers, they DON’T have enough to keep two doctors busy full time. Then the senior doctor is frustrated and feels the associate is costing them money. The associate feels they were told one thing and got something else.  Hence, you may have to look at a practice merger to grow before having the numbers to bring on an associate.

Are you thinking I am crazy? We started out talking about ways to reduce your schedule but still make the same income or more.  By acquiring a practice, you merge a competitor into a single location, reducing the overhead of one location while increasing the patient base all at one time rather than one by one.  It’s very common for the buyer to increase his/her passive income by $50,0000-$100,000 in the first year.  You would be able to enjoy the profits from the merger, have the ability to select which of the new patients you want to see and which ones to send on to your associate, and instantly have your associate busy.

Associateships can be successful IF you do your homework first. Know your numbers and whether you have enough for two doctors, and then get it all on paper.  The day of doing business with a simple handshake, is unfortunately a thing of the past.  Call Jaquay Enterprise today to look at your options 405-834-8653.

Tabitha Jaquay Fernandez
Phone (405) 834-8653

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