The creation of a successful associateship

Picture the perfect practice associateship arrangement. Now, think about all the things that can go wrong with that scenario. Dental Economics’ Chief Editor Dr. Chris Salierno says, “Dentists shouldn’t just hire associates because they don’t want to work on Saturdays anymore.” Let’s talk about the right and wrong reasons for creating an associateship that is great for both parties and the practice.

Let’s picture the perfect associateship. An owner-dentist is a few years away from retirement and the practice is so darn busy that the team can barely keep up. A young dentist enters the field, handling the extra work, bringing fresh energy and new clinical skills, and eventually buys out the retiring dentist. Isn’t that lovely? Now, let’s think about all the things that can go wrong with that scenario.

Unfortunately, dentists can hire associates for the wrong reasons, personalities and practice philosophies can clash, and both parties can painfully disagree about the practice valuation or transition terms. Indeed, the creation of a successful associateship requires that a lot of things go right. Some of it is luck, and some of it is due to solid planning.

In Dental Economics, we regularly address the legal and financial considerations of transitioning a practice. But in this issue, I’m pleased to bring you two articles that address an even more important factor—the attitudes of the owner-dentist and the associate. Dianne Watterson, MBA, RDH, discusses the right and the wrong reasons for bringing on a new dentist. Laura Barres, DDS, wants to pump up associates so they can bring their best energy to their new offices.

Dentists shouldn’t just hire associates because they don’t want to work on Saturdays anymore. And associates shouldn’t just sit in the back office checking their Instagram accounts when a patient cancels. Both parties should enter into this new venture looking to grow each other and the practice. Hiring another dentist should transform the practice; it should create something special that didn’t exist before.

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