In my career, I have witnessed and overseen countless practice transitions where a new young dentist was brought aboard, and I can say with absolute certainty that the practices that have the most success with this kind of transition are the ones who focus on not just the mechanics of the deal, but on getting themselves mind-ready and practice-ready for the new associate.
As the senior owner-dentist, remember you’re in control of the process, and your authority is evident throughout the practice. So why not use the authority and control you have in a positive way to give this working relationship the best possible chance of success? Use your influence and resources strategically to create the ideal working partner - one who feels challenged and rewarded, one who grows with the practice and amplifies its value, one you can confidently depend on to become a full contributing partner or to take over the practice and carry on your legacy. It’s about enabling this new important person in your life to be their best.
Here are the 6 key things to do to facilitate a successful associateship:
- Select the patients the new dentist will see. The first question to answer is how to get the associate started with the patient base. I suggest going through your records and making a concerted effort to target patients for reactivation who have been in the practice in the last two years but whom you have not seen in the last 12 months. These are patients who obviously have not had an impact on revenue in the last year and who may have fallen off the radar because you were reaching maximum capacity. Now is the time to get them back and to give the new dentist an important foothold in the practice by rebuilding those relationships.
- Pair the new dentist with your best assistant. There are several reasons for this. First of all, pairing the new person with your most efficient veteran staffer is the quickest way to get the newcomer up to speed and enrolled in the efficiencies you’ve built in the practice. Secondly, it maintains continuity in the eyes of the patients, who will still be seeing a familiar face. And it also gives the new dentist a valuable and influential ally in the practice - one who will see to it that their interests are never overlooked. In fact, assigning this assistant in this way sends a strong message to the new dentist that you are serious about enabling their success.
- Establish expectations for reporting. Because of the nature of the profession, dentists don’t often get the opportunity to work side by side, which means you have to find other ways to be connected and involved during the transition period. So for the first several months at least, you and your associate should be in early to prepare and compare notes on the day’s cases, and then meet again at the end of the day to discuss results and ensure all case documentation is complete. You should also have a structure for reporting to each other regularly - an hour a week at first, then eventually meeting once a month for one or two hours. When you and your new dentist get aligned like this on how to create value in the practice, that’s when real acceleration happens.
- Schedule regular case reviews and case plan collaborations. This is where you get to really be involved as a mentor - aside from those daily check-ins and scheduled meetings - by reviewing comprehensive cases together and sharing the benefits of your clinical experience and patient knowledge. It’s all about instilling a partnership mindset. Try scheduling half a day each week where you work together as a team on a case, collaborating on everything from records to diagnosis to treatment planning and clinical delivery.
- Introduce them to your specialist partners. Collaboration with the greater clinical community is vital, too - so be sure your new associate creates successful relationships with the specialists you refer to. If there is a multi-disciplinary study group in the area, have them join that, too.
- Oversee their ongoing clinical education. We all know that lifelong education is a must for every successful clinician, so you’ll want to be involved in seeing that your associate gets the best education. Sit down with them and map out a year-by-year plan - one that you will help fund - that encompasses a progressive continuum of courses. Of course, you want to coordinate this plan with your own ongoing education, so you can attend a number of courses together and really get aligned on clinical standards in the practice.
I think you’ll agree that anyone who brings a new dentist aboard with this kind of strategic thinking, support and attention to detail is far more likely to enjoy a successful transition than someone who takes a more free-form approach. By nurturing this crucial process in this way, you protect your future, because if you can make this new person successful in the way you envisioned, all the other considerations involved in a transition will come together smoothly.
Of course it is important that you get those “other considerations” right, too. That’s why we have a comprehensive selection of Spear Online lessons that takes you through every step of the transition process, from finding and interviewing a candidate, to developing strategies to help the team embrace the new dentist, to determining the allocation of patients, to creating an ownership mindset with the new hire, and on and on. If you are considering expanding your practice, I suggest you start by reviewing those in detail.
Getting new dentists started well is something that is very important to me, because I passionately believe that the future of great dentistry depends on getting ambitious, forward-thinking young dentists into the right practice situations where they can grow to realize their fullest possibilities. That’s how we’ll keep dentistry among the most desirable and fulfilling professions for years to come.
(Click this link to read moredental practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)