Expand My Practice: Things to Consider Before Hiring an Associate or Partner

Maybe business has picked up and you need another set of hands. Perhaps you are looking ahead to retirement and want to find a dentist who can eventually buy out your practice. Either way, you are on the hunt for the perfect person to join your practice.

Before you start, think through the particulars so you can better identify the qualities that fit your needs, ask smart questions, and set the right expectations from the get-go. 

Do you have the space and resources?

First, can you already support an additional dentist with your existing physical space, staff, patients, and office hours? Will you need to hire additional staff members or open during evenings or weekends? 

If you need space, research your expansion options. Perhaps you can convert a storage area or under-used back office into another operatory. Ask your building manager about space in adjacent units. Finding and equipping the space can take time, so start early. Candidates will be reassured that they will have the resources they need to practice successfully. 

Similarly, if you will need additional staff, consider whether you want the incoming dentist to be a part of the hiring process. Since they will be working closely together, your partner or associate may want to have some input to assess whether they have compatible work styles and personalities. 

And importantly – how will the new dentist get patients? If your plan is to gradually exit your practice, decide how you will handle the patient transition. If you are actively growing your practice, your new dentist may need to bring in their own patients. Make this conversation part of the hiring process. 

What will compensation look like?

Base salary, base salary plus percentage, or percentage of production/collection: Which one makes the most sense to your practice? Is it better to bring in a new person as an employee or an independent contractor? If you are searching for someone to buy into the practice, how will their compensation change as you transition? What does your benefits package look like, and is it competitive with your local market? Will you offer bonuses? Who will be responsible for laboratory expenses, supplies, and future capital purchases? 

If your ultimate goal is to sell the practice, explore whether you share similar expectations during the interview process. Conduct a comprehensive practice valuation so that both sides are satisfied and in agreement as to how the sale price will be calculated. You might even begin some of the paperwork for ownership transfer. This can eliminate hassles and misunderstandings down the road. 

The employment agreement should spell out all these details, while also containing the right legalese that protects your practice. The ADA publication Dentist Employment Agreements: A Guide to Key Legal Provisions can guide you through the particulars. 

What are you trying to achieve?

Dentists bring in additional dentists for lots of reasons. Think through your own motivations so you can narrow the candidate field and find the right person.  

Reduce your time in office – As you work towards retirement, you might want to work fewer or shorter days without cutting back your practice’s hours. Deciding this upfront can help recruit the right person by confirming they are willing and able to work the hours you expect. 

Increase office productivity – If your practice has been growing, you simply need more chair time. But again, think through what this looks like in terms of your new hire’s expected hours. Do you want to increase the number of patients you see in a typical day, or are you open to expanding your hours to include more evenings or weekends?  

Add skills or specialty capabilities – Rather than referring patients out for certain procedures, maybe you want to bring more capabilities (and revenue) in-house. Decide which skills or specialties might be the most relevant for your patients, or are lacking in the local area.

Shoulder the “business” burden – If you want to focus more of your time on actual dentistry, you might want a partner or associate with the experience to take on the business side of the practice. Would this person work with an existing office manager? How do you see divvying up tasks? What experience would be an asset?

What kind of relationship do you want?

Finding the right dentist is just the first step in building a successful, satisfying professional relationship. But what does that ideal relationship look like? 

Do you want to mentor a younger dentist, or would you prefer someone with a bit more experience and independence? Do you see consulting with your peer on cases, or a more autonomous existence with opposite hours? Who will have final say in decisions, whether about patient care, business management, or staff relations?

Get the support you need

It can be tough finding the right person to bring into your practice. ADA Practice Transitions can help. We will help you think through your goals and needs, and then match you with the dentist who shares your philosophy of care and will fit into your practice. Then we will prepare you with the resources you need to ease the transition for your staff and patients while building a solid working relationship. 

When you work with ADA Practice Transitions, you will be assigned a dedicated Advisor who can answer questions, offer guidance, and share resources right when you need them. You will get worksheets, practical guides, and assessments that help you think about all the details, big and small.  

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