6 Things to Consider when Hiring an Associate Dentist

Bringing an associate dentist can be one of the biggest decisions a business owner can make, and it takes an adequate amount of thought, research, time, and energy to ensure you’re selecting and onboarding the right candidate.

Do I need an associate dentist?

It depends! When we’re working with our clients, it’s important that we consider and plan for long-term goals, which are as unique as each practice owner. There are many reasons you might consider bringing on an associate including everything from expanding your practice, building a DSO, planning for retirement, to solving for organic growth. With extensive experience in financial and strategic consulting for dental owners, we help dentists plan for their next move, navigate the hiring process, and budget for the outcome.

Can I afford another doctor?

When bringing on a new associate dentist to your practice, there are multiple areas to assess and plan for. Are you seeking a specialist or a general dentist?  Is there a certain level of experience you’re looking for?  Depending on skill level and patient volume, the time it takes to bring them to pace, capacity, and production potential can vary. It is important to understand your state’s specific labor laws and know fair market compensation for your area to plan appropriately.

What should I pay an associate dentist?

When deciding on pay structure, experience, market conditions, and fair market compensation all play a key role. While there are multiple combinations and options for base pay, total compensation should also be determined up front, then planned for and communicated during the interview process.  Depending on the first three considerations, you can then determine base pay on a percentage of production or collections, establish a daily rate, or a combination of both.

What should total compensation look like?

It is essential to realize that even though you are interviewing an associate, they are also interviewing you.  Culture, as well as total compensation, are two of the largest factors candidates weigh when selecting an employer and practice to join. Ensuring you have a competitive benefits package will help you stand out to candidates.  Benefits like CE Allowance and paid time off, retirement plan match, vacation time, professional liability, professional association dues, state licensure and DEA fees are all options to consider and budget for when considering an associate in your financial plan.

When should I start looking?

If you’ve already made up your mind that you’re going to hire an associate dentist, the answer is probably, right now. We recommend starting the process up to 6 months in advance of the considered start date. Often the cause of separation or associate turnover is lack of communication during the interview process.  While finding the ideal candidate may have its challenges, a longer search and planning period allows you more time to source applicants and a greater opportunity to ensure a good fit.  What you miss in hiring, you end up paying for later.

What next?

To ensure a lasting relationship, it is critical that you to ask the right questions when interviewing a candidate.  We suggest creating an interview guide that allows you to understand the candidate’s experience level, leadership potential, long-term goals, and value they will bring to your practice.  Do they eventually want to become a partner, can you groom them to take over the practice? Understanding these questions as well as how the candidate would react in specific situations will serve as insightful components when making a decision.

Once you’ve found the perfect associate, it’s time to tie the knot! Ensure that you have worked with your advisor to build a plan, budget costs, and strategize production goals for the next 12 months.  Be prepared to give a formal offer letter detailing job expectations, hours, employment terms, and the total compensation package. Then, we always recommend an employment agreement drafted by an attorney to formally outline the arrangement.

Bringing on an associate dentist is a big decision and should be thoroughly planned for and executed to ensure a great hiring outcome.  If you would like more information on how to financially plan for and compensate an associate dentist, please fill out our contact form.