Why does becoming a dental associate have such a bad rap?

Here is a guest blog post from Dental Tranistion Specialist Joe Spencer.

It all comes down to trust. New dentists often don’t have any idea how to find a practice to join. They call look over the classified ads and call on them, only to find that a great majority of them lead directly to brokers. The brokers, of course, are happy to have them call so they can talk with the senior dentists in their area hook the new dentist up with a senior dentist (and collect a 10% fee for doing the transition legwork).

Here’s that problem: If a broker is involved, the senior dentist is the one that pays the fee. The senior dentist is the one who has representation. The broker is working for the senior dentist. It is in the broker’s best interest to get the contract in place as quickly as possible so the upfront portion of 10% fee can be collected quickly. This may lead to a lack of full disclosure by the selling dentist’s broker.

Another reason is that having a middleman between the two prospective partners makes it difficult for the parties to grow trust. They don’t talk directly with each other from the start. The broker might say that the work of screening applicants is too much for most dentists to put up with. With innovation, they drag can be reduced, and the benefits of personal contact will outweigh the convenience of having a third person in the middle of the relationship.

See, associateships are a special kind of partnership. They should be a bit like a master Jedi teaching an eager young Skywalker. The master teaches the young Jedi the inner workings of the business side of dentistry. There is no more efficient way. Years of dental school teach the clinical side. The business side must be learns from journeyman.

The difficulty is when some senior dentists feel they want to offload all the drill and fill to the new dentist. The new dentist gets the low margin unexciting stuff. That is the way of an apprenticeship. The difficulty is that the relationship is not well defined. Expectations are not clear.

Building trust is the answer. Openness is the answer. Clear expectations put in writing are the answer. Build trust with your potential partner from the start… In a recent FastCompany article, scientists have proven that interaction through electronic means can build trust as if interacting in person. OnlyTheBestPractices facilitates building trust from the start, through openness and defining expectations. No matter if someone uses our tools or not, if clear expectations were well defined (in writing) through spirit of apprenticeship, associateships could once again be seen as a great option coming out of dental school.

The question is… are senior dentists willing to bring someone in for a period of time to teach them the best practices in running the business? Would senior dentists prefer to just practice up to a date certain and walk away? If that becomes the norm, owner-associateships will fade into history, and only employee-associateships will remain. At some point the word associateship will probably just fade out too.

This first appeared on OnlyTheBestPractices.

Send your questions to Tim Lott, CPA, CVA at tlott@dentalcpas.com

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