A dental associateship can be a great step on your path to dental practice ownership. For recent dental school graduates, or even doctors with a bit more experience, it gives an opportunity to increase your hand speed and build up your skills. You can learn from more experienced colleagues about both providing dental care and running a small business. It can move you closer to your goal of owning your own dental practice while allowing you to develop yourself further in all aspects of dentistry and practice management.
For a practice owner, a dental associate can be a good addition to your practice once you are ready to take one on. You can increase your practice’s production and collections. You can treat more patients sooner—helping you retain your patient base—without having to sacrifice new patients. And you can ease some of your own workload, giving you more time to put into other areas, whether those are personal interests or managing your expanding practice.
Because we recognize the value and benefits of dental associateships, DDSmatch relies upon a full time associate placement specialist, Heather Asbury. We recently sat down with Heather to find out more about why the DDSmatch process works for placing associates as well as selling a dental practice.
Heather, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
“My name’s Heather Asbury, I have been in the dental industry for about ten years now. I started—and have a background in—marketing and dental consulting; additionally, I have a lot of experience as well with dental software training. For several years now I have been working with DDSmatch in both a sales support role and a recruiting role.
“I’ve specialized in associate placements for the last couple of years now and I find it very rewarding. There’s something about finding that puzzle piece—to find associates to join practices’ teams—and being able to facilitate making those connections, that has really been rewarding for me. I really enjoy that part of it.”
What information do you look for from a doctor who wants to add a dental associate to their practice?
“If a client came to us looking for an associate, the first thing we do is get to know them; find out exactly what they’re looking for in an associate, find out what specific skill set they’re looking for, and really get to know the environment and the culture at their practice, so that we can create a comprehensive profile and marketing plan. All of this really helps me and our team highlight that opportunity in the marketplace, and highlight what’s going to be attractive to candidates about this opportunity—to make sure that we are getting the position as visible as possible. We then use our network, the engine behind DDSmatch, and try to find as many good candidate matches that we can.”
Do you only use the DDSmatch website to market the associate opportunities?
“When finding candidates, we post on as many recruiting sites as we can, as many dental posting sites as we can. When we create that comprehensive profile and marketing plan for our clients, we find the best avenues to take in marketing their particular opportunity.
“And, most importantly, we use our own website. We’re founded loosely on the idea of map matching, like Match.com. We always have that great engine working behind us, trying to make those matches with profiles that we have on our website.”
Will you take a first look at the potential matches and make recommendations?
“In the recruiting process, we don’t want to exclude anyone. Practices will have specific skill sets that they’re looking for that will naturally weed out some of the candidates. If they’re looking for five-plus years of experience, for example, I tend to not send over newer graduates.
“But, really, my philosophy is to show them as many candidates as I can and let them make that ultimate decision whether it’s a perfect candidate for them. I will qualify all the candidates, confirm licenses, make sure I speak to them first so that I can pass along any additional information that a resume or a CV might not show them. But I do try to pass along as many resumes and candidates as possible, so that they can have an initial call and see if it’s going to work for them.”
Why do you think a dental associateship is a good idea for a younger doctor?
“An associate position is an important step on a doctor’s path to ownership. Especially for the younger doctors coming out of schools or residency programs, they typically don’t have any experience in a real life practice yet. Even in a short-term associate position, they can gain that valuable experience. It will help them learn from the good and the bad of running a practice.
“It’s also a chance for them to build up their hand speed and their procedure knowledge. A lot of associate positions include invaluable mentorship from the owner doctors or the more experienced associate doctors. I think it’s a great step on their path to then transition into ownership.”
What advice would you give someone looking for an associate position?
“I definitely recommend they spend some time making sure they have an easy-to-read, complete, and updated resume or CV. So, if I come across a candidate that’s excellent to talk to, but doesn’t have a complete CV, I make recommendations and assist them in getting that complete, to make sure that I have that information to pass along to our practices.
“And then I advise them to be as open as they can be to different types of associate positions and to different locations. It definitely increases the pool of opportunities for them.
“Also, I tell them to be prepared to be interviewed by an owner-doctor, but also to be prepared to interview them, to have a list of questions to ask them, to make sure that the practice they’re having these initial calls with is going to be a good fit for them.”
How does a doctor know when their practice is ready to add a dental associate?
“Oftentimes it’s a struggle to find the exact right time to add an associate. But we do have a couple of commonly looked at aspects, the first one being space. Is there enough space at the practice to facilitate adding a doctor? Are there enough operatories where a doctor has enough space to come in and work?
“We also look at scheduling. How far out is the practice booking their patients? Because there is a big difference between patients being booked out two weeks versus eight weeks. And the farther out you are booking patients, the higher the risk that the practice could be losing some of those patients.
“And financially, we need to make sure that the practice can handle supporting an additional dentist. Keeping in mind that as an associate dentist ramps up and adjusts to the practice, there is often a dip in the income during that initial time frame. So we just make sure that the practice is aware of that. There are a lot of different things to consider, and these are just a few aspects that we will start with when evaluating our practices.”
How can a practice benefit from a dental associate?
“There are a lot of different benefits a great associate can add to a practice. Definitely, it can bolster collections. Active patient counts can go up as you are bringing in new patients. It certainly offers some great scheduling flexibility. The owner-doctor might be able to take some additional time off and have a lot less stress when dealing with scheduling coverage issues. There are a lot of different reasons that it’s a healthy choice for a practice to add an associate, when they’re ready and when it’s the right time.”
How should a practice prepare for a new associate?
“When you know it’s the right time and are getting prepared for a dentist to join your team, there are a couple of things to consider. We still want to make sure that you’re prepared and have enough space at your practice to add that new dentist. But also, we need the staff and the owner-doctor, to be familiar with technology that the younger dentists are now being trained on.”
“A practice should understand what associates are looking for in the current marketplace and compare that to what benefits or perks you’re willing to offer. We recommend a practice be prepared to offer a fair employment agreement, making sure that you have dental attorneys review and approve those agreements, and, definitely, to make sure that you’re not rushing into anything that will result in turnover in the long run.
“And from the associate perspective, they should also be interviewing those practices that they’re talking with. Make sure it’s a good fit for you, for your personality, for your views of dentistry. And make sure you have a dental attorney as well that is taking a look at those agreements that are coming in, reviewing them for you, paying attention to any non-compete clauses or other clauses that are often in an employment agreement today.”
Why do you think DDSmatch is the right company for practices and associates?
“DDSmatch is a forward-thinking company. We are really trying to build our relationships in the dental community and focus a team on associate placements.
“We encourage associates to take advantage of the engine behind DDSmatch.com. Go and create a free profile, enter in your information, it can be as detailed as you want it to be. Then you have that engine working for you, trying to continually match what you’re looking for with opportunities that are out there. You’re going to get alerts every time there are new practices looking for someone in your area, with your skill set, and you’re that much further along in that process and ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
“For a practice that’s looking for an associate, we have specialized teams devoted to our associate placements. We have the DDSmatch.com engine working behind us. We’ve got an entire database of associates that they can look through, view their skills, view the areas that they’re looking in, and get a headstart. They can send requests for information on all of those candidates, and we can really fast-track them to getting a great associate to join their team.
“I think we have a team of great individuals at DDSmatch, where our primary goal is our client’s best interests. I think the company has a proven record of success of being attentive to our client’s goals. It’s just great to be a part of that.”