Taking the guesswork out of hiring an associate

April 8, 2010

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Dr. Jones’ new associate, Dr. X, seemed the perfect match. Or was he?

Soon after Dr. X began his new duties, Dr. Jones’ staff became unhappy and sullen. Team members left suddenly and office morale plummeted. Other team members seemed like they were ready to depart as well. Dr. Jones could not figure out what was going wrong.

As it turned out, the problem was Dr. X. Although an excellent doctor, Dr. X’s leadership skills were abysmal — something Dr. Jones didn’t realize. While Dr. X had always been very personable and professional with Dr. Jones, his personality changed when he dealt with staff members. He became demanding, impatient, and impolite. He succeeded in alienating the entire staff.

Before things deteriorated further, Dr. Jones had to decide how to rectify the situation.

The right way to select an associate

Dr. Jones’ choices were not easy. He could let Dr. X go, or he could try to help him gain a better understanding of the value of team members and how to manage them. However, there was no guarantee of success. The best solution was to pick the right associate in the first place. The process of selecting an associate is a delicate one, and it is a choice the dentist and the staff have to live with. At all times, they should proceed with caution.

To get a sense of how they might work together, the doctor and associate need to have a series of in-depth meetings that examine such topics as treatment philosophies and methods of leadership. This is where Dr. X’s poor leadership skills would have been identified.

Additionally, meeting spouses (if there are spouses) can contribute to a better understanding of each individual. In this process, issues are often identified that may seem minor but can have significant ramifications. For example, an associate may move from an area to join a practice, only to find that the spouse doesn’t like the new location. The result can be the associate not staying with the practice. This is more than simply unfortunate. A practice stands to lose productivity if an associate leaves prematurely. It is better to make the right decision about an associate the first time around.


If you have analyzed your situation and determined that you need an associate, be sure the waters are safe before you dive in. A careful vetting process can save a practice from making any costly mistakes when bringing on an associate. Relying on expert advisors can help in this process.

Dental Economics readers are entitled to receive a 50% courtesy on a Levin Group Total Success Practice Potential Analysis™, an in-office analysis and report of your unique situation conducted by a Levin Practice Senior Practice Analyst. To schedule the next available appointment, call (888) 973-0000 and mention “Dental Economics” or email [email protected] with “Dental Economics” in the subject line. For more information on Levin Group programs and seminars, go to www.levingroupgp.com.