For newly graduated doctors at the start of their careers, the prospect of landing the perfect job out of school can be exciting and nerve-racking. Keeping a level head when evaluating opportunities is crucial, but it’s hard to do if you don’t know anything about how to properly assess whether an opportunity is right for you. And one quickly discovers that dental school, in spite of its hefty price tag, does very little to prepare students for the other side of dentistry — the business side. And most seasoned dentists will agree, if they could share a few of the unforeseen lessons learned with new doctors, these five insights into the business side of dentistry would top the list.
1. Do your due diligence in finding the right practice to join.
Just as the doctors in an established practice will want to know as much as possible about their candidates, young dentists must do the same, carefully vetting all the dentists in a practice early in the process. If a dentist is in too big of a hurry to hire or doesn’t bother to delve deeply into a prospect’s experience or qualifications, it might be a red flag indicating a poorly run practice. Personality testing is becoming an increasing common practice to help determine culture fit. Take advantage of it if you have the opportunity. The bottom line — as a young doctor avoid the temptation to hastily take any offer that comes along, but aim to be a knowledgeable job seeker.
2. Understand what makes a good practice “go?”
Understanding how a good practice should operate is another often overlooked area in dental school education. To get a good handle on this, new graduates should ask questions that help clarify how they will fit in for example:
- Will their addition to the team mean new services not currently offered? If so, does that mean the new dentist will have a lot of work they don’t enjoy doing because the other dentist doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to do that procedure?
- What are the mission and goals of the doctor? Does the doctor want a partner, or only want one practice, or do they want to expand? And what will that mean for a young doctor’s professional growth.
- What is the doctor’s philosophy of care? Is it aligned with your own?
Interviewing the staff is also advisable – their perspective will be different and could provide valuable insight not likely to be shared by the doctor. New dentists can’t be shy about asking questions, but they also have to be armed with the right information to help direct their evaluation.
3. Know the role community demographics play in the success or failure of a practice.
New doctors who are unsure about a practice’s potential for growth can learn a great deal by simply researching the area within a seven-mile radius. Is this community made up of young families, or retirees? Are other businesses moving in or out? More importantly, what does the competitive landscape look like for the practice? How many new patients come in each month? Answers to these questions are important factors in assessing whether a practice will thrive long term.
4. Learn how dentists are paid.
This can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be if dental students are educated about how dentists within a practice earn their money. Inexperienced dentists may not know what to ask in regard to how pay is calculated. Be prepared to get paid a W-2 salary for at least one year, but use this time to get a feel for a practice before you enter an “unhappy marriage.” During this “trial” period, involve yourself in understanding how the business side of the practice is run — what the direct expenses look like, the fixed costs, overall profit margin, and how day-to-day operations work. Not only will you be a more savvy business person, but the other doctors will see that the success of the practice is important to you. You’ll also need to have a plan in place for your personal finances. You will likely be making significantly more money than you ever have and as a young doctor; make sure you’re managing it efficiently for growth and tax purposes.
5. Always get everything in writing.
Doctors who are just getting started often don’t understand how critical written agreements are to protecting one’s self should a dispute arise. A good practice will have all of these issues properly assigned within their contracts. Retaining an attorney and hiring a CPA to review any such agreements is also good advice for young doctors to follow.
Bryant Truitt, Founder and CEO of Brytan & Associates, co-contributed this article. (210) 241-6329