How do you know who the right doctor is to bring into your practice? The practice in which you’ve put countless hours building into a successful business. The practice you want to see thrive for years to come. Choosing an associate or partner to come along side you – someone who shares your vision and is committed to the same goals – is more than a notion. Much like with marriage, the vetting process shouldn’t be taken lightly, and even when you’ve found the right person, the real work has only just begun. This also applies to your dental practice where picking the wrong person can lead to overwhelming stress, discord in your office, and can ultimately cost you tens of thousands of dollars. For these reasons, choosing the right doctor to join your dental practice is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your career and you’ll want to get it right the first time.
CWA client Dr. Ren Egbert has practiced dentistry for more than 40 years. In 1997, he founded Select Professionals, a company that specializes in the selection and evaluation of candidates for professional associate and associate/partnership positions. His practice, Milford Dental Excellence, is located in Milford, Ohio. Here he shares from personal experience what you need to know about selecting the right doctor for your practice.
When discussing the subject of an associate or partner with colleagues the responses I typically hear are, “I had a failed one before.” “It’s too stressful.” “I’m not partner material.”, and “I know too many failures.” I certainly understand this. I’ve experienced failed partnerships, but what I learned is that making it work boils down to two things: great transition plans and great doctor selection.
I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be difficult, stressful, or risky. The challenge, however, comes in finding the right doctor. It is not unlike finding the right marriage partner, except that there’s no pillow talk to smooth the way.
I currently have a partner and new associate and have never been happier or more successful in my dental career. Yet for me it started out with two failed associateships. They were costly and gut-wrenching. I was unhappy and stressed, my team was unhappy and stressed, my patients were confused and unhappy over inconsistent care. However, I was committed to transitioning and growing my business. I needed a new strategy.
Let’s first review my initial steps in finding my associate. I believe these steps (and missteps) are typical for most dentists who want to add a doctor to their practice:
First, I started my search well ahead of my need to have a doctor in place. I cast a wide net. I contacted dental schools, supply companies, reps. I reached out to friends and colleagues. I put ads in dental bulletins, local and state. I contacted seniors and juniors at the dental schools. I tried to find as many candidates as I could.
Second, I realized I needed to sell potential candidates on myself, my practice, and my community. I created an information packet about my community to highlight the benefits of living in the area such as the schools, restaurants, recreation, etc. With so much competition for quality individuals, it can comes down to the attractiveness of your location. Doctors who create successful, growing practices need associates with a like mindset and work ethic – this can be a real challenge.
Third, when I found a prospect with potential, I spent time with them, in and outside the practice. If married, I wanted to understand the dynamics of their relationship and their interests. I prepared my questions ahead and asked open-ended questions. I didn’t want to dominate the conversation and I paid attention to what questions they asked me. Were they at ease? Did they send a thank-you note? Did they stay in contact? Were they eager? Was I comfortable with them?
But this is where I stopped with my two failed associates. I liked them, I felt it could work, I hired them. Those relationships did not work out. Both failed within one to two years of their hiring. I needed a new strategy.
The relationship was of the highest priority to me. I needed someone equally hungry for success, yet was also caring, friendly, honest and fair. There was nothing in dentistry to help me, so in 1997, I founded Select Professionals, Inc.
Select Professionals starts where basic vetting ends and puts focus on a thorough evaluation of the working relationship between our client and the candidate. What we’ve found is that the person you interview is not always the same person who shows up to work. Moving from an employee to an owner brings out different personality traits. In my years of helping clients find a doctor for their practice, I’ve seen this happen many times over and from it, developed a two-phase selection process that dramatically increases the chances of creating a successful partnership.
- We conduct an in-depth screening of the candidate and client. I worked with our business psychologist to develop screening tools that facilitate conversations between the client and their candidate that get them to a true understanding of goals and expectations. This phase also includes a criminal and credit background check. In addition to these steps, I highly-recommend calling professional and personal references to get a sense of the candidate from the perspective of someone who has worked closely with him or her, as well as discussing salary and benefits to see if there is common ground contractually. Most candidates are deep in debt and fearful of taking on more debt. Also, consider connecting your candidate with other doctors who have successfully become a partner. They would benefit from talking with them.
- If we agree we still have a strong candidate, additional screening is conducted by our psychologist, Dr. Judy Pendergrass. From there, we schedule a face-to-face interview with both client and candidate. Upon completion we give our recommendation. We follow-up with a report that outlines the strengths and developmental needs in the relationship, and I coach the client on managing the relationship and mentoring the associate.
Today, I have a partner of ten plus years. We also have a new associate. I love going to work. I truly enjoy my relationship with both of them. We are aligned in the future path for our practice. When I hired them I was totally confident that I had made an excellent choice using the Select Professionals process and time has proven that so. From day one I knew I could introduce them to my patients and friends as “my partner.”
Ren Egbert, D.D.S.
Select Professionals Inc.