Associate dentists are the single most important key factor for dentist/business owners to transition from self-employment to a true business that can scale. As this process happens, the business owner should shift into the role of building and inspiring the teams that keep everything rolling. Associate dentists need to step up and become the backbone of patient retention and acquisition.

Sometimes, the misunderstanding is that there is friction between the principal dentist and any associates. In actual fact, the interests of the associate and the owner should be very closely aligned. What they both want is for the associate to be busy and productive. We want the associate to do work they enjoy and that brings them professional fulfillment and satisfaction. Ultimately, we want everyone to make a living from this arrangement. As a business owner, you’ve always got to think about the bottom line – and the associate has to make a living too.

It’s really important to come into this partnership knowing that both the business owner and associate want the same things. As an associate, it’s important for you to recognize that not only should your focus be on giving the best care to your patients possible but helping the owner build an outstanding practice.

So how can you wow the principal dentist, boost retention, and establish yourself as a rainmaker?

Come to the practice with batteries included.

What does this mean? It means you show up every day with enthusiasm – you’re happy to be productive, you’re leading the way, you’re engaged, and you care about the patients’ wellbeing as well as the success of the practice.

Think about it this way: the owner is going to try to hand things to you. What they really want is for you to take it and run with it. Your ideas are valuable too. Especially coming into a practice with fresh eyes, you might have insights that can boost patient retention, improve care, and offer new opportunities to recruit new patient into the fold. Speaking of…

Learn to build your book.

I’m going into this assuming that you’re already well on your way to clinical competence (which is absolutely critical to your success as a dentist). But stepping back and speaking to the nature of the business, there are two key skills associates should develop that will thrill owners.

First up: learn to build your book.

Yes, when you first start out, you will be handed your fair share of new patients that come through the practice. That’s great. As an associate, it’s your responsibility to step up, take that goodwill, and turn these new patients into lifelong recruits. Encourage these new patients to generate referrals. Start growing your appointment book.

This is something that takes time to develop, but it is a skill that you can master. Not only is this going to impress the owner, but it’s also a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Want to step out on your own? You have already mastered one of the most important skills you need to launch your own successful practice.

Learn to build revenue.

The second core competency to focus on is building the ability to generate revenue for a practice. Again, this is something that will serve you well in your current practice and any future career paths. It is well worth the time it takes to learn and will repay you in spades.

If you find yourself thinking, “But Jesse, I just want to take care of my patients. I don’t care about the money,” I understand. Generating revenue isn’t antithetical to good patient care. In fact, they go hand in hand.

It’s important to make sure that everyone is winning. For the practice, that might be booking a crown procedure. For the patient, that might be getting a crown to avoid more painful (and expensive) procedures if the crack in their molar propagates.

Now there are only three ways to increase revenue no matter what kind of business you’re in:

  • See more patients (or customers).
  • Increase the frequency of the transaction.
  • Increase the size of the transaction.

Learning to think in these categories and making small changes to improve each will help create big results. Small hinges do indeed swing big doors. Seeing more patients plays back into learning to build your book.

But perhaps, the easiest way to ensure that you’re boosting revenue is to be alert to opportunities. Read the notes and pay attention to what the patient has talked about in the past. For example, if there’s a note that the patient asked about veneers, bring it up. This is a great chance to offer the patient great care, but to also get another procedure on the books. Go through the notes and bring those opportunities to the surface.

Final Words…

If I had to sum this up into one piece of advice for new associates: it’s be engaged and interested and responsible for your own learning. Be prepared to do things that might seem out of the box if they’ll improve your skills. I spent some time in my 20’s working as a door-to-door salesman because I wanted to learn to sell. I was a Navy dentist at the time. After work, I’d hang up my uniform and head out. Did I ever learn to sell. Those lessons still support me now as a dental practice owner and businessman.

Learning how to be a good business person as well as a dentist in these early years is the key to a successful career now and in the future.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready …. here are 4 ways I can help you grow your dental practice:

  1. Grab a free chapter from my book “Retention – How to Plug the #1 Profit Leak in Your Dental Practice”The book is the definitive guide to patient retention and how to use internal marketing to grow your practice – Click Here
  2.  Join the Savvy Dentist community and connect with dentists who are scaling their practice tooIt’s our Facebook group where clever dentists learn to become commercially smart so that they have more patients, more profit and less stress. – Click Here
  3. Attend a Practice Max Intensive live event

    Our 2-day immersive events provide access to the latest entrepreneurial thinking and actionable strategies to drive your practice forward. You’ll leave with a game plan to take your results to the next level. If you’d like to join us, just send me a message with the word “Event and I’ll get you all the details!  – Click here

4. Work with me and my team privately

If you’d like to work directly with me and my team to take your profit from 6 figures to 7 figures …. just send me a message with the word “Private”… tell me a little about your practice and what you would like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details! – Click here