how to be a good associate (and reap the benefits!)

I was a terrible Associate. For 10 years during the 1980’s, I was purely interested in my own agenda, I complained about my principals, I came and went when it suited me and when I set up my own practices, I stole their patients.  For all of this, I’m truly sorry.

Looking back, I wish I’d understood both sides of the argument, I would have been a better Associate.

As a practice Principal, I soon realised that good associates were the key to my success. Back then, there was little choice when it came to recruiting Associates, there were far too few dentists in the UK to meet the demand and Associates could write their own renumeration package and contract (if they could be bothered to have one).  Now the game has changed and in every area of the UK there are many, many applicants for every Associate Job. Principals can choose Associates who are more than willing and flexible to run their Principal’s agenda, as well as their own.

So, Associate skills and behaviours matter, of course they do. Principals now have many applicants to choose from, so if you are an Associate looking to hang onto your job, or looking for a great new position, here are some suggestions that may help you be the best associate and truly enjoy your job.

If you are a Principal, or a Practice Manager, you might want to discuss some of my preferred Associate behaviours with your Associates.  If you’re an Associate and you disagree with my list, I’d love to hear from you!

So, here’s my list of 40 ‘Good Associate’ behaviours:

Contracts, Money and Hours:
1. Ask for 50% (if you can always gross more than £1500/day
2. Agree to 45% if you can’t
3. Agree to 40% if you gross less than £1000/day
4. Be prepared to work Evenings and Saturdays
5. Sign a contract that is fair to you both
6. Work the number of days you have contracted to work in a year

Clinical Behaviour:
7. Do the right thing for the patients
8. Know how to diagnose what’s really going on in your patients mouths
9. Offer your patients all the clinical options and recommend the option that is best for them, regardless of your assumptions about their willingness to be treated
10. When you can, do more than one unit per appointment
11. Be a painless dentist
12. Work fast
13. Run on time
14. Keep a day book
15. Gross £1000 (or more) every day
16. Hit your UDA Targets
17. Don’t discount the fees
18. Don’t waste the materials

Practice Behaviour:
19. Turn up early for work and review your day list with your support team
20. Don’t move patients around if you have a cancellation and go home early
21. Grow your book by asking patients to recommend you and the practice to their friends
22. Come to all the meetings you are invited to, contribute and accept that you are not getting paid for attending
23. Plan your holidays a year in advance and tell the practice manager
24. Don’t complain about your Principal to the staff

Professional Behaviour:
25. Don’t turn up for work in jeans and unshaven, unless that’s part of the practice brand
26. If you set up your own practice don’t steal your Principal’s patients, it’s not your goodwill
27. Respect the barring out clause in your contract, one day you might be a Principal and need it to be respected
28. Don’t seduce the nurses….
29. Always be courteous
30. Always use positive conversation
31. Don’t gossip about the patients or the team
32. Be a team player, do go to the team evenings out
33. Don’t charge the patients for everything
34. Be willing to learn about dentistry and business from your Principal
35. Be willing to mentor the staff
36. Choose great courses to go on
37. Say thank you a lot
38. Be willing to phone and write to your patients
39. Refer to the practice Hygienists without expecting a financial kick back
40. Be willing to muck in when there’s a problem.

What’s in it for you, the Associate?
Well, put simply a well paid, (over £100k/year if you meet your targets) very enjoyable, worthwhile job in a great profession which is filled with opportunity!

If your’e looking for the perfect Associate….
If you’re looking for the perfect job….
If you’re looking to perfect the way your practice runs and performs….

Call me to discuss on 07770 430576

Or email me on

Best Wishes


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