Do you mistreat your associates?


Sometimes when I visit practices or talk to associates I find them resentful of their situation. They often feel unappreciated, exploited even, and rarely do they feel listened to. It’s almost impossible to build success when these tensions exist in a practice.

I sometimes write articles complaining about the behaviours and skill sets of associates. However, I’m a firm believer in the adage that you reap what you sow and so I want to explore why (some) principals don’t take better care of their associates.

This week I have been running a workshop for post graduate dental students who are about to become specialists and who want to know how to succeed in the world of UK dental practice. My role is to help them adapt their skills to a commercial environment and hang onto their ambition and their integrity.

My advice for them is to choose the practices they work in extremely carefully so they truly have an opportunity to deliver their new skill set and get well rewarded for the last three years of training.

These folk are like thoroughbred racehorses but, sadly, are unlikely to get the same care lavished on them. I don’t think many skilled associates feel the love from their principals. The nature of some dental practices is that clinicians rarely see each other during a working day and are unlikely to make additional time to meet and talk.

Let me put good associates into context. Imagine that I could introduce you to someone who would:

  1. Add £175k – £300K/year to your practice gross (and to your practice value)
  2. Contribute between £100k and £210k/year to your practice costs
  3. Add 5 – 15 per cent of their gross to your yearly profits
  4. Look after 1,000 – 2,000 patients
  5. Contribute their energy and ideas to your practice
  6. Add services to your practice that you can’t or don’t want to deliver
  7. Keep the practice open and thriving when you are away/on a course/ill

Now, I agree that many associates fall short of some or all of these seven contributors but all associates have the potential to deliver these benefits to your practice and whether they do or not is down to both of you! Just like the thoroughbred, their form depends on careful care and nurturing.

And they need these from you:

  1. A fair contract and plenty of patients
  2. The best kit including digital radiographs, intraoral camera, a chair-side screen, a consultation area
  3. Possibly a treatment plan coordinator (if they can deliver £2,000 treatment plans and upwards)
  4. A great nurse and a dedicated receptionist
  5. Mentoring, coaching, support
  6. Regular meetings and appraisals with their principal and the whole team
  7. Help with developing new skills including commercial/business/selling/communication skills

Whenever both sets of attributes are missing, both sides will feel aggrieved, and the first step to sorting this situation out is a good conversation, some feedback on how the associate is doing and perhaps a 360 degree appraisal.

If you would like some help bringing your associates on side, please contact me for a chat:

  2. 07770 430576
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