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A new graduating class of about 6,000 wannabe dentists will hit the market by June. All of them will be looking to make a name and a career in a profession that pays well as a result of the time and money they invested in an education. There will be some naturals that just seem to have the “it” factor and they will do incredibly well. The other 96% of the graduates will have a rude awakening as reality settles in. Each graduate will soon learn that a degree from a great school will in no way guarantee their success in the real world of competition, limited patients, changing demographics, lowered demand for Dentistry, and diminishing healthcare dollars spent. They will also soon learn that the ideal places to live are the worst places to practice. Part of their “real world” education will be finding out how few independent practices of dentistry are poised to be able to take on an associate (less than 10%). In fact, the statistics show that the average associate will last about 15 months before seeking employment in another office. If they were lucky enough to fall in love, they will almost always do it with another student with an equally increasing debt from school. As we say in Texas: Like two ticks and no dog.

So here I am in San Francisco (speaking at the dental school) and here is what the class of 2017 wants to know:

1. How do I find and secure a great associate or partnership position before graduation? The Truth: It is not going to happen unless you are going back home to work with a relative. If you do have a commitment from a doctor to hire you sight unseen and untested, he/she will be the exact doctor that is clueless about how to bring on a new doctor and make the situation work. We old horses are into instant gratification when it comes to employees. We aren’t interested unless you can start Monday. We needed someone 2 weeks ago. Statistically, 90% plus of these new graduates will end up working for a large corporation. With a huge debt and looming repayments starting within 6 months of graduation, it is crunch time.

2. What are the most common business mistakes the new grads make when starting out? This one will take a long while to explain to them. They need to understand the business of Dentistry from the aspect of what a “good” practice looks like. Fall short of this and the associateship will always fail. If you were to go back and read the various articles I have written on benchmarks, overhead, and the Super General Dental Practice, you would know exactly where you should be in order to add another doctor.
a. The practice needs to be doing at least $120,000 a month with a 100% collection rate.
b. The practice will need to have an overhead of 63% or less.
c. The practice will need to have at least twice the number of hygiene hours as doctor hours and they need to be producing about 33% of the total office production with a recall rate of 70% minimum.
d. The practice needs to be attracting 50-75 new patients per month with over 50% of them coming in from direct referrals and have the knowledge, money, and energy to double that when the new doctor comes on board.
e. The culture of the office must demand a Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, Staff Owned philosophy where the doctor actively involves the staff in every aspect of bringing the associate on board.

3. Is an AEGD/GPR needed to succeed in today’s job market? This may sound a little like I am trying to avoid answering the question, but the answer is yes and no. The biggest problem with these programs is that once they are completed, you have still not practiced on real patients in a real employment or ownership environment. You still have not gotten any closer to learning the business side of Dentistry, and are probably going to come out thinking that you will be the “one” doctor who can succeed at being a “cosmeticaestheticsedationTMJImplantboutique” pseudo specialist in a general practice jungle of managed care and educated consumers. On the plus side, you will have been exposed to higher-level services and gotten a few more of each procedure under your belt. With the right doctor under the right circumstances this program would work. The problem is that the same person would be the one that really doesn’t need to take that extra year or so. They would have figured it out and take a couple of courses while building an exceptional practice. Existing practices that can support the addition of a new doctor don’t want them desiring to do the implants and cosmetic dentistry. They need someone to compliment the practice, expand the range of patients, and add services to a wider range of ages for the practice to grow.

The sad truth about the bottom line to success in Dentistry is that it is never just one thing. The doctor that saves their money, grows their practice, and balances their business/family life are the ones with great “people skills” and an internal motivation fueled by persistence. Everything else can and will be learned if you have these fundamental traits.

Now for those doctors that are contemplating hiring an associate/partner, it might help you to consider reading my book on transitions: THE ROADMAP To Wealth and Security. You can find it here: www.summitpracticesolutions/products

This is how you Summit.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]
972-523-4660 cell

PS – For those of you who haven’t yet read The Super General Dental Practice, it can be purchased from the same link above. Or if you’d like to download the FREE pdf version, just go to: