It doesn’t matter if you are the owner looking for another doctor or the dentist looking for a job or partnership, we need to make sure that the time spent, along with the benchmarks we have spoken about, are already in play before we begin looking for that job or doctor. In looking, we want to make sure that both participants in this transition are educated about the process as well as each having the tools needed to make an educated choice in the timing and the person or office we choose.
Now that your office is running smoothly, the overhead is under control, and the staff is involved in the decision-making, you are ready for your trial partner. If you are the doctor looking for a job, you have done due diligence on the demographics as well as the office’s reviews. So, where do find each other?
I will give you a list, but first let’s identify what we are looking for. I would have to say that out of a class of 100 seniors (6,800 graduates every year), there are only about 10% who will make the grade for a good prospect. You remember dental school and how few of the students really had any business sense or sufficient clinical competence to graduate and begin to practice. I would also look at graduates that have had other careers and therefore are older as a good prospect. Even look for doctors whose parents own a business so that you know that the applicant understands economic shifts and how that can affect a business and budget at home. They know what it takes to run a business. By far the most important trait will be their people skills. We’ll spend more time on this later. Just realize that simply because they fog a mirror when placed under their noses, does not mean they are good prospects. Most of the doctors you will interview will not be worth the time. You will notice that I never hinted that great grades make great candidates. In fact, I have found this to be just the opposite. Certainly, grades were important in school. But once you are out, you will find that your personality, people skills, commitment to a lifetime learning perspective, and self-motivation will carry you to a higher level of success.
State Dental Associations or Physician Seeker Listings. For a fee you can have your opportunity listed in their national database and publications. Many of the State Board sites are in states that have an “open records” policy. You can just go to the board’s website and look at the name and address of licensed dentists in the state, when their licenses were issued (this should give you an approximate age if it matters), and if any board actions have taken place. Since this is formatted as a spreadsheet, you could isolate better candidates by approximate age, years in practice, male/female, or current location and send them a personal letter explaining your offer and opportunities. It can even work in reverse if you are looking for a job. You can use the same data and target doctors of a certain age and location with a personal letter. Your target age would be mid-forties to about sixty. You never know who might be considering retirement, associate positions, or a sale.
Ads in Dental Publications. State publications as well as the American Dental Students Association publication work well and are inexpensive. The way the ad is written is more important than what you are selling. Take the time to write, re-write and review anything you send out. Keep in mind that the ad is not the place to tell everything about the job. Rather, it should be designed to elicit a call from an interesting applicant. If you are the “seeker” of a job, make sure the CV is complete, contains a photo (unlike “The Voice”, most doctors want to see what they vote on before casting a vote). If you are using this strategy to find a job, the same specifics are in play.
Sample of ad:
In your lifetime, you’ll spend more hours with your coworkers than you will with your significant other. The right coworkers should feel like family. Your work environment impacts how you show up where it counts the most: at home.
We make sure that those hours at work are as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. No nights, no weekends, no emergencies. Most importantly: no negativity for you to carry back home. We provide a positive atmosphere, with owners who seek and receive input from our team. We entrust you to innovate with a great team – we don’t micromanage. For the right candidate, we’d love nothing more than to invest in your growth.
Don’t take it from me (I’m just the boss), take it from one of our team leads: “Even a bad day with this crew, beats the best day anywhere else I have ever worked.”
- Open to coaching, mentorship, and performance management support (we’ve got your back)
- Engaged in patient flow and patient experience
- Excellent people and communication skills
- Sound decision-making skills, and contributing back to our community
- Ability to multi-task and take initiative
- Ability to drive a team and hold people accountable
- Strong attention to detail
If you are sending a letter for a potential job, be sure and include a photo (include your family if there is one), and help the potential owner hear that you are moving back to their area, interested in all types of dentistry, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to make this job a long-term commitment.
Before placing any great ad, make sure you can meet the expectations created by that ad. Most offices are not competitive in the job market due to pay, benefits, poor culture, not busy enough, and/or not poised for growth for adding another doctor.
Dental Schools: Most schools have electronic bulletin boards that allow you to post your ad. I would also look at post-graduate programs in General Practice. There is no fee for this, and you would be wise to describe the opportunity by keeping in mind what a young doctor is concerned about. Be sure and mention the pluses of your practice, staff, and community, the amount of potential compensation for the first year, the fact that a partnership is available, and the fact that you are a growing great practice with lots of patients.
Dental supply reps: These folks know a lot of associates that are not happy where they are and want a change. This is great because they have some experience and can tell you what they did not like in the previous office. They will also be excited about the possibility for ownership or a better job in your office. Because many offices don’t even have a contract with their associates, they could even bring some patients with them. The best way to do this is to offer a “bounty” or signing bonus of $2,000 plus for anyone you hire. Make it worth their time to really look and push candidates your way.
Large corporate practices: These are great places to troll for a trial partner. They have been so disenfranchised; they will think you walk on water. They have been cutting preps with the same bur from day one, never had the same assistant, and work 12 hours a day. Just walk in and grab each of the non-owner doctor’s business cards and send them a letter.
Consider a local dentist who is tired of trying to manage his/her own practice: This will work sometimes. This would not be my first choice, but it is worth considering. Oftentimes dentistry, and especially the business end of it, does not play to the strengths of an otherwise great clinical doctor. Your expertise will complement their lack of interest in the business end of things. Just remember that small, poorly producing practices are not successful for a reason. It may be something that you do not want to become a party to. Perform due diligence and use the background check to be sure that there is nothing waiting to bite you.
Consultants: Often time management consultants have doctors calling them for advice or information on a particular area. Offer to pay them something for any leads. The good thing about a consultant is that they are interested in both the seller and buyer. You will probably get a more balanced approach to the transition. They will be interested not just in the money from a sale, but the lifetime benefit of helping both sides with a successful transition.
Practice Broker: Again, I would not go here first. They are going to charge you a 10% fee to do the transition. You can do anything they do and do it better for less. This would be the last resort. Brokers will simply “list” a practice, advertise the practice or job, and attempt to locate someone willing to buy the practice. Money is the driving force of the deal. Their only concern in the sale of a practice is if a buyer displays an ability to pay for the practice or obtain financing, then that is the right buyer for the deal. Practice sales, not suitability, are a broker’s primary concern. Brokers represent only the interest of the seller, and typically care nothing about the purchaser or the actual long-term success of the transaction.
“Money-Under-Management” Companies: Without mentioning names, these are the guys who are helping you invest your hard-earned money. They do a good job of this, sometimes, but when it comes to sales and transitions, their integrity and attention is for a sale. It is common practice for them to charge at least 10% of the sales price to supply basic form contracts. They also will suggest financial institutions and even broker your insurance (life and disability) for your buy/sell agreements. What they do not tell you is that they receive a 2-3% marketing fee from the bank for the loan initiation, upwards of 50% of the commissions on the insurance policies and write the contracts to be overly generous to the young doctor. I assume they figure this is the new kid on the block, and a potential new lifetime money-under-management client. Additionally, they will want all of the sales proceeds in order to manage this fund for your retirement. I had a client who had already started down this road. I asked him to just straight out ask about the commission and banking/insurance “kickbacks” or any other fee that they might get if the sale went through. They dropped him as a client and would not return his phone calls. Keep your eyes open, and your hand on your wallet. When asked by a dentist if his investment councilor from one of the top 2 firms that specialize in managing money for dentists was lying to him, I said “Were his lips moving?” The only thing they are interested in is the money. I guess the only good thing about them is that you know how they will approach every transaction: From a profit perspective: WIIFM. This is not always bad, but I would be careful in the selection of mentors in the sale of a practice.
Doctor headhunters: These are people who go through hundreds of applicants to meet your criteria. They generally don’t require an up-front fee but do charge anywhere from $10,000-$20,000 or more for a successful placement. You should consider this because you have nothing to lose if they do not find the right person. Do keep in mind that many of the applicants from this source will be foreign students where English may be a second or third language. This may or may not influence their integration into your practice but be aware that it may take many candidates to find the right doctor to invite into your practice.
Direct Mail: This has worked great for us. Any dentist can be tracked and categorized by age and location. These lists are often available through your state dental boards. They charge a small fee, but you are given the address where their license is renewed and many young doctors working as associates use their home address as opposed to the address of the office they happen to be working at. As a demographic, I would want a group of doctors who have been out of school from 1-5 years. This should get most of the good prospects. The second thing you will need to do is craft a letter to send. The letter should be sent in a plain envelope with the recipient’s name and address and the return address handwritten. I would also include “Address Correction Requested” just under where the stamp goes. This will ensure that if this is not a good address, the Post Office will return it to you with the correct address noted so that you can follow up. People open their mail over the round file. We want to get their attention and have them actually read the letter. The first sentence and the “PS” will always be looked at. In addition to the letter, I always included a page of photos of our office. It just puts a picture to your words.
Sample Letter to Junior Doctors:
Dear Dr. Junior:
Imagine owning your own practice and partnering with a senior doctor who has a multi-million-dollar track record. We will mentor you, carry the note so you do not have to come up with financing, and partner with you to ensure your practice success.
For the last 30 years, we have built a super successful practice in “Anytown”, Texas. Our office emphasizes comprehensive general family dentistry with almost every cosmetic, restorative, and surgical procedure done in office. We have recently begun the building of a new facility that will triple the square footage on about 1 acre and improve our location, visibility, expanded hours, and efficiency. We are currently looking for the right doctor to join us in taking our practice to the next level.
“Anytown” has all the advantages of small-town living, with none of the negatives of larger cities: Unlimited growth potential, low overhead and cost of living, great schools, and safe neighborhoods. We’re looking for a young doctor who loves dentistry and people. We have hundreds of dedicated patients and a well-trained team ready to help you join one of the most successful practices in Texas.
If you are ready to own your own practice and become part of our Team, give me a call at 123-456-7890, or email me at [email protected] and let’s explore how I can help bring you to “Anytown”.
Really G. Dentist, DDS
P.S. If you have a classmate or friend that might be interested in this great opportunity, pass this letter along and have them contact me. We look forward to speaking with you.
NOTE: In addition to the letter, I always included a page with photographs of the office. I just laid out 7-8 photos and copied them on to regular paper: Just a collage of what the practice looks like. From a scientific point of view the photos with the hook of ownership activates both sides of their brain. This will guarantee a 46% better response on your outreach. We always hand address the envelope, put address correction requested under where the stamp goes to ensure return with a good address, and we try to make the envelope lumpy (put a magnet, piece of candy, or something to pique their curiosity).
At some point you will begin taking responses in the form of emails, phone calls and letters. Each candidate will be sending resumes and curricula vitae along with inquiries for the next step. I always like to organize my information on each candidate in a Prospect Profile Information file. It contains the following information:
Prospect Profile Information Sheet:
- Contact information: Phones and email
- Monetary needs
- Practice experience
- Job history (This would include dental and non-dental work.)
- Personal data references
- Special interests
- Family details
- During the interview process be sure and take a photo. This always helped the staff and me to keep applicants straight.
Facebook: social media is one more area to add to your search grid. There are several groups and sites that work diligently to help the owner doctor and the perspective young job searcher get together. I highly recommend plugging into these groups and consider using their contacts to locate that job or doctor.
When looking at applicants it is important to understand that a serious dentist considering a job or even an eventual partnership is one who is ready to follow through. Many recent graduates are justifiably fearful of striking out on their own. They want their own practice but don’t really have the administrative, let alone the technical skills, required. An important fact is that prior to the year 2000, almost 96% of dental graduates ended up being owners of a practice. In the last 15 years this has drastically changed with only 32 percent of females and 67% of males moving into ownership. This is driven by many factors, but for the first time there is an unlimited number of “employee” doctors looking for jobs, with many never wanting ownership. If you are considering hiring an associate with the possibility of a long-term relationship or partnership, understand the conundrum of high debt, aversion to ownership, and generational proclivities towards reduced work schedules. A young professional with large school debt is not a good financial risk (unless they have financial backing) if either party is considering a partnership or ownership in any fashion. For the owner doctors looking at walking away, I would never carry the note. For those who are looking for a partner and are willing to stay around for the duration, carrying the note can be the perfect solution. It is now normal to see school debt in the range of $350,000-$500,000 plus.
Keep in mind that the details that we have been discussing over numerous articles affect both parties. The young doctor looking for a job or long-term strategy must take the time to find and process as much data about the practice as possible. Data alone will not help you without understanding the significance of this data and the ripple affect long term if you violate the tenets of a transition.
Hopefully the new doctor as well as the owner doctor both see the perspectives as well as conditions from both sides of the formula. It takes both an educated young doctor and owner doctor, with a commitment to doing whatever it takes to bring a successful transition into play.
We have only scratched the surface so make sure you go back an reread the previous articles and take to heart the benchmarks and goals of a successful transition.
Michael Abernathy, DDS