In my unique position designing, planning, and building dental offices, I get to see dentists starting a new chapter in their practices. Sometimes they are opening their doors for the first time. At other times, they are expanding and growing into a new space.
Something that I always make a point to bring up when I’m working with a client is the idea of expansion and building an office that will last throughout their entire career.
YOU Plus One
We’ve done a number of projects where it’s been a dentist plus an associate, working together to build a practice that will suit them both for their professional lives until retirement.
In these cases we always try to balance their needs and preferences and work to make an office they both will feel comfortable and happy in.
But our more common client model is a senior doctor building an office that has the capacity for an associate but before he has actually gained a partner in his practice. Typically that happens a few years after moving into the new building. They first need to get their productivity up, establish clients, and build their presence in that location – and then they can bring in someone new.
So in the planning phase we make sure that either:
the building itself is big enough to accommodate two doctors
the building is designed in such a way as to allow for additions and new construction later when another doctor is eventually hired.
Many times we will build an office with, say, 8 treatment rooms. But the doctor will only equip four or five initially. When they are ready to hire another dentist, they will equip the other operatories.
In other cases, the dentist will choose to have fewer treatment rooms built but with space on the property that makes it easy to add on two or three more to meet the demands of two busy dentists. We can design it in such a way as to make the plumbing, electrical, and building itself work smoothly through the transition to a larger space.
Whatever Works For You
If the thought of bringing an associate is even a remote possibility, we want to make sure we account for that in the planning phases. The last thing we want to do is design an office that will only ever work well for one doctor and limit anyone’s practice or potential. Because then, if they decide to bring an associate on later, they’ll have to vacate and find another space.
Of course, some doctors know their temperament or personality and they know they’ll never want an associate. That’s fine, too. We’ll design to that level.
But if you are interested in a possible future associate then we want to plan for that.
How Do You Know?
That information is all well and good, but how can you really know if you are ready for an associate or if you would fit that business model well?
Here are some common signs to watch for:
Number of Patients
Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb for when you need a second dentist is when you have more than 2,000 patients in a general practice. This might be a little different for you if you specialize in an area of dentistry that can have fewer or greater numbers in the same time period. For example, many pediatric dentists can have more patients than a general dentist, sometimes as much as twice as many.
If you are booked between 4 and 6 weeks in advance then you probably could use an associate dentist. While it’s good to be busy, you also want to have a little flexibility for your patients. Allowing emergencies and reschedules is part of the business and if you are too busy to allow for those options, then you may risk losing business.
This one might not be thought about as often but taking on an associate dentist is a major change for the staff in your practice. If they are so busy that they can barely manage your schedule, then they might be wary of adding another person to the mix.
Hiring an associate might also mean that you need another receptionist or hygienist as well, depending on any changes in workload and office hours, etc. So make sure your staff is on board with the change before you make your decision.
What I mean by capacity is simply that you have the physical space, the client numbers, and the financial power to take on an associate. Many dentists think that with a new associate, it will generate passive income and not much else will change, but that’s simply isn’t true.
A new associate will need an income taken from the practice’s profit. Overhead will increase. The additional operatories will need to be equipped as well as stocking them. And before you build up enough clients for both of you, some of your clients will go to the associate.
There is a lot to consider in expanding your practice, but it can be the best move you’ll ever make – if you do it right!
So don’t leave your future to chance. Call or come in and talk to me and we will make sure that all future possibilities are accounted for.