Hey there…I wanted to take a second and have a friendly chat with you. I know that the vast majority of you are looking join a practice as an Associate to gain experience, learn the ropes, etc. Please let me briefly tell you my story, connect how it relates to your situation and then explain how I believe I can help you.
I graduated from college summa cum laude with a BS in Accounting and Business Management. I thought I was pretty smart. I went to work for Coopers & Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouseCoopers), which at the time was one of the “Big 8” Accounting Firms. The first three months were the stupidest I’ve ever felt in my life – to this day. While I knew the terminology and the classroom basics of auditing and accounting, doing so in the real world with actual clients who didn’t really want you there, with heavy pressure, unrealistic but immovable deadlines, and the expectation of excellent performance – that was a different story.
Most new hires in these Firms knew going in that the overtime would be brutal but the mentality was “survive for three years to meet my CPA license requirement and then bolt”. As such, many were not fully invested in making the most of what was an amazing learning experience. As such, they missed out and it impacted their careers and future earnings.
How does this apply to you? Most Associates I talk to just want to get hired (often anywhere just to get in the door) in order to get experience, improve your techniques to get fast, learn the business – all as a stepping stone to buying or starting your own practice in about three years. That’s fine. My concern is that most go into an Associateship with just short term goals, to put their time in, knowing that historically, 80% of Associateships don’t work out as hoped or promised – so why bother to fully invest in themselves before they join and while they are there?
I believe that this is unhealthy, short-sighted and dangerous. I recommend that you approach this decision assuming you’re going to be at that Practice forever. You never know what’s going to happen in life…you may meet someone and want to stay in the area, or a dentist could retire early, etc.
As such, take the time to do your due diligence on the practices you are considering.
Why would you not want to join a Practice without checking to ensure that the promises they are making have a great chance of happening? Why not ensure it makes sense for the long term?
At minimum, you should know what the market is like and if it will it support growth…specifically, for starters, what’s the competition (Practitioner to Population Ratios) in your market (defined as what is the drive time a new patient would reasonably come to you) and what are the demographics (both now and 5 year forecast data so you can see growth estimates).
I ended up staying at Coopers and Lybrand for 7 years. That’s because I went into it full bore until I was called in a different direction. Once it became clear that being a partner did not make sense for me and my family, I got out – but it jump-started my career exponentially.
Prospective Associates who ignore proper due diligence face a high risk of disappointment.
Here are some due diligence questions I would ask any practice you are considering joining:
Location Strategy Questions to Ask:
- Do you have a strategic plan? How recent? Is it written?
- What were your original growth goals and how have you done? What are current plans?
- How has your revenue & profitability growth been since 2007?
- Do you have a building/office strategy? Own/Lease? What is term?
- Do you know beyond a doubt that your practice in the best location?
- How saturated is the market? Who and where are the competitors located?
- When is the last time you ran a complete demographic profile on this location? What were the results?
- Have you recently considered whether to expand, remodel, invest in new equipment, add an office, buy a practice or move?
- Is there new growth happening with areas for new patients or do we have to cannibalize from other practices?
- How far will a new patient drive to come to you?
- Are you satisfied or frustrated with your marketing ROI?
- What percentage of revenues do you spend on marketing?
- Do you know where your existing patients really are? What is the drive time dispersal of the existing patients?
- Are there underserved areas within a 90 minute drive time where it might make sense to open another office, maybe for me to run?
- Do you have an Exit Strategy? When do you want to retire?
- Can I open up new patient growth opportunities, without alienating the current patient base?
- If I buy or join this practice, how do I know it has a great chance to grow?
All the Best,
Dave is a Location Strategy Expert, and currently serves as the President & CEO of REALscore, which offers Location Strategy reports and services for the Dental Industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here!