The Associate Decision - 3 Questions to Ask

By Roger P. Levin, DDS


Most practice owners think about bringing on an associate at one time or another. This is a major decision that will impact team dynamics, doctor income, customer service, referring doctor relations, and potentially the ownership structure of the practice. If you’re at a point in your career when you’re thinking about hiring an associate, here are three questions to ask:

  1. Are You Super-Busy or do You Just Have Bad Systems?

    Many mid-career orthodontists consider bringing on an associate as a way to alleviate the pressure of owning a successful practice. They feel overwhelmed. They can’t keep up with the demands of seeing so many patients. They believe hiring an associate is the best solution for their situation. Sometimes, they’re right; but many times, they’re wrong. That’s because they have older, inefficient systems that slow down everything while raising stress levels.

    So, before you say “yes” to an associate, make sure your systems are operating at an optimal level. Once you do that, you may not need an associate. Or if you still do, that individual will be in an even better position to succeed due to new, high-powered systems.

  1. Is There Room for Two Doctors in One Practice?

    You’re used to running the show, calling the shots, and being the sole authority on all clinical matters. But now you’ve got to share center stage with another doctor. Sure, you’re the practice owner and senior orthodontist, but the associate is also an orthodontist and he or she may have a different treatment, knowledge of newer clinical techniques, or just a different approach.

    You don’t want someone who’s going to be your doppelganger, but you have to make sure you’re mentally and psychologically ready to share the main stage. Do extensive interviews about the candidate’s treatment philosophy. Conduct a formal and an informal interview. You want to be absolutely sure that you and the other doctor will be compatible with one another.
  1. What's the Ultimate Purpose for Hiring an Associate?

    What’s your game plan? Are you thinking about expanding your current office, adding more practices, retiring, cutting back, or looking for some help? Whatever your reason, realize that hiring an associate is only one part of your plan. You want to have your practice in the best possible shape from an organizational and management standpoint before bringing on another orthodontist.


Hiring an associate is something you don’t want to rush into. Use these three questions to help you make the best decision for your practice.

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