Five Ways to be the Best Associate

Author: Dustin Turnipseed DMD

Dustin Turnipseed DMD

01.17.18 / 9:32 am

When I was in dental school, we were told tons of scary stats about being associates and the number of associateships that don’t pan out. It can be easy to get overwhelmed. Below are five recommendations that will pay dividends for your entire career and allow you to get the most out of any job.

1. Communicate—Everyone has heard the saying communication is key; this is my number one tip for a reason. Every patient should be educated on his or her situation. They did not go to dental school, so you need to talk on a level that they understand and inform them on what has, is, and could happen. I make sure that every patient understands that my job is to educate them on what they have and/or need; and if they want, I will fix it. Most of those patients appreciate the fact that I say, “these are your options and needs, what do YOU want?” I typically do not have to sell treatment once I have educated the patient and sold the patient on me as a provider.

2. Sell yourself—Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” An easy way to jumpstart the process of showing you care is simply using the patient’s name. Some patients want a dentist that will talk to them about life. Some want one that will coddle them. Others want you to be candid and joking. It is important that every patient has a personal experience and feels special. Service with a smile is just the beginning of a very pivotal aspect of your career.

3. Win the staff—Throughout a long career, you will encounter all sorts of staff. They will all need to see you as a leader and respect you. Lead by example to win the staff’s respect and loyalty and show them appreciation. The staff will generally work harder and go out of their way to make your life easier once they believe in you. And if all else fails, just buy them food. Who doesn’t love free food?

4. Set goals—Being goal oriented is a natural incentive for both you and the staff, which allows you to lead with metrics. Once you have a goal in mind, print it out, share it with the staff, and make sure everyone is on the same page. This is another area where you as a leader must set the example and show them the standard. If they see you sell a nightguard or braces, they will understand that you are making the effort to help them get their incentives. This “team mentality” lights a fire under them when they see you working to help them.

5. Be present—It is hard to be a leader from behind your office doors. Being there for your staff is a simple way to show that you care about the practice in general. It starts with showing up on time and staying until close. A simple rule to help you would be never asking your staff to do something you would not do. Make sure that they know you are always on their side and willing to step in and stand up for them if needed.

A happy staff leads to a happy life. If you set clear goals, communicate them, and then execute them in front of your staff, all while serving the patients, then your office and associateship will prosper. It will be a fun and professional environment. Everyone will be more productive and happier once you set the foundation with these five tips.


Dustin Turnipseed DMD

3 responses to “Five Ways to be the Best Associate”

  1. left one dental office because staff did not know how to deal with patients. Have been with present office over 10 years because of friendly, professional behavior

  2. Unfortuantely, many dentists view associateship simply as a job where they are paid a salary and clock in and out. In this day of internet and corporate dentistry, it is important to learn as much as you can during your associateship. Use this time to excel at doing veneers, implants, invisalign, etc. Also focus on learning how to treatment plan and explain treatments to patients to increase case acceptance. Learn about how to operate a successful practice. Finally, educate yourself on how to successfully market your practice. From Google ads and Yelp, to Flyers and Valpak, there is a world of info when it comes to marketing your practice. And it is much easier to learn these things as an associate rather than when you have your own practice!

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