Is Your Associate a Horror Story?

Have you ever heard some horror stories about dentists who hire associates?

There’s one where a group hires an associate to push out a partner. The oldest partner of the group has a problem with alcohol, and the younger members of the partnership hire an associate to push out the older doc. It didn’t end well.

Then there’s the one where the associate starts referring out everything. A young associate is hired into a practice but is scared of their own shadow. (Joking, of course, but you get the drift!) This associate starts referring out extractions, root canals, and other cases to other dental offices, even though the senior doctor could have handled those cases easily.

Then there’s this excerpt from the Associate Dentist Manual:

In this story, we see a senior doctor who was not prepared for an associate and did not want to coach the associate to succeed.

Dr. Kennedy was a younger doctor who was eager to settle in a small town in Indiana. This town had about 15,000 people and four dental offices, each about 35 minutes south of Indianapolis. The owner dentist of one of these practices was Dr. Jason, who graduated about 20 years ago and had been the town sweetheart since his award-winning days on the high school basketball team.

Unfortunately, Dr. Jason had started to get worn down by dentistry and was just not in a good mood most days. His back and neck hurt a lot, which contributed to his poor attitude. His leadership skills were also lacking, which led the office to be run, for all practical purposes, by his assistant.

This story begins at the end. On her last day, Dr. Kennedy didn’t say a single word to the other doctor, said her goodbyes to the team, and left. The team was heartbroken, as they had grown to love Dr. Kennedy. However, the grumpy owner doctor was holed up in his office, wondering how he would handle the practice going forward.

As they approached the end of their working relationship, the atmosphere in the office was pretty toxic. The senior doctor, who was 100% owner, would bring in the associate and berate her for not doing something correctly. When the associate worked harder to better adhere to this doctor’s standards, he would then berate her for taking too long.

After 11 months, the associate decided that she’d had enough and looked for jobs elsewhere. While she could have conceivably joined or purchased another office in town, she had signed a contract with a 15-mile non-compete. This negated any possibility of staying in town unless she wanted to fight with the owner doctor about the legality of the non-compete clause. She ended up leaving the city and having to sell the house she purchased just a year prior.

At the point of leaving, it dawned on her that she had missed a few red flags. One was that the owner previously had a partner in the practice, but she could not contact the prior partner during the interview process. She should have done more research into how the partnership dissolved and whether there was any backstory to this case. It turns out, Dr. Jason had driven the partner out with his poor attitude as well. If Dr. Kennedy had checked in on this story, then perhaps this unfortunate situation could have been avoided.

Another red flag is that Dr. Jason also wouldn’t allow the new associate into the practice to meet any of the team prior to her first day. This seems very odd, as there are usually not many good reasons for barring a visit to the office. This is understandable in the case where one associate is replacing another. However, if the spot was empty to begin with, it doesn’t make much sense. We assume this implies the team would have tipped the new doctor off to the toxicity in the office and the real reasons why there was an open doctor spot.

In all, this was a situation bound to fail from the beginning. Dr. Jason is not likely to find a new associate anytime soon. His demeanor towards the associate, as seen by the team, was horrible and toxic. Due to this fact, no future associate that does any research on the practice will find it appealing. This failure of the associateship might mean that Dr. Jason’s practice now shrinks to a permanent single-doctor practice. This also means that there may be lay-offs in Dr. Jason’s future, as the team shrinks to only handle the workload and patients of one doctor. If Dr. Jason really wants to have another doctor in the office, the most likely scenario is that he will have to sell to a DSO and then step back from all ownership responsibilities. Unfortunately, life doesn’t look easy for this owner after the failed associateship with Dr. Kennedy.

Stories like this are everywhere in the dental associate world, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With the proper planning and execution, the dental associate world can be fruitful and smooth. This doesn’t come with luck; it really only comes through proper planning.

The best resources to help you through this process of hiring and onboarding an associate are all found in the Associate Dentist Manual. This book is packed full of powerful resources that will help you get the best people into your practice, including letters to help recruitment, special hiring tests, and a complete onboarding system to make sure they understand how your practice works.

Together with these resources, let’s make horror stories like this a thing of the past!

Be well and do well,
Addison Killeen

P.S. Are you looking for a community that supports you through the challenges of hiring and managing associates? Join Dental Success Network today! Our members benefit from exclusive access to a community of over 1,000 dentists, real-time feedback on clinical and business cases, and a wealth of educational resources. Don’t face these challenges alone – become a part of DSN and transform your practice for the better.

Does Your Assistant Call in Sick Everyday?

Have you had that experience where your assistant keeps calling in sick and ruining what you presumed would be a great clinical day? This person is a good assistant—when they show up. However, they’re just unreliable coming to work.

When this happens, you’ve got two items on your “to-do” list:

  1. Hold them accountable. This means having the uncomfortable conversation that tells them how their actions are affecting the office. They might not realize how bad it is for you to run while down an assistant. Telling them this isn’t as much of a punishment as it is an awareness item. You need to make them aware of how this looks to you, how this looks to their fellow team members, and how this looks from an overall employer perspective. If they continue down this path, then punishment might be needed, and that might be in the form of not working for you anymore.
  2. Plan for the future. This means a future beyond this assistant—where you have to rehire for their position. In order to hopefully not have these problems again, you’ll want to have a killer onboarding system. This system will include a clear job description, a list of what this person does every day, as well as what general expectations you have of this person as an employee. When these are all set out clearly, it will make your life easier.

How do I create all these onboarding systems? Good thing is that we’ve solved that problem for you. After years of refinement in our own offices, Dr. Chris Green and I came up with The Complete Dental Assistant Manual. This includes hundreds of pages of documents that will give you the start, as well as the guidance to set these up in a way that will lead to success. Check out the book HERE.

As with everything, doing these two things sounds easy, but they’re going to take a lot of work. It will not happen overnight, and it’s going to come with some hiccups. However, with the right resources and a supportive community like the Dental Success Network, the job will get done, and your dental practice will be better off because of it.

Be well and do well,
Addison Killeen

P.S. If you’re looking for support in building robust systems and accountability structures in your practice, join Dental Success Network. With our comprehensive resources and a community of like-minded professionals, you’ll find the guidance and tools you need to succeed. Join DSN today and take your practice to the next level!

What Does Your 12 O’Clock Look Like?

If you’re anything like me, during the design phase of the office build-out, you analyzed every 12 o’clock picture you could get your hands on in order to optimize it for your own needs. You also likely have never seen the PERFECT design—I know I haven’t. My design is pretty darn solid (for me), but still not perfect. Meanwhile, your equipment rep is pushing a prefabricated, overpriced 12 o’clock cabinet that looks nice and has some of the features you want, but really doesn’t cover all of your bases.

So what do you do?

My approach is to use the following checklist to consider all of the items that you need to house and plan the location for. Sit down with a cabinet maker or your architect, some pictures of 12 o’clock designs you like, and sketch up the plans (don’t forget to include any necessary specs from your equipment rep). They can likely build what you want for a very fair price. While the prefabricated units cost $4,000+, you will easily be able to design one for $1,000-2,000.


12 o’clock considerations

(For operatory equipment considerations see separate video)

Check out this link for a video explanation on operatory IT & 12 o’clock setups plus a list of items to purchase for your operatory.

Until Next Time,
Dr. Chris Green
Co-Founder, The Practice Launchpad
Dental Success Blackbelt Coach

P.S. If you found this checklist helpful and want more insights, resources, and support for your dental practice, consider joining Dental Success Network (DSN). As a DSN member, you’ll gain access to a vibrant community of over 1,000 dentists, exclusive vendor discounts, and a wealth of continuing education opportunities. Join us today and elevate your practice to new heights!

Are We on a Rocketship or a School Bus?

An interesting thing happens when you realize your dental practice isn’t a rocket ship and can’t grow another 100%. I’m nearing that stage now. We probably need another doctor in the next few months (maybe even a few months ago), and we’re nearing maximum capacity. What does it feel like when the rocket ship phase of the roller coaster of hyper-growth evens out, and the doors to the company are still open, minus the fun, crazy numbers where each month we set a record of production, income, and new patients?

For those of you who have hit that, it’s an important juncture. You’ve built something that many people are envious of, but sometimes that loss of hyper-growth comes with a change (possibly even a sadness). There’s still growth, but it’s slower. There’s still a lot of patient care going on, but without the dopamine hit of green in every column. Heck, at some point, there will even be some months that are lower.

Such a place is an interesting achievement for the entrepreneur and poses many questions: Are we ready to continue on the path from this place we’ve arrived? Do we long for something more rollercoaster-y? Do we buy a second practice, or third? Does this settling of the mind and numbers lead to a ‘dark energy,’ as Alastair Macdonald would say?

Work-life at this stage is like the “stirring the oatmeal” phase in a relationship. When the thrill and excitement settle into the steady, sustainable moments, they are simply different from when things may have started. Perhaps we find ourselves bored on Friday at 4 pm. Perhaps we take a sabbatical and find that the executive team has everything taken care of in our absence. (All marks of a thriving team who knows their roles – including the leader.)

That can be a beautiful ride to take. But now the question becomes, what is the next thing we tackle? Do we want more growth and say, “Let’s move the practice to a new location, build out a new clinic, and go for a ‘Mega Practice’?” Or do we say, “I want to drop all insurances and go strictly fee for service?” Each path has its positives and negatives. Whatever your path, I hope you can find something that still lights a fire in your soul to keep chasing it.

Be well and do well,
Addison Killeen

P.S. If you’re looking for guidance and a community of like-minded dental practice owners, consider joining Dental Success Network. DSN offers a wealth of resources, including continuing education, and a vibrant community to help you navigate the complexities of practice ownership. Join us today and take your practice to the next level!

Is a Personal Assistant the Missing Link in Your Practice?

In the dynamic world of dental practice ownership, where efficiency and time management are paramount, the role of a personal assistant (PA) becomes increasingly essential. As dentists, the focus is often on patient care and clinical excellence, which are undoubtedly crucial. However, administrative tasks, practice management, and personal commitments also demand attention, which can overwhelm even the most seasoned professionals. This is where a personal assistant steps in, not just to alleviate the load but to enhance practice efficiency and personal productivity.

Enhancing Practice Efficiency
A personal assistant takes charge of scheduling, managing communications, and handling day-to-day administrative tasks that, although necessary, can be time-consuming. For a dentist, this means more time dedicated to patient care and less time fretting over logistics. This delegation not only streamlines operations but also significantly reduces stress, allowing dentists to focus on what they do best—dentistry.

Cultivating a Professional Image
Professionalism in dentistry isn’t just about how you handle your clinical duties but also how you manage your practice. A personal assistant helps in setting up and maintaining a professional image. They ensure that all the interactions you have with vendors, community leaders, and all other non-patient PR are handled with the utmost professionalism and efficiency. This consistency builds trust and satisfaction within your community, contributing to a stronger, more reliable brand.

Optimizing Time Management
Effective time management is critical in any business ownership. A personal assistant helps in optimizing the dentist’s calendar outside of the clinical schedule  to ensure that each day is as productive as possible without being overwhelming. A PA can also assist with personal time management, helping balance between professional and personal life, thus enhancing overall satisfaction and reducing burnout.

Supporting Business Growth
A personal assistant can play a pivotal role in the business aspect of a dental practice. They can help with marketing efforts, patient education materials, and even manage social media platforms. By doing so, they contribute directly to the practice’s growth and outreach efforts, freeing up the dentist to focus on clinical skills and services expansion.

For a full list of ways a PA can help in your office download my “What Can I Delegate?” document HERE.

If the idea of a PA might be something your office could use, but you are overwhelmed at the idea of finding one, reply to this email and we’ll connect on how I might be able to help or shoot me a message in Workplace!

See you on the inside,

Ashlee Hirschfeld
Chief Operations Officer
GSD Queen
Dental Success Network

P.S. Looking for resources to make your practice more efficient? Join Dental Success Network for our “Hiring and Training the Right Personal Assistant” course and get the tools you need to hire the right PA for you!

What Phase of Post-Grad Education Are You In?

Many clinicians of all experience levels are lured into learning more clinical techniques to grow their practices. I would submit that earning a fellowship in communication and case presentation should be accomplished before any effort is made to learn more clinically. Without the ability to lead a patient to a “yes,” all clinical skill sets are irrelevant. I advocate starting the journey of an associate with communication and case presentation training.

After a dentist has garnered the ability to learn how to effectively communicate with patients and team members, then and only then would I begin to pour into my associate from a clinical perspective.

I believe that accumulating repetitions of anything in life leads to higher proficiency. We also know that busy associates are happy associates. I encourage leaders to foster education in clinical areas that will keep an associate busy and that they will have ample opportunities to practice. I like to avoid the trap of learning enticing skill sets like implants, clear aligners, and botox.

Instead, I focus on the low-hanging fruit. In other words, what are they referring out the most? Typically, this includes surgical extractions and molar endo. I combine education in suturing, socket grafting, and PRF into this first phase of clinical advancement. I also focus on proficiency in any and all endo in phase one.
Phase two would consist of training in more advanced skill sets like cosmetics, Invisalign, and airway. More leadership and communication.

Phase three education would be simple implant placement, IV sedation, and finally extraction of impacted third molars. Always leadership and communication.
Phase four training consists of advanced surgical training, for instance, immediately placed implants, vertical and horizontal sinus augmentation, and full arch implant surgery. You could also go with advanced orthodontics, advanced occlusion, full mouth rehab, soft tissue surgeries, etc. Focus on specialty-level procedures and, yep, you guessed it—leadership and communication.

This is quite a bit of learning, and I do provide a CE allowance for associates. I also will make contractual agreements with associates to pay for CE above their allowance. This can be made in a number of ways. Just to name a few, you could loan the associate the money and deduct a portion of each paycheck to repay the loan. You could pay for a portion of the course and forgive the loan in exchange for some amount of completed procedures learned from the course. You could give a scholarship that is tied to work contract time commitment. There are many, many ways to approach this. The point I want to make is that if you have an associate that you want to retain, helping them with CE is a great way to create a long-lasting relationship.

Until next time,

Dr. Ben Kacos
Dental Success Blackbelt Coach
Owner, Peak Dental Resources

On June 13th, I am hosting the PDR Associate and Leadership Workshop designed to guide dental professionals in enhancing their practices through strategic associate integration and leadership development. Participants will learn to evaluate the right time to bring on an associate, employ effective marketing and search strategies to find the right candidate, and prepare their teams and systems for seamless integration. The workshop will cover associate calibration and training, with insights into a clinical curriculum that led to significant production success. Furthermore, strategies for nurturing new patient flow, developing accountability, and fostering leadership within associates will be explored, ensuring a comprehensive approach to practice growth and management.

Are You Delegating Effectively?

If we are growing and more responsibilities are stacking on our plate, we often ponder which tasks we can delegate—and which ones will be harder than others. In times like these, we need to engage in this exercise: Importance vs. Readiness.

What is the Importance vs. Readiness Exercise?

Delegation is one of the most essential skills to master as a leader and one of the more challenging. Done well, it fundamentally impacts the culture, execution, and the bottom line. It creates inclusive leaders, flexible businesses, and fosters leadership in every seat within the organization.

When we try to delegate, sometimes it goes well; other times, it fails miserably. When it fails, we become hesitant to delegate again.

Delegation is not just about tossing “the thing that needs to get done” to someone. The art of delegation involves setting the task up for success from the outset. Am I assigning this to the right person? What is their readiness? How do we discuss their readiness? What context do they need to succeed?

The relational skills needed to lead well converge around delegation because it inherently involves a cooperative, relationship-driven dynamic. As leaders, we must not only assess our own capacity for delegation but also evaluate others’ capacity, and then invest in the relationships that will uphold the commitment.

Trust is a huge factor in this relationship. We need to trust that team members will understand the task at a high level and be able to execute it. If we lack the relational capacity to trust them and the trust that they will get the job done, then we will probably delegate poorly, or not at all.

Delegation done well also creates a record and a map for accountability, which can be used for managing up as well as managing your direct reports. In other words: if your leader is too busy to do this with you, you can ask for it. Not only does this foster leadership in every seat of the organization, but the process of documentation can be very supportive for everyone, including those with neurodivergence.

How to Use the Importance vs. Readiness Exercise

To start this exercise, think of a task or project that you want to delegate. Identify a person who might be able to complete the work. Use the graph below to plot them on the grid.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you hand off the work to them?
  • What context will you provide?
  • What expectations will you set?
  • What questions will you ask them to understand their readiness?
  • When will you check in and provide feedback?
  • How frequently?
  • How will you connect it to their goals and motivations?

If done well, these questions will lead you to change your style and content of how you delegate these tasks. Hopefully, these changes will improve your outcomes, making delegation easier for you in your dental practice.

Be well and do well,

Addison Killeen

P.S. Ready to take your dental practice to the next level? Join the Dental Success Network today and connect with like-minded professionals who are transforming the way they do business.

Are You Balancing Everything?

Sometimes there’s a ton of stuff on our plates. Recently for me, it’s been quite overwhelming. I lost my personal assistant about 2 months ago, and I’m trying to simplify my life to work without that person. This is all while publishing the 7th DSN Manual, collaborating on the next one with Dr. Chris Green, keeping up with podcasts and recordings, preparing for the Dental Success Summit in San Antonio, Texas, in a few weeks, and doing the Hard 75 with a small group of us from DSI. Eating healthy has probably saved me, but my sleep is getting pinched from both directions, averaging between 5 to 6 hours a night.

However, throughout all this, it’s taught me that every waking moment, I need to be focused on the most important tasks for the day. While every person differs, the following strategies can help you stay mentally focused:

And then finally, find a two-for-one deal on your time. If you’re trying to be productive as well as get a workout in, how about doing both at the same time? Maybe go for a walk with that team member as you discuss ways to improve in the practice. Maybe eat lunch while also holding a meeting with your hygiene department to go over systemized treatment planning. Doing two activities at once to make the most of your time.

Overall, productivity isn’t about always being at work, or working on being productive, it’s about being productive during the times of the day when you need to, so that when you turn it off, whether that’s home with the kids, or home with your spouse, you can be fully present for when you get to focus on the other areas of your life that aren’t considered “working.”

I hope that’s something to think about and helps make you more productive (only when you need to be)!

Be well and do well,

Addison Killeen

P.S. If you’re looking for more ways to streamline your practice and enhance your productivity, consider joining Dental Success Network. We offer tools, resources, and a vibrant community of like-minded professionals dedicated to success in the dental industry. Join us today and start transforming your practice!

Are You Having the Best One-on-Ones?

Have you ever considered the power of a well-conducted one-on-one meeting within your dental practice? Beyond the day-to-day whirlwind of patient care, administrative duties, and clinical management, the quiet yet impactful one-on-one meeting can be a transformative tool for both practice leaders and their teams.

One-on-one meetings, when executed with intention and focus, offer a unique opportunity for direct feedback, personal development, and mutual understanding. These meetings are the perfect setting to align goals, clarify expectations, and discuss career aspirations. But, their true power lies in listening—actively and empathetically. It’s where leaders can truly understand what motivates their team members, what concerns they might have, and how best to support their growth.

The foundation of these meetings is trust and open communication. By fostering an environment where team members feel valued and heard, you’re not just addressing immediate concerns or objectives; you’re cultivating a culture that prioritizes personal development and job satisfaction. This approach not only enhances team morale but can significantly impact patient care and the overall success of the practice.

So, how can you make the most of these meetings? Preparation is key. Before each meeting, both parties should reflect on discussion points, achievements, and areas for improvement. Setting a clear agenda ensures that time is spent efficiently and that both participants are engaged in the conversation. Remember, the goal is not just to review performance but to inspire, motivate, and understand.

Incorporating effective one-on-one meetings into your practice management strategy can lead to profound changes. Not only do they provide clarity and direction for your team members, but they also offer leaders valuable insights into their practice’s operations and culture. By embracing this simple yet effective tool, you’re investing in the future of your practice and the well-being of your team.

Be well and do well,
Dr. Addison Killeen

P.S. Remember, the strength of our practice lies in the unity and growth of our team. If you’re looking to elevate your dental practice to new heights, consider joining the Dental Success Network. Our community is dedicated to providing the resources, support, and guidance needed to thrive in today’s competitive dental landscape. Join us and let’s achieve success together.

Are You Turning Challenges into Opportunities?

In the ever-evolving landscape of dentistry, the line between success and stagnation often rests on our ability to embrace change, tackle challenges head-on, and transform them into opportunities. Drawing on the insights from the wealth of wisdom encapsulated in DSN, this is your roadmap to not just navigate the tumultuous waters of dental practice but to sail through them triumphantly.

Leadership does not come from having all the answers; it emerges from asking the right questions and empowering those around you to find innovative solutions. The true power of leadership lies in inquiry and fostering a culture where every team member feels valued and heard. Leaders don’t have all the answers all the time.

Inspired by Sir Dave Brailsford’s philosophy of the “aggregation of marginal gains,” we are reminded that excellence in our dental practices comes from the relentless pursuit of incremental improvements across all facets of our operations. From enhancing the patient experience to refining our clinical skills and everything in between, the path to unparalleled success is paved with the bricks of small, continuous improvements.

The journey to dental success is not just about financial metrics; it’s about building a practice that resonates with core values and a purpose that goes beyond profitability. Millennials and Gen Z, are not just looking for a job; they’re seeking a mission to contribute to, a purpose that aligns with their own values. By infusing your practice with clear, compelling core values and a purpose that transcends the day-to-day, you attract not only patients but also a team that is committed, motivated, and aligned with your vision.

At the heart of the Dental Success Network’s philosophy is the belief in the power of community and the unending pursuit of knowledge. Whether it’s navigating the challenges of hiring in a tough job market, managing the “whirlwind” of daily operations, or implementing systems to enhance profitability, the shared experiences and collective wisdom of the DSN community serve as a beacon, guiding us towards our goals.

As we reflect on the lessons shared by Dr. Mark Costes and I, we’re reminded that the essence of dental success lies in leadership, continuous improvement, core values, purpose, and community. By embracing these principles, we transform our practices into thriving, purpose-driven enterprises that not only achieve financial success but also make a lasting impact on the lives of our patients and our team.

Remember, the journey to dental success is ongoing, filled with both challenges and opportunities. But with the right mindset, strategies, and support from a community like DSN, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Stay inspired, stay motivated, and let’s continue to elevate the standard of dental excellence, together.

Be well and do well,
Addison Killeen

P.S. Not a member of Dental Success Network yet? Join us today and be a part of a community that’s reshaping the future of dentistry. With access to exclusive resources, continuous education, and a network of supportive professionals, your pathway to dental success is clearer than ever.