How to Successfully Avoid the Pitfalls of Dental Practice Partnerships

Overwhelmed man ducking

As a dental practice management consultant, our team at Practice Analytics understand that dental partnerships differ from the classic organizational flow chart of most businesses. While most standard businesses have a clear hierarchy that runs from the CEO at top, who has the final word on executive decisions, on down, group dental practices often have multiple dentists who all equally share in ownership. This, in effect, creates a multiple CEO scenario where competing voices all have equal claim at saying what should happen in a practice.

In our role as a dental practice management consultant, we’ve seen this type of structure typically play out in one of two ways. Either these types of partnerships foster a remarkably supportive environment where everyone’s opinion is heard and valued, or they create a gridlocked bureaucracy where nothing ever seems to get done. What seems to separate one type of practice from the other are the conditions dentists create that either allow their partnership to thrive or become choked with indecision.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common partnership pitfalls that cause group dental practices to suffer and what you can do to avoid them.

Not Taking the Time to Communicate

We all know the demands running a success dental practice place on a dentist’s time. The time required to hire and train staff, manage overhead, and stock equipment and supplies all take away from the most valuable part of a dentist’s day – the time spent chairside with patients. It can then be difficult to find the time needed to properly communicate with the other partners in a group dental practice, especially if each dentist works out of a separate office.

Not taking the time to schedule meetings can lead to decisions being made at the last minute, or, even more troubling, not at all. A partnership where everyone has a say only works when each voice sings in harmony with the rest. That’s why it’s so important to hold regular partner meetings. Whether your group dental practice involves two or 20 dentists, scheduling regular meetings is an essential part of any successfully functioning partnership.

Letting Individual Goals Take Precedence Over the Group

Let’s take a look at this common scenario – A senior dentist who has partnered with a younger dentist try to find common ground when it comes to investing in the practice long term. The senior partner may want to avoid any long-term investment as he or she continues to save money heading towards retirement. Conversely, a younger dentist may see such an investment as vital to helping the practice continue to grow in the future. This is the type of scenario that typically leads to no decision being made, as each side rightfully has concerns about giving in to the other.

Partners must always place the practice’s interest before their own. When dentists find themselves at a loggerhead, the should consider seeking the input of an outside consultant. By accepting expert advice, it becomes easier to make a decision that’s based on what’s best for the practice, not your individual goals.

Not Staying Honest

In many business relationships, partners often feel they must keep their honest feelings a secret least they cause hurt feelings that can permanently damage a partnership. However, partners have a responsibility to openly share with each other. The most successful partnerships are those where each member is given the freedom to talk about anything as long as it’s in the spirit of self-improvement. A partnership where each member fails to be honest with the other is one that will eventually cause the practice to operate well below its potential.

The partnership behind a group dental practice should always be about promoting the best interests of the practice itself, not it’s individual partners. Meet regularly, avoid the trappings of self-interest, and always make honesty the best policy. That’s the way to enjoy success.