When an associate dentist has questions, where do you find help?

By Bruce Bryen, CPA, CVA

After graduating from dental school and starting to work as an associate, life then occurs. The work at the practice chosen for the beginning of the career is just not progressing as smoothly as addressed when the interview process was occurring. Questions had been asked with quite a few dental practice conferences with other opportunities and the job offer seemed terrific with many possibilities for learning and to be compensated nicely while doing so as well. The DSO experience, the private practice opportunity, and other choices were considered before this dental office option was taken.

However, the learning process seems too slow and as if the important point to the owner is production now and not continuing the training regimen for the future with better collections with more comprehensive and sophisticated cases. The educational experience with administrative lessons don’t exist. If the approach was thought to be that of eventually buying out the owner or starting an individual practice, there are too many unanswered areas of concern and the timing for the process is lengthening. The problem is to find the answers to the many questions that exist so as not to stall the career path’s progress.

With the stumbling blocks to learning, the unexpected slow pace in advancing one’s skill set and other issues, there are many questions.

But where does an associate dentist go for help?

For the recent dental school graduate who is now an associate in a dental office, finding someone to assist with answers is difficult. Not having much experience with dental financial people such as dental CPAs, it may help to ask fellow graduates or possibly the professor with whom studies took place who seemed to understand the daily operations of a dental practice. Asking one’s boss may be looking for trouble if the owner has lagged in what was originally promised to the associate. Learning that someone does not have to be hands-on and face-to-face, with in-person visits will assist the associate. This will allow access to find the best people from around the country who can “Zoom or speak over the phone,” and resolve a lot of issues. The answers to the questions should start to be available.

If this approach to finding an expert does not work, there are many instances where media information can be of great assistance. Publications are available for the dentist to find what he or she may be looking to find. The associate should remember, however, that the general conversation is just that, which means it won’t allow specific responses to the issues that are troubling to the associate. If there is a specific point to be addressed, the associate will have to learn that these experts earn their livelihood by responding to questions. They are the accomplished at providing reports and continuing with the associate during the career if both parties are mutually satisfied with the results.

Costs, experience, and expertise

What are some costs associated with the process and how is the experience and expertise of the “consultant” found?

One of the attributes of an “expert” posting in a publication is that at least the preliminary information about this person or professional financial practice has been vetted by the dental journal. It is good to have a conference with the professional holding himself or herself out as having the expertise to assist. A copy of that person’s resume should come next so the associate can see the background, experience, publications, and the years of expertise the authority has prior to the engagement occurring.

A first call of about 10-15 minutes should be without charge since this could be a long-term relationship if all goes well. Normal charges for a one-hour conference range up to about $500 for an hour or a little over that time based on the pundit’s knowledge and experience. Report writing is based on the subject matter and knowledge of the specialist about it. Review of documents as well are based on the complexity and sophistication of the subject matter. All charges should be part of an engagement letter and mutually acceptable. The associate will learn a lot from the expert and the payment will be part of his or her education to the world of dental practice experience, post-degree. Reading the resume and understanding what it entails is especially helpful, especially when seeing the articles that the authority has had published. Those reports will let the associate know what the expert has experienced and was able to publish. The dental practice publication should not be adding articles that are not factual so another vetting process has occurred to assist the graduate.

Response time for the dentist and frustration?

Each of us wants to feel as if we are the most important person that the talented professional dental authority is dealing with at the time. If response time is frustrating, maybe the associate is not the most important to the expert. As an example of timing, telephone conferences should be able to be confirmed for scheduling fairly quickly. Report writing takes additional time especially when the subject matter is sophisticated. As previously mentioned, it is also more expensive than a telephone call, but more information should be available in the report than on the phone. The associate will learn about the response timing as he or she gets experience. It pays to think of the timing when a procedure is being performed at the dental office by the associate to learn patience. Many times, the authority in the matter being asked for a response can refer others to the associate based on his or her experience in working with dental CPAs, attorneys, and dental practice brokers. All of these contacts assist in building a network for the associate that can be used in the future. Each contact can lead to another until the associate receives his or her dream of ownership or whatever else may be desired in the fulfilling of his or her goals as a dentist.

Bruce Bryen, CPA, CVA is a certified public accountant with more than 45 years of experience and is a part of Baratz & Associates CPAs. He specializes in deferred compensation, such as retirement planning design; income and estate tax planning; determination of the proper organizational business structure; asset protection and structuring loan packages for presentation to financial institutions. He is experienced in providing litigation support services to dentists with Valuation and Expert Witness testimony in matrimonial and partnership dispute cases. He is also a financial writer for several dental journals. You may contact him at (609) 502-0691 or at Bryenb@baratzcpa.com.

Note: “Question Mark” by ryanmilani is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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