Recap: 2017 DEO Associate Summit

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The 2017 DEO (Dentist Entrepreneur Organization) Associate Summit, held Nov. 2-4 in Houston, featured leading DSO market experts, influencers and leaders. More than 300 attendees from all over the United States and Canada gathered to experience top-of-the-rank speakers, who either presented or sat on panels on recruiting, retaining and motivating associates — some of the most critical and universal challenges with associates facing dentist-entrepreneurs today.

Associate dentists are the key to achieving the goals and visions for emerging market dentist-entrepreneurs, and establishing and maintaining solid relationships with associates helps create the foundation upon which a growing practice can thrive. The DEO has seen an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees, and watched attendance grow this year by nearly 100 attendees over last year’s event.

There is an extreme demand for associates, with only 6,000 graduates yearly and roughly 1,000 from other sources. The supply/demand ratio is not at all in the favor of group practices of any size seeking associates. Simply put, competition for associates is fierce and will continue to get more intense.

Although eight percent of dentists are now working in DSOs, with that number increasing a little less than two percent per year, there are just not enough associates for available positions — and there are two key reasons why. Most available associates want to live in strong urban centers, usually close to where they did their training. And new dentists are incredibly aware of their value — the competition for their services, the conditions they can demand, and their monetary value. (Yes, there’s even an app for associates to negotiate contracts.)

What became clear at this year’s Associate Summit is that attracting associates requires a focused recruitment strategy, daily activity, daily reporting, and careful planning and measuring. The larger DSOs have staffs of four to 10 full-time recruiters with whom smaller groups are trying to compete. To distinguish yourself in the recruitment process, you must have a clearly developed and well-articulated value proposition for why associates should join your group. You must be crystal-clear on your integrity, your core values, and your vision and purpose. You must recalibrate your thinking about associates from liabilities to precious assets; from subordinates to valued members of the team; from “associate” to “apprentice.”

Summit topics included:

● Recruiting
● Retention
● Contracting
● Managing
● Leading

● HR
● Ownership
● Compensation
● Onboarding
● KPIs





The panelists for both days were phenomenal. Recruiting experts Peter Kim and John Owens from Smile Brands Inc. led discussions on successfully attracting associates, Joan Garbo and Joseph McManus demystified the generational differences between established professionals and millennials, and Generation Z Diwakar Sinha of TUSK brokerage provided unique insights into associate compensation.

We heard from Richard Evangelista, Emmet Scott, Justin Puckett, James VandeBerg, Gib Snow, and AJ Acierno, representing six different businesses that have found success in their own ways while staying true to their unique cultures. Some keep an ongoing file of potential associate doctors, while others take the approach of promoting co-investment to have “skin in the game.”

As was repeated over and over by multiple presenters: The best retention strategy is some form of equity sharing. Even though the number of dental-school graduates and residents is increasing each year, the shortage of associates will continue far into the future. Those who can be “best-in-class” in recruiting will succeed. Without great associates, you will not have a successful future.

Speakers and panelists included:

Special recognition goes to the Association of Dental Support Organizations, one of the event’s premiere sponsors. The ADSO hosted the opening reception and will have a presence at the June 2018 Summit in Phoenix.

The DEO was proud to host this event in Houston, which continues to recover from Hurricane Harvey. A portion of this year’s proceeds will be donated to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston area earlier this year.

Registration is now open for the next DEO Summit, which will take place June 7-9, 2018, in Phoenix, AZ. Presenters will lead discussions focused on “The Emerging Future of Group Dentistry,” designed to equip emerging market leaders with what they need to prepare for the future.

Interested in joining a community of group practice owners in a collaborative learning environment? Click here to learn more about the Dentist Entrepreneur Organization and how it can help your practice succeed and grow.