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657: Empowering the Owner & Associate Synergy - Dr. Christian Coachman & Dr. Sean Bahrami
Episode 65720th November 2023 • The Best Practices Show with Kirk Behrendt • ACT Dental
00:00:00 00:48:33

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657: Empowering the Owner & Associate Synergy - Dr. Christian Coachman & Dr. Sean Bahrami

The dynamic between an owner and an associate can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn the 5 qualities to choosing a great associate and how to help them grow within your practice. And understand the 4 step system to onboarding an associate to create successful partnerships. To learn how, listen to Episode 657 of The Best Practices Show!

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Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Learn more about Digital Smile Design

Register for DSD Residency 1

Main Takeaways:

Think differently as an owner. Think differently as an associate. 

Accept the challenges and acknowledge the challenges.

Owners should empower the Associates to update and improve systems, to provide a sense of purpose. 

There are 5 qualities in an ideal dentist: charisma, artistic skills, ethics, clinical skills and scientific background.

You can’t peak at age 25. You need the drive to continue to grow. It’s 50% of being a good dentist. 

Make a roadmap and a clear line of sight to a partnership, if that is your goal to keep and retain good people.


“It is a dynamic that is a bit tricky because owners are never are carrying themselves in the practice and associates aren’t happy with the lack of systems or some of the systems in the practice. So that’s when we found how we can bring these two different worlds and make them thrive.” (6:28—6:48)

“Whenever you join a practice, as dentists we tend to become a super star. We want to become the superstar of the practice and that’s how it is. And every owner, they have established their way of doing things for an extended period of time. And when you come in as an associate, they’re not so open to learning or bringing new systems into the practice because in their eyes the practice is established.” (7:29—8:00)

“When you start accepting the challenges and acknowledging the challenges. So imagine an owner and an associate just starting the conversation and saying let’s just acknowledge how different we are and how different is our perspective. And if we start acknowledging this from each other I believe that is a great initial step.” (11:00—11:25)

“I opened up the conversation. I’m not looking for a 9-to-5. I’m looking to build a career. I want to be involved in the practice. And that was something, when I was looking for a position, I struggled with. Because many of the practices I was going to, I would tell them that I want to be involved in the practice. I want to bring new ideas, they would reject that because it’s their practice, but luckily with my uncle he was open to that, because he was at a point where he wanted to start to slow down and he wanted someone to bring that energy into the practice.” (12:20—12:58)

“Dentistry is a demanding career. Especially at the beginning where you’re not fully comfortable with procedures, you still aren’t comfortable with your patient interaction so 6 days [a week] as a lot. I was not enjoying dentistry. I was stressed out…It was a dark period of my career; those first two years. But then, I believe passion is not something that comes to you naturally. I believe you become good at something by working hard at it and that something is able to fulfill your definition of success…I was involved more in taking courses and reading and developing my skills to get more comfortable and I remember one day…I wasn’t panicking that there were multiple procedures and I’m enjoying this and it’s a rhythm that I’ve developed and really, it was turning around.” (15:00—16:38)

“I think that’s the big job of the practice owner, is to support at the beginning, mentally more than clinically. If you see the potential.” (17:36—17:53)

“We see that the more experienced the person is, the less they rely on systems. And that’s not good. But because they have so much experience and everything is in here and they just know how to do things, they’re just doing things…No systems are worse for consistency, growing with quality, it’s worse for scaling, it’s worse for delegating, it’s worse for selling, it’s worse for developing revenue without having to work yourself on everything. All of these things are related to not having systems…now this young person comes in full of ideas about systems and trying to implement systems and I think it’s very very smart for the practice owner to give this room. Even though it is very uncomfortable, I know. When we are good at something and somebody new comes, trying to put systems into something you know how to do but I think it’s a super smart strategy for the owner to give some room for the young to put energy on systematizing things” (18:29—20:11)

“I saw that if we want to grow, then we have to have a system…and then that’s when we developed the moments of onboarding an associate. We decided that there are 4 moments in this journey. The first thing is finding and hiring the associate. The second moment is testing that associate. Does this associate have what it takes to become an important part of your practice? And the third part is empowering that associate. And the last bit is partnership, having a roadmap. Something as a final destination that is going to guide them. That there is a future in this practice. But all of these moments, they have to start with that vision. Have to define what is the vision for your practice. What is it that you’re trying to achieve?” (22:24—23:24)

“There are 5 qualities in an ideal dentist…charisma, artistic skills, ethics, clinical skills and scientific background…you need to test your associate. Give them a grade [from 0-5] based on how you feel about them. Their charisma, how they interact with patients, their artistic skills. And this may be a little difficult for you to test, but you can give them a test for them to do. You can see their work…if they have an eye for aesthetics. Ethical decisions…you want someone that makes good decisions…because many times owners are hesitant to bring in an associate because they want the quality of the work to be consistent…Clinical skills, that is obviously a big part of dentistry. We all strive for perfection, but I think this is the part you can probably improve the most on. This isn’t something you can practice. And scientific background, how involved they are with acquiring knowledge with growth, with developing their skills.” (24:47—26:20)

“[to evaluate a dental associate] You need to determine the weight of each of the 5 components. It varies. Some people may put artistic skills above scientific knowledge. Some people may put clinical skills above artistic skills, they are very different…that’s why you need to start with the vision. Who is the buyer persona? The persona you are trying to attract? And then you try to imagine the perfect dentist that you want to have with you.” (27:02—27:38)

“All of these skills are only responsible for 50% of the final rate. The other 50% are related to the candidate drive…the energy, the willingness, to do it, to work hard.” (30:20—31:00)

“Why is the drive so heavily weighted?” “When you are 25…30…whatever age you’re coming out of school, it doesn’t matter how good you are at that point. You have 50 more years in front of you. And if you don’t have the drive…if your peak is at 25, you are in trouble. You need the drive to continue to be able to go grow.” (31:28—32:00)

“The next [phase] is empowering…You need to master the process of finding and hiring. Based on your vision, ask the right questions, filter and hire the right people. Not everybody that you’re going to hire needs to become a partner. So you’re going to have these people that are more fitting into your vision and you’re going to choose the ones that can potentially become your right arm and that’s when the test comes, this test. So then you’re bringing a few to the next level, the possible associate that is going to take over…once this person passes the test, now it’s time to empower. This person may not even know you think they may be a partner in the future…you found the potential, you see the drive. You start moving this person to the next level and that’s what we call the empowering level.” (34:25—35:40)

“Empowerment is the superstar, the dentist, the owner detaching themselves from the superstar position…introduce your associate to the patients as someone who is good at what they do…You bring that associate into the room and you introduce them to the patient and say ‘Dr. So and So is great with restorative. He will be taking care of this part of your treatment.’ And this is how you integrate your associates into the practice.” (35:45—36:47)

“[The partnership] can be structured based on how you’re running your practice, what your vision is, where there is going to be 2 years of working and then they buy into the practice. However the model may be, you need to define it for your practice. But the associate needs to know there is a future for them in the practice. There are people that aren’t looking for partnership. They just want to be an associate. But for many people they want to have a stable future where they know their hard work is going to pay off.” (37:00—37:45)

“As owners, as associates we need to get better and smarter about how to approach things, in order to have a long lasting career.” (43:54—44:05)


0:00 Introduction.

6:28 The dynamic of Owner & Associate.

9:50 Acknowledge the differences.

14:18 Example of the journey of an Associate.

18:29 The importance of systems.

22:32 4 Moments of Onboarding an Associate. 

24:40 5 Qualities in an Ideal Dentist.

30:20 Finding the driven Associates.

35:44 Empowerment.

36:55 Partnerships.

43:36 Final Thoughts.

Dr. Christian Coachman Bio:

Combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions, Dr. Christian Coachman pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded Digital Smile Design company (DSD). Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses and workshops, such as the renowned DSD Residency program.

Dr. Coachman is the developer of worldwide, well-known concepts such as the Digital Smile Design, the Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, the Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation, and Digital Smile Donator.

He regularly consults for dental industry companies, developing products, implementing concepts, and marketing strategies, such as the Facially Driven Digital Orthodontic Workflow developed in collaboration with Invisalign, Align Technology.

He has lectured and published internationally in the fields of esthetic and digital dentistry, dental photography, oral rehabilitation, dental ceramics, implants, and communication strategies and marketing in dentistry. 

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Dr. Sean Bahrami Bio:

Dr. Sean Bahrami is a dedicated and passionate general dentist who proudly serves patients at Supertooth™ Dental Group's Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Germantown locations. Raised in Germantown, he is deeply rooted in the local community and is an ardent supporter of the Washington Redskins. Dr. Bahrami earned his bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences from the esteemed University of Maryland.

During his undergraduate years, Dr. Bahrami had the opportunity to volunteer at Supertooth™ Dental Group, where he discovered his true calling and developed a passion for dentistry. This firsthand experience solidified his commitment to pursuing a career in the dental field.

Dr. Bahrami's dental education took place at the prestigious University of Maryland Dental School (UMB), where he excelled as one of the top students in his class. His exceptional performance earned him acceptance into the esteemed Diamond Scholars program. Through this program, Dr. Bahrami received advanced education in full-mouth rehabilitation and complex restorative dental procedures, equipping him with the skills to tackle intricate cases with precision and expertise.

Following the completion of his DDS degree, Dr. Bahrami returned to Supertooth™ Dental Group to share his unwavering dedication to dentistry with both patients and colleagues. He is an active member of the American Dental Association and Omicron Kappa Upsilon, a national dental honor society, demonstrating his commitment to professional growth and staying up to date with the latest advancements in dental procedures and technology.

With a holistic approach to health, Dr. Bahrami is a strong advocate for fitness and believes in treating the whole patient to encourage overall well-being. As part of this philosophy, he hosts weekly yoga sessions for his patients and staff, fostering a friendly and health-conscious environment.

Dr. Bahrami's special focus lies in cosmetic dentistry, where he combines his technical expertise with a deep commitment to enhancing patients' smile esthetics. By providing personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique goals and desires, Dr. Bahrami helps individuals achieve the beautiful smiles they've always dreamed of. 

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