The topic concerning the realities of having a spouse working by your side in the dental office can be a difficult conversation to have. Opinions about the conveniences and drawbacks with this type of agreement vary considerably and seem to generally be based on the quality of the marriage partnership along with the personalities, competence, mindset, and dedication of everyone on the team.
There are many excellent tips to help guide a spousal business partnership in the right direction. For starters, do not take business issues personally, always have confidence in one another's abilities, and keep in mind that there is a progression that occurs as a business relationship matures. The success of a dental spouse team is primarily dependent on whether or not they have a solid relationship, generally get along, enjoy being around each other often, are team oriented, have the same values and goals, have great communication, and have clear rules about one another’s roles in the practice. Some positive aspects that can be derived from these types of situations are: having the spouse serve as a cushion between the staff and the dentist; each person understands and appreciates the hard work and the stresses of the other; and the combined help allows for improved function of the practice and even extra down time for the doctor.
Some employees’ opinions are that having two bosses in a practice creates distraction, frustration, and animosity for staff when there are conflicts or differences within the office. Employee pushback can be expected, that’s why it is imperative that the dentist support his or her spouse. It is best for dental teams to open their minds to how they think about the spouse in the office. As employees may have a cynical conclusion about the spouse’s role, many dentists discuss the positivity and financial benefits of being able to trust their spouse/business partner more than any other employee when it comes to protecting the best interests of the business and having the patients’ best interest at heart.
It is greatly beneficial to do your best to separate work from home life. This means not “taking work home with you”, and even more importantly not bringing marital conflict into the office. Even couples who are very good at working through their problems, trust each other, and are always well-intentioned still find it difficult at times to “leave it at home”. Many times, doctors consult their spouses for advice, especially if they have a history of struggling. Sooner or later they reach a point where almost everything must be okayed by the spouse first. Typically, this is the beginnings of a business being out of control (business running the doctor), ultimately caused by a doctor not taking responsibility for their career and using their spouse’s shoulder to cry on more often than is really needed. Over time, this can decrease a spouse’s respect for the doctor, confidence in them, and even reduce physical attraction. This is why keeping your home life separate from your office life makes sense and is good dental practice advice. When you need to talk to someone about struggles you are having, talk with an adviser, a close friend, or another dentist you know and trust rather sharing your issues with your spouse.
Essentially, being “in” the office really means working “on” the business. Whether physically present in the office or as a supportive role from outside, the structure will depend on what the business needs are and what the spouse and doctor have agreed upon. Focusing on the business and business philosophy will help a spousal team to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Plan the business with intention, keeping in mind that being reactive is depleting, but being proactive is exhilarating.