What You Need to Know Before Signing a Covenant Not to Compete
By Jen Bennett, Practice Transition Advisor
You’ve graduated from dental school so naturally, you’re ready to get your feet wet and start seeing patients. Nearly every dentist will be an associate at the beginning of their career and with that comes the dreaded associate contract. You found a great associate opportunity and you’re eager to start collecting paychecks. But before signing that contract, particularly the non-compete clause, be aware of the details that could prevent your opportunity to start your own practice in the areas/neighborhoods you desire.
A covenant not to compete, otherwise known as a non-compete agreement, or restrictive covenant, is a clause in the contract that prohibits the restricted party from engaging in services similar to those of a non-restricted party. Non-compete agreements may restrict a dentist’s actions by time, location, and clients.
Here are some valuable tips before signing a non-compete agreement for dentists who plan on owning their own practice in the near future.
Be sure you understand every detail: Associate contracts are designed to protect the owner more so than the associate. OMNI Practice Group highly recommends you have an attorney who specializes in dental Associates contracts review all legal documents before signing. If you don’t already have an attorney, we will be more than happy to recommend one.
Advocate for the minimal non-compete radius: A standard non-compete radius should be between 3 to 5 miles. Keep in mind the radius is “as the crow flies.” In more rural areas, we have seen up to 15 to 20 miles, but of course try to negotiate for less, especially if you plan to stay in the area.
The shorter the better: We’ve seen unfavorable terms of up to five years. Typically, your non-compete clause should only be enforceable for 1 to 2 years. Try to negotiate to a shorter period, that will work in your favor when you’re ready to own your own practice.
Be sure your non-compete only covers the location in which you are employed: If your employer owns multiple locations, but you’re only seeing patients at one specific office, make sure your non-compete only applies to that location.
Notice of resignation: Keep in mind that when you’ve found the ideal practice to purchase or if you decide to do a start-up, the process can move rather quickly. We’ve seen contracts that require the associate to give up to 6 months’ notice before leaving their position – a fair amount of notice is typically 30 days. Be sure to negotiate the least amount.
My rule of thumb when it comes to associate contracts is “Less is Best” …well, with the exception of wages!
When you’re ready to purchase a practice or just want to discuss the process in preparation please feel free to reach out to me for a free no-obligation consultation. I’m here to help you.