The Associate Delusion
Maybe you’ve heard this story, or perhaps you’ve lived it.
You work your butt off for years, your practice is growing month over month and year over year. You are prospering to the degree you always hoped for; you worked so hard for.
It is time. Time to add an associate to help with the patient load, someone whom you might consider as a partner down the road, or maybe someone to take over or maybe buy the practice outright after a few years – allowing you to retire with a nice ongoing residual income from the practice’s continued growth and success.
Okay, that is all good and normal. That is what you SHOULD do.
So, you place a few ads in the various online chiropractic posting sites for the position and low and behold you get a few prospects. Mostly new graduates, but that seems like what you should be looking for right?
Sometimes yes, given the right circumstances and a completely vetted applicant, but very often it is the totally wrong choice. It depends on many unique factors – all offices are unique to a certain extent.
So, new graduate or seasoned chiropractor? Either way you interview him or her, you like him, you get a good “gut” feeling about him. So, you come up off the top of your head what you assume would be a good salary and/or bonus system – which is usually based entirely on something you have read about, combined with what you feel would have been fair to you when you were in such a position. This I call the “you hiring you” approach.
This approach hardly ever works. Why? You will never hire you. You will never hire someone with the same fire, the same drive, the same everything that it took for you to get this practice to where it is. However, you can get close – with the proper planning.
And this is where most chiropractors go wrong. The assumption is, or the delusion if you will, that you are a good, honest, hard-working chiropractor. You treat people more than fairly. Hire a like minded associate and all will fall into place.
Well, if you have ever heard any of the myriad of chiropractic associate horror stories, this is where they come from. I hate to say it, but unfortunately I have seen it played out way too often for it to not be true.
Due to a lack of experience in this area – and therefore a lack of foresight and hence a lack of proper planning – you are leaving too much to chance. And, when you leave too much to chance (or what I call the hope and pray method) the universe responds in kind, usually giving you haphazard results, at best.
So, what are the things that need to be considered? Those circumstances or items that you might have thought about in the back of your head but that you assumed would just fall into place with the passage of time. (Here is a big hint – they don’t).
Well, first of all the long-term plan regarding the associate must be spelled out before even the interviews take place. (But don’t worry, if this has not been done there is a way to salvage it). The planning will include a proper salary and bonus system tied extensively to performance goals. This I cannot stress enough. An otherwise “good” salary will be wasted without proper attention paid to this step.
Then the applicants need to be screened in a deep and true sense. Gut feelings don’t work, as the gut is where we digest food, not make important business decisions. You must uncover their true short and long term motivations to ensure the fit is a win/win.
The contract then has to be crafted with precision. An off the shelf generic employment and non-compete agreement will never fully protect you, and that is much of what the contract must do. I hate to tell you how often an associate will leave and open up a few blocks away stealing many of the patients after only working for the clinic a year or two. With the proper agreement in place, the odds of this happening drastically decrease.
Now, this all occurs before a single hand is even placed on a patient other than if you conduct a working interview, which I highly recommend but is another topic entirely.
So, you get through all these steps, now what? Well the real work now begins. Do you let them start and sit and watch and hope they take off? This is what 90%+ of clinic owners do. How often does this work? Maybe 5-10% of the time. If you don’t provide the proper motivational framework and systems (protocols and scripts) necessary for them to work through that framework, and then instill the all important means of accountability to make sure they continue to live up to the planned expectations, then your associate will likely not work out like planned, or worse.
Every day I help doctors that made these mistakes try to right the wrongs. Point is, I can’t in a short article list all the issues, roadblocks, concerns and pitfalls possible in this scenario as there are many. You can’t treat this as if you are just adding another employee or profit center to your clinic. There is much more to it unfortunately.
On a positive note however, do it right and you will greatly improve your odds of getting just what you want, an associate that is set up in such a way as to practically guarantee you a profit, and then some!
I have many clients who start out wanting to just find an associate to help with their patient load who then end up retiring from active practice because they are profiting more by being out of practice than they ever did being in it. That may not be for everyone, but it is certainly a very viable option in many if not most chiropractic offices.
Find a mentor, find a coach, find someone who has years of experience in this field and make sure you do it right the first time.
Me and my team have hired dozens of associates over the years and helped hundreds of other chiros do the same.
Need Help Hiring, Managing or Structure an Agreement with an Associate DC? Contact me and we’ll chat a bit to see if perhaps I can be of help to you in your particular situation.
-Troy Counselman, DC