Once upon a time, I was the imperial overlord -- in my office anyway.
Once upon a time, I was the imperial overlord -- in my office anyway. As sole owner of a primary-care practice, if I felt we needed a day off, I closed the office. If I wanted to buy something, I bought it. I had absolute power.
And absolute misery. Have you ever heard it said that the owner of a business is the last one paid? It’s true. You get what’s left over after the bills and staff are taken care of. Any mistakes I made came out of my paycheck, sometimes whittling it down to nothing. As much as I enjoyed and excelled at being a physician, my administrative weaknesses drained my salary.
Today, I have two partners. We each own a third of the practice. I can’t make unilateral decisions, and sometimes I have to be the peacemaker between my partners. There are more meetings and things happen much slower than they used to. But my take-home salary is much higher, and our overall practice direction is great.
But why go with partners over employed physicians?
Certainly, there are negatives. You will probably spend more time with your partners than you do with your spouse. Remember, medical partnerships
fall apart for the same reasons that marriages do: poor communication, selfishness, or just plain incompatibility. Also, your partners have the ability to take advantage of you like no one else if you are not careful. For these reasons, make sure you stack the odds decidedly in your own favor when adding partners.
Here are some things I learned after going through the partnership process twice:
Remember, you worked hard to build the business, taking a lot on your shoulders at the outset. If other physicians want to join you, you must have done something right, so don’t sell yourself short during negotiations. No, these negotiations won’t be easy. But when done right, the benefits of adding partners far outweigh any of the potential burdens, and ultimately, you’ll find that you are less stressed and much more content.
Robert Lamberts is a primary-care physician with Evans Medical Group in Evans, Georgia. He is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and specializes in the care of adults, pediatrics, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, preventative medicine, attention deficit disorder, and emotional/behavior disorders. Lamberts serves on multiple committees at several national organizations for the promotion of computerized health records, for which he is a recognized national speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.