Rob Lamberts, MD, on the benefits of partnership over working solo.
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. For one thing, I was the last person paid. I got what was left over after the bills and payroll were 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, my two partners and I each own a third of the practice. My take-home salary is much higher, and our overall practice direction is great.
Here are some other advantages of taking on a partner or two:
Certainly, there are negatives. You can’t make unilateral decisions. Sometimes you’ll have to play peacemaker between your partners. There are more meetings and things happen more slowly than before. You’ll probably spend more time with your partners than you do with your spouse. And medical partnerships can fall apart for the same reasons that marriages do: poor communication, selfishness, or just plain incompatibility. Also, a partner can take advantage of you like no one else if you are not careful. For these reasons, choose wisely.
Still, it’s worth it, especially if you keep these thoughts in mind when selecting a partner:
Remember, you worked hard to build the business, taking a lot on your shoulders at the outset. You must be doing something right if others want to join you; don’t sell yourself short during negotiations (which won’t be easy). Done right, the benefits of adding partners far outweigh any of the potential burdens, and ultimately, you’ll find yourself less stressed and much more content.
Robert Lamberts, MD, is a board-certified primary-care physician with Evans Medical Group in Evans, Ga. He is a recognized national expert on EMR. He also maintains a popular, more-or-less healthcare-focused blog, distractible.org. Dr. Lamberts can be reached at rlamberts@EvansMedicalGroup.com.
This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Physicians Practice.