Evaluating a Physician Partnership
The right partner can assist in escalating the growth of the practice and shoulder a large chunk of the workload.
Bringing in a physician partner has many advantages: a partner may help your dermatology practice grow and become more successful; partners allow you to share the workload and to combine skills with another provider; and you can enrich your practice by having a solid teammate. However, business partners can become your greatest asset or worst liability. Deciding whether or not to share your practice with someone else may be one of the most important business decisions you ever make. Deciding who you go into business with can be just as important.
There is no way to guarantee a potential partnership will work. Consequently, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of having a physician partner, and carefully analyzing the reasons for choosing a partner can help ensure that you find the right person to entrust with your dermatology practice. Identify what you really need from a physician partner before you start looking for one. Once you have completed this essential first step, you can begin the process of choosing a partner.
Weigh Their Strengths
Draw up a set of criteria that you are looking for and simply judge how well a potential partner lives up to it. For starters, a physician partner should bring something different to the table than you do. If you are creative, maybe you need a more detail-oriented partner. Or if you are shy, you might need a good “people person” to balance the equation. If they are similar to you, it might be more comfortable, but it may not be what you need. You need someone who complements your skills and personality. Of course, you will want to weigh their standing in the referring physician community. A business partner who is adept at cultivating relationships with your referring physicians adds value to the practice. Also, consider how they interact with employees and patients.
Share Your Vision
It is very important that partners share the same vision and goals for the practice. Discuss your vision with your potential or current business partner. Evaluating a potential partner can be like trading life stories to understand if your business principles, company goals, and personalities are compatible. Take as much time as you need to make a well-informed assessment of whether your business partner is actually a suitable one. You should share a sense of vision and values but not have overlapping skills.
Assess the potential partner’s expectations on the time involved. Partners do not have to spend the same amount of time, but it is important that they are on the same page as to each other’s expected time commitments. How many hours a day does your partner expect to put into the practice, and do her expectations meet yours? Your partner’s commitment has to equal yours.
A partnership—especially one between friends—can start off with fun and excitement, but within a short time, the slog of every day catches up with you. If they are not as committed to the business as you, they may lose their enthusiasm and may actually be damaging the brand every time you open your doors.
Use Professional Advisors
An attorney can help you build important information into an agreement, such as how the work will be divided, what will happen if more startup money is needed, and how decisions will be reached. Although a written partnership agreement is needed, remember that people make partnerships work, not legal documents. And remember, the best time to address potential problems with your partner is at the beginning of your venture, before emotions run high. You cannot predict every potential problem, but a good health care consultant can help you work through some of the common problems and put a framework in place to help address unforeseen circumstances.
Try to evaluate potential partners without regard to emotional ties or friendship. Your potential partner should also have questions for you and should want to know about your character, reliability, and expectations. Oftentimes I see a dermatology practice that greatly values what a physician brings but fails to consider what this same physician may want out of a partnership. What does this individual want out of the partnership arrangement (financially, operationally, and strategically)? The right partner can assist in escalating the growth of the practice and shoulder a large chunk of the workload. Conversely, a wrong partner can bring down the business. Patience, honesty, and careful considerations will pave the way for making the right decisions.
Mr Hernandez is the chief executive officer and founder of ABISA, LLC, a consultancy specializing in solo and small group practice management (www.abisallc.com).
Disclosure: The author reports no relevant financial relationships.