The Optometric Minute

Add a New OD as an Associate or Partner?

July 29, 2015

Bringing on a new OD, whether as an associate or partner, can build a practice, but also change it greatly, says Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA, owner of Los Colinas Vision Center in Irving, Texas, He offers a three-step plan for making the new relationship work–with an “out” option if it doesn’t.

Add New OD as Associate or Partner?
Associate vs. Partner: Working Out the Deal

A critical decision in the growth of an optometric practice is when to add another OD, and whether to add them as associate or partner, says Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA. He advises colleagues to proceed cautiously and to assess personal qualities along with professional skills before locking into any decision.

“Even if you’re looking to add a partner, I’d begin with hiring an associate,” he says. Over 30 years of practice, Dr. Krivacic has gone through many hiring decisions, and he offers a 1-2-3 approach:

HIRE AS AN ASSOCIATE. Even if there is partner potential, go slow.
TRY IT OUT. Work with the new hire for a set period of time; see if your practice philosophies mesh.
WORK IT OUT. If time proves that you have a good fit, work into a partnership agreement.

In Dr. Krivacic’s experience, many ODs are best suited to associate status, being employed with some bonus options and concentrating on seeing patients from 9-5. Others are more ambitious to grow the practice, and to be rewarded financially and with partner status.

“Both types are fine,” he says, “but you have to recognize what someone is looking for.”

Before structuring any long-term agreement, Dr. Krivacic recommends writing up a short-term agreement for a set period of time (90-days, six months or a year). In that period, you can assess both clinical skills and personality. The latter plays a big part, he says in how well the practice functions. “You could have the best clinician in the world, but if you don’t get along, it’s going to be a miserable relationship,” he says.

He recommends an opt-out clause in your agreement, allowing either side to walk away if it doesn’t work out.

A short-term agreement is one that an OD-owner can draw up and have both parties sign, Dr. Krivacic says, but with any long-term agreement it’s best to have an attorney drawn up terms.

Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA,  is the owner of Las Colinas Vision Center in Irving, Texas. To reach him: kkrivacic@aol.com.

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