Practice Management

The Secret to Dividing Management Responsibilities in Multi-Partner Practices

By Chad Fleming, OD, FAAO

May 2, 2018

A practice with multiple partners offers the benefits of more than one mind in making management decisions. My practice, which has two OD-owners, and three associate doctors, divides management responsibilities so that none of us are overwhelmed by our administrative duties.

Assignments Based on Leadership Gifts
We assign management duties based on leadership gifts and administrative abilities. We all have our areas of strengths, and areas that we could improve on. My partner is all finances and details in his interests and mindset, and, therefore, he was the perfect fit for chief financial officer, and his most significant “after hours” work  is watching all the numbers that indicate how our practice is doing.

I am the dreamer and visionary. So, I was a natural fit to interact with our vendors, work on our referral relationships with other practices, and look for opportunities to grow the practice.

Click HERE, or the image above, to read about how Dr. Fleming’s practice makes use of a corporate-organizational structure.

Balance Each Other’s Strengths
You want a team where team members complement one another. If you have multiple visionaries and innovators, you potentially sink the ship by going too far too fast. You can have too many owners who can never pull the trigger on making decisions. This can cause analysis paralysis, and get a practice stuck.

We are fortunate to have a team of leaders who complement each other. Responsibilities are first divided into seven categories (training, technology, accounting, personnel, optical, facilities, clinic), and these are divided among owners, with our executive team taking oversight roles. The primary owners are the executive team, and the remaining owners are part of our board of directors, along with the primary owners.

To become an owner and member of the board, you are expected to carry leadership roles. This is defined upon hire of an associate who is not an owner. Associate ODs are not given leadership in the seven organizational categories; only those ODs who sit as owners on the board have those responsibilities.

For the most part, these roles are set into perpetuity, but, we’ve agreed that responsibilities can be changed annually if needed.

Get Technological Support
We are working on a cross-platform collaboration through practice management software that integrates each others’ to-do lists in order to track actionable items, and where an individual is in the process of getting a task done.

We use the software task management program ToDoist. There are other similar programs out there, but this is the one I have found to be the most versatile for what we need.

We have created a culture that is without silos of “my task,” or “your task,” but we make sure that we are working together to complete necessary action items in a reasonable time, and then that we review these items in our partner meetings. While we have individual tasks assigned, we collaborate, and use monthly doctor meetings to communicate our progress with each other. Our board then decides practice priorities, and then our to-do list becomes carrying out the wishes of the board.

Designate Staff Member to Provide Executive Support
We have a staff member who has administrative duties to the executives. That individual schedules all of my appointments for the week that are non-clinical. These would include meetings with vendors and key opinion leaders in our profession, along with doctor-referral and building meetings. This is a responsibility of one of our scribes. She is not solely an administrative assistant, but she spends 2-6 hours a week working on these duties for the executive team.

This individual has been highly valued for making sure we are available for both external and internal appointments. Any of our support staff can schedule a meeting to visit with me or my partner. These are 30-minute meetings typically, and we also have informal 2-3 minute “huddle”type meetings with employees as needed.

I’m not going to talk to staff for 30 minutes about draft picks, but I would visit with staff about their child, and how they spent the last two nights in the ER. I would give my time to visit with a staff about their pain at home from someone losing a job.

Learn Together About How to Be Effective Leaders
You and your partners can read books together on how to be great leaders, and then discuss how you can implement the lessons imparted. Here are a few that I have found helpful:

“Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish

“Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action” by Rich Horwath.

“The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently” by Tony Dungy.

“Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies” by Charles G. Koch

“EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches” by Dave Ramsey

Podcast: CEO Warrior Podcast with Mike Agugliaro



Chad Fleming, OD, FAAO, is a partner with Wichita Optometry, P. A. in Wichita, Kan. To contact:

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