What Hiring A New Associate Can Do For You

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By John McCord, DPM

After a very pleasant 26 years of solo practice, I hired a young associate. Mike is a good kid with excellent surgical skills. My patients like him and he has added a new element of energy to my practice.
Mike had called my office seeking work about 18 months ago. He told me he was entering his second year of a PSR-24 and wanted to work in a small town in western Washington. I was happy with my solo practice but stayed on the phone to be polite. Then I told him I had no need for an associate. We exchanged e-mail addresses and I expected not to hear from him again. Wrong!
Mike sent me an e-mail message that night thanking me for the phone call. I replied and wished him luck finding a job. Determined, he sent another e-mail message the next night about philosophy of patient care. I replied with a longer message and we began exchanging messages daily. He told me about his training and his goals. I was beginning to like the kid and started wishing my practice was big enough for two.
My practice was becoming too busy for one podiatrist. Most days were full with many new patients calling or being referred. I kept a block of time open each hour for new patients with these slots filling up each day. I was becoming concerned about not spending enough time with patients who had complex problems.
Mike called a few months later. He was coming to Washington for a job interview and wanted to visit. I invited him to come and stay with us a few days. Even though my practice might not be big enough for two, this kid might be too good to pass up.
Mike came to our home one evening. He was shorter and younger than I had pictured him. He was also smart. He endeared himself to my wife and my staff during his two day visit. I was getting bombarded at home and at the office to make room for Mike.
Our e-mail messages began to take on a “What if?” quality. I was still not ready to offer him a position. My plan was to practice until I got tired and then I would liquidate the office. I’ve never considered my practice to be of any value in terms of selling it. Mike’s e-mail messages encouraged me to begin thinking of an associate who would become a partner and then take over when I retire.
In October of 2001, I flew to Cleveland for a seminar and arranged to visit Mike to talk more seriously about offering him a job. I stayed with Mike and his wife, and found them to be full of hope and ambition to enter practice. It reminded me of my wife and me 27 years earlier.
I spent a day following Mike in his residency program. Everybody liked him and he was good with patient care and surgical procedures. That evening, I offered him a job. We talked over terms of his employment as an associate and a plan to make him a partner after one year.
The next task was to prepare my practice for a second podiatrist, which is similar to preparing for the arrival of a new baby. We didn’t have to kid proof the office but a lot of other things needed to be done.
My office manager began gathering applications for credentialing Mike with our insurance companies and we also had to get his hospital privileges started. We got malpractice coverage for him and leased additional office space. I also began preparing my referring physicians for the arrival of a new podiatrist. I assured them he was more polite than me and a hell of a lot smarter.
Mike arrived this past August and breathed new life into my practice. The energy of an eager 29-year-old was a contrast to me at 55. I started him out by giving him half the new patients plus any of my established patients who wanted to try the new doctor. He was restless for a few weeks. Being a new doctor in practice is much different than his 80-hour weeks as a resident.
Mike knew he would have to market himself in the community and develop a new practice within my existing one. He has done well. He is as busy as I am and I haven’t slowed down much.
I recently spent a couple of weeks traveling through southern France. It was a great vacation knowing my practice was in good hands. I now work at a slower pace, three days a week. I should have hired an associate years ago.

Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate wtih the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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