Optometric Management Tip # 413   -   Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Optometric Job Opportunities

Continuing with the theme of last week's tip, let's look at some ideas to assist the recent optometry school graduate with finding a professional position. The concepts presented here will also benefit the established practitioner who is seeking candidates for an associateship or partnership.

Associates or partners?

The terms associate and partner often have different meanings in our profession depending on the context, but I define associate as a doctor who is not a practice owner. Associates may or may not be working their way toward ownership but the relationship is actually a form of employment. The partner term refers to two or more owners and ownership shares need not be equal.

The optometry student should consider his or her preference for employment vs. buying in as job opportunities are assessed, although the two options are not mutually exclusive. Many opportunities to buy into a practice as a partner will begin with a period of employment first. In fact, I recommend it. The success of a future partnership depends very heavily on the relationship of the doctors. Both parties should test the waters first and be prepared to just walk away if there are significant differences in professional philosophies or personalities. Working for a year as an employee for a fair salary is a good way to see if a partnership is likely to work out.

Having said that, I believe it is very important to discuss the potential for ownership in a practice during the early meetings. There are several possible scenarios:

Where to look

Here are some tips for finding a job position or a job candidate.

Should the associate be an independent contractor?

This approach is fairly common and is attractive to the practice owner because he or she is relieved of many legal responsibilities that burden employers, such as social security matching and other payroll taxes. The IRS strictly defines these work related arrangements so be careful before agreeing to be an independent contractor. Read this IRS publication http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1779.pdf and speak to a tax advisor to understand the differences.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management