Article Date: 1/1/2002

lessons learned
Why Partners Part

Differing habits, commitments and views can drive a wedge between you.
By Jack Runninger, O.D.

The optometrist was sinking fast. He'd gradually grown weaker in the past few weeks and his ailment mystified medical authorities who'd been unable to find a cause.

"I know I don't have long to live," the O.D. said to his partner from his deathbed in the hospital. "But before I go, I must make a confession to you so I can die with a clearer conscience.

"First of all, I've been running around with your wife every time you were out of town."

"I know," soothed his partner.


"That's not all. I've been doctoring the books and taking more than my share of the practice income."

"I know, I know," again soothed his partner.

"And a lot of the fees I've collected I've kept and not run through the partnership books."

"I keep telling you I know," said his partner. "Why do you think I've been slipping a little poison into your coffee every morning?"

Get rid of the thorns before they begin to fester

Most optometric partnership problems aren't of this magnitude. But after talking with many O.D.s who are in partnership practice, I've found that many issues can cause partnership tensions, and that some even lead to a breakup.

I've heard and have come up with many reasons why partnership practice beats the heck out of solo practice. Thus, it behooves O.D.s to solve the difficulties they encounter in associate practice.

Contrasting work ethics

"I worked hard to build my practice," said a North Carolina O.D. "It became more than I could handle, so I hired a junior partner.

"She's an excellent O.D., but she doesn't know the meaning of hard work. She often arrives at the office late and if she doesn't have an appointment to keep her at the office, she takes a long lunch or leaves early in the evening. She does her work well, but it bugs me when I'm still working and she's not there."

Interestingly, some junior partners have the same complaint. "Sometimes I think he just made me a partner so I could do the major share of the work while he takes off," an Illinois O.D. complained.

If I could've afforded it, I probably would've left my senior partner when I first started practice years ago. He spent the 3 months of winter in Florida while I ran the office.

I overlooked the fact that most of the patients I saw during these months were his, and that I was making more income than I could have on my own. Still, it seemed unfair that he was getting more income than me during these months, while I did all the work. I also overlooked the fact that he produced more results and income in 9 months of work than I did in 12.

Forming community ties

"I dissolved our partnership because my junior partner was spending too much time in civic activities," relates a Pennsylvania O.D. "At first I was proud of him for becoming president of the Jaycees. But soon he was spending almost as much time on his civic responsibilities as he was practicing optometry, and I was doing the major share of the work."

On the other side of the coin: "I worked hard to build my practice by participating in civic activities so I could become well known in my community," said a New York O.D. "Despite my requests that my junior partner do the same, he's not and therefore isn't building his share of the practice as well or as quickly as I think he should."

In next month's exciting episode we'll explore further problems -- and possible solutions.



Optometric Management, Issue: January 2002