Article Date: 2/1/2002

Lessons Learned
Another Look at Why Partners Part
More horror stories of partnerships that went awry.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

A patient gave me a $100 bill to apply to his account," said the O.D. "After he left, I discovered that there was another $100 bill stuck to it.

"This caused me the ethical dilemma, of whether I share the extra 100 bucks with my partner, or keep it all for myself."

This situation demonstrates further that more problems occur in partnerships than in solo practices.


"We didn't keep production records when we first formed our partnership," said one O.D. "Consequently, each of us thought he was doing more than his share. So we began keeping records of gross production for each partner. Now we know what proportion of the office income each partner is producing. In addition, it provides a measure of practice growth for the junior partner."

Pull your weight

"Our partnership came to an end because of the amount of time he devoted to another business," says an Ohio O.D. "He spent hours of office time selling a novelty item that he'd developed."

"My partner is a blessing to optometry," said another O.D. "He served in every office in our state and regional association, and now he's involved with the American Optometric Association. I appreciated his sacrifice for the profession, but I resented the fact that I was carrying the load in our practice because of his being away so much on association business.

"It could've broken up our practice if he hadn't finally made the suggestion that our incomes be adjusted to partially compensate for his being away so often."

Office investment woes

"We need a number of admittedly expensive pieces of equipment to practice optometry the way I was taught," a young O.D. told me. "But my senior partner vetoes the idea of investing in such purchases in almost every case."

"It would cost a lot to do what he wants to do," was his partner's response. "We have a busy practice and are doing a good job for our patients as is. I'm not far from retirement and I need to save money, not accumulate more debt."

Sharing responsibilities

"I'm supposed to be a 50-50 partner," said a Nebraska optometrist. "But my senior partner practiced solo for so long that he treats me like an employee. He makes all the decisions and rarely allows me to participate in the responsibilities of running the practice."

Another practice had the opposite problem:

"There's more to conducting a practice than just doing exams and making diagnoses," said the senior partner. "But it seems that's all my junior partner wants to do. It seems beneath her to help our assistants when they're overloaded with such things as adjusting a patient's glasses, etc."

Faced with a decision

In many cases, there probably isn't a solution. Some personalities just don't mix, and divorce is the best answer. But in most instances, communication and understanding could lessen the problems.

Try to see things from your partner's viewpoint as well as your own. Extending the marriage analogy, you might look at it from the philosophy expressed in a plaque that a friend made and gave me for Christmas:

"Don't criticize your wife's faults. If she hadn't had them, she might have found herself a better husband."



Optometric Management, Issue: February 2002