Admittedly, this is an extremely complex and difficult question to answer. Every practice is unique. Each has its own growth goals and strategic plan for success. Plus, it’s human nature to believe that our organization is ready to grow and develop into a bigger, better practice. But without being exceptionally honest and critically objective in your analysis of whether your practice is truly prepared to take the next step, you may be lying to yourself about now being the right time to take on an associate. And then there are the associates themselves. Unless your practice is in Beverly Hills or Denver, candidates may not immediately recognize your growth potential. And if you do land a young professional, it can be challenging for inexperienced clinicians to generate growth.

The key here is to remember that every practice is unique. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Instead, you need a considerable amount of quantitative and qualitative data to support any decision you make about the future of your practice.

SWOT (Strengths • Weaknesses • Opportunities • Threats)

Conducting a thorough SWOT analysis of your practice in relation to the proposed growth is highly recommended.

A SWOT analysis will help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Be honest with yourself. Or better yet, have an independent third party help you evaluate the practice. A careful, thorough analysis can reveal patient trends, market indicators and barriers to success. Some of these might be overcome by bringing on an associate. Others will need to be taken care of before considering the addition of another optometrist. But you won’t know any of this until you conduct the analysis.

Within the SWOT process, carefully review and scrutinize the practice’s financial situation. As you analyze, be sure to pull data from a sufficiently long timeline to average out spikes or dips in income or loss. The more data you have to work with, the clearer the picture will be regarding the trending financials of your practice. It sounds obvious, but adding an associate is typically not a great idea if the data reveals a downward trend.

Although the financials are a large consideration, don’t limit your SWOT analysis to only the business side of the practice. Make sure you evaluate the working conditions, team dynamics and staff morale. A focus on the workplace itself and the team already in place will help you properly evaluate the sustainability of adding an associate. An office can only perform as well as the team within, and anytime you consider throwing another personality into the mix, you should be aware of the potential positive and negative impacts that doing so may have on team dynamics. The more honest you are with yourself in the analysis, the better you will be at evaluating prospects and choosing the optometrist who will mesh well with the practice.

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