According to the latest Chiropractic Economics Salary and Expense Survey (May 2007), 70.5% of chiropractors work alone in solo practices. This is considered high for health care practices, as most medical doctors and other health care providers tend to work in groups. Chiropractors aren’t necessarily anti-social; they may have found that working alone is best for them. Here are some reasons why you might want to set up a solo practice:
* Sole Control. When you have your own practice, you have complete control over what goes on there. You can set up your own patient protocols and processes, and you can be sure that patient care is handled the way you want it to be. You won’t have someone looking over your shoulder telling you what to do.
* Sole Profits. You also have control over the profits of the practice. You don’t have to share them with anyone, even a partner. This is most true if you are a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC, but even if you incorporate, you still can hold a majority of the shares in the corporation and name yourself CEO and President.
* Less Competition. Some chiropractors may avoid partnerships or associate situations because they are worried about competition. They feel that “there’s not enough patients to go around,” particularly in a small town, so sharing the patient base makes them uncomfortable.
* Fewer Relationship Issues. Some chiropractors work together well for years, but others find that they disagree after some time, and a relationship problem can affect the profitability of a practice. If the practice “breaks up,” everyone loses money and the patients can become pawns in the breakup. If you work alone, you don’t have to worry about these kinds of issues.
While there are lots of good reasons to “go solo,” there are also some very legitimate reasons why you may want to find someone to work with, as a partner or an associate. For example:
* Shared Duties. You may be very good at marketing, but not so good with the financial side of the business. If you have a partner who understands finances and enjoys working with the numbers, you can move ahead faster and not work as hard.
* More Patients. Two people can “live” in an office more efficiently than one. Two chiropractors seeing patients in a 1500 square foot office can produce more income with fewer expenses than two DC’s each working in a 1000 square foot office.
* Mutual Support. Unless you are very self-motivated, the day-to-day stresses of running a practice can get you down. If you have a partner, that person can encourage you when you are stressed, and vice-versa.
Over the next few issues, we’ll look at the benefits and disadvantages of different practice options, including franchising, buy-ins, and group practices. As you read about these forms of practice, consider your own personality and your comfort level with working alone vs. working with others. And don’t forget that no option is forever; you can always change your mind and add a partner or break up a partnership and set up in a solo practice.