While the term “associate jail” seems a bit strong, it fairly describes that tough place in which many new DCs find themselves. Consider a description of the problem and decide for yourself if “associate jail” is a good label.
In a nutshell, associate jail is a predicament many new DCs wind up in after graduation: working in an associate position, not making enough money, learning too little, but stuck because they cannot afford to leave. Worse, they are no closer to being able to build or buy their own practice.
This happens too often. It doesn’t have to. New DCs should consider the following suggestions for achieving a positive outcome.
Do not assume. Never assume you are the one who needs to be an employee just because you’ve never been anything else. While many do opt for taking an associate position, it is not the default position nor necessarily the easiest approach to getting work. Maybe you can be the boss. Isn’t that why you went to school?
Also, don’t assume that you can’t get start-up financing. Student loan debt does not necessarily prevent it. Solid credit, a good co-signer, and a sensible business plan can enable new grads to secure lending in many cases.
Do not FEAR. Remember that “FEAR” stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Many new DCs are afraid of things that might happen. You cannot go through life (and your career) like that.
Choosing to be an associate to avoid risk and feel safe is not a good reason. As long as you have a pulse, something can go wrong. Do not get stuck in your fears.
Build yourself up. If you feel ill- prepared to start out, begin right now to identify why you feel that way. Develop your skill set. Whether it is adjusting, reading films, marketing, communicating, get after it. They are all skills that can be learned and mastered. Remember that if another person can do it, you can too.
Also, bear in mind that your weak spots won’t necessarily get stronger in an associate role. The employer DC may not be strong in your weaker areas or may not be a good teacher. Either now or later, you must take responsibility for building up your weaknesses.
Observe others. There are chiropractors (including new ones) who are growing power practices right now. It can be done! If they can do it, why can’t you? Watch what they do, then model their successful techniques.
Follow a proven system. The best start- up companies follow an established set of principles that facilitate success. They don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Find someone who can lead you. It simply makes sense and helps maintain your sanity.
Work. Successfully launching your own practice is not easy. It will definitely require hard work. Maybe you think you can be on autopilot if you find the right associate position, but is that what you really want? There’s no easy way to reach your top potential. Like maintaining your health, there are some basic principles and action steps, and some of them are uncomfortable.
Both wellness and success take work.
Be creative. Beside traditional lenders like banks, there are other ways to finance your startup these days. There are investors seeking alternatives to the stock market. If your model is solid, the investors are there.
Do your homework. There are times when an associate position is the best choice. If you have fully explored all options and feel this is the best route for you, do your homework on the DC and clinic you plan to join. Have they had any associates before? What is your specific role? Do they have an office manual? What’s the training system? If the DC is unprepared, uncomfortable, or taken back, steer clear.
So, doctor or DC-to-be, here’s the challenge: Think outside of the box and stay out of jail.
Bart Anderson, DC, is co-leader of HealthSource Launch U (HSLU), a specialized training and coaching program for DCs working to start, build, and succeed quickly in practice. To date, HSLU has been involved in the launching or owning of more than 100 practices. To learn more about HSLU, visit hslaunchu.com or contact Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This is the second of a two-part article on this subject. To read part 1, see Volumn 8, Issue No. 7, pg. 66, or visit ChiroEco.com/associatejail.