Q: What do you mean by Associate Jail?
Many new DC’s end up captive to their circumstances … stuck in a place often difficult to get out of. Like any physical jailing, what we are referring to can be very tough to endure and cause significant stress, loads of frustration, costly financial challenges, and perhaps worst of all, significant delays in your professional growth and achievements. What we’re referring to are un-healthy and poorly orchestrated Associate Doctor positions.
In our company, we speak with students and recent grads daily. Needless to say, we learn a lot about new DC’s like: what they are experiencing, what they fear, what they want … and why it isn’t happening. We know one thing for sure: except for a very small number, ALL chiropractic students and new graduates “intend” to open their own office … someday.
However, most do NOT do that right out of school. Why not? Much of the reason is that they are trained to believe they can’t! While true for some, we can show you dozens of instances to prove that is not 100% true for all. A multitude of reasons exist (of which many are either false assumptions or can be handled) but the bottom line is most new grads “default” into seeking out an Associate Doctor position upon graduation.
Be sure to know: Associate Doctor positions CAN be a very beneficial option for some graduates. But, it’s no secret that a high percentage of Associate experiences turn out poorly. You’ve probably heard the stories! Why does this happen? It’s a combination of things. Here is a common scenario …
It starts with a lack of clarity – and difference – surrounding the “WHY” of the working relationship. Truth be known, the owner doctor’s “why” is often that he/she is tired or burned out and wants someone to do the stuff he/she doesn’t like. Or, the owner doctor hopes an Associate can work hard and take the practice to levels they were unable to reach … and improve their income as a result!
On the other hand, the associate’s “why” is all about what we call “Learn and Earn”. By this we mean you feel the need to get some “real world” experience and earn something you haven’t seen much of (money!) to start paying some bills off, buy a few nice things, start a family, etc. The problem with this is: (1) The typical associate position doesn’t pay enough base salary to allow this to happen and (2) Any bonus promised is often difficult to be accomplished. Why is this?
Most offices do not have any established systems. If they do, they are more than likely not written or in any form that they can be taught in a sensible, orderly way. (Trust us on this: we network and/or work with several clinics across the country, and we know this to be true). Most Chiropractic clinics are driven by a doctor’s personality, technique, subjective decisions, etc. NOT a set of reproducible or teachable procedures and systems.
As a result, the Associate has a hard time getting quality training. The owner doctor assumes the Associate will “just get it” (as if by osmosis or something) and can’t understand it when that doesn‘t happen.
Lack of a training protocol results in the Associate often feeling (and looking) inexperienced … maybe to the point of appearing ill-prepared … or even goofy! This results in patients lacking confidence in the Associate. Also, the office staff may not respect the Associate as they should. They do not support him/her. They do not schedule patients with the Associate. Instead the owner doctor still does most of the adjusting. Because of this, the Associate has a tough time seeing any volume of patients. This is one of the areas the Associate hoped to “learn and earn” … but it isn’t happening!
Now, the owner doctor concludes: “Maybe we should just have the Associate do the marketing and get new patients in here for us!” Fact is most chiropractic clinics have NO marketing SYSTEM, but run a continuous roller coaster of ups and downs with new patients. Nor, do they have any set budget to invest for this critical aspect of practice. Yet, the Associate is expected to get new patients in better than the owner doctor has ever done! So, this doesn’t pan out either … and no new patient bonus is earned!
Now the owner D.C. has paid out money and realized no measurable gain. He/she may even feel more stress (and liability) associated with having this Associate. Resentment begins to set in.
Of course, the Associate is frustrated, too! They are learning very little about how to build a practice. The business aspect is not shared. They are not seeing enough people to master their clinical skills. And, worst of all, they aren’t earning enough money to do any of what they hoped to do! They are driving the SAME ol’ heap of junk car that they did in college. They had to DELAY payment of their student loans. They have saved NO money to build their “dream practice“ with some day. Yet, they can’t afford to leave! They feel un-happy, frustrated … and stuck! THIS IS “ASSOCIATE JAIL“!
Again, this doesn’t always happen, but we think we would all agree: it occurs often enough to be concerned about. The good news is there ARE proven ways to avoid this!