You are flying home from a job interview and this is it. You are in the last year of your medical or surgical training and you are a couple of months away from finishing. Ah. Finally. This is the perfect job. The location’s great, pay is terrific; it is the practice style you want. And, when you asked if it was a partnership track, they said yes. Priceless.

Have a drink and prepare for some turbulence.

This is what you are thinking: I’ll make the same as everyone else, even the senior partners. I’ll get the same perks. I can’t be fired. My vote counts. I am an equal.

This is what I want you to think:

* How many years is it to partnership? 1 year or 5?

* Is there a buy-in, how much, and how is it executed?

* Are there different classes of stock and partnership?

* What do I get for partnership? What happens if I leave?

* Is there a buy-out? If so, how is the practice valued?

* Is there anything that will make my total package different from that of the other partners?

* What can prevent me from being offered partnership?

* How many other partners are there? If I have a vote, what does that mean? I have a half vote in financial matters, and a full vote in all other matters. Speaking of matters, does my vote matter?

And most importantly, you can be terminated. Almost all partnerships have terms that not only specify the conditions under which you may or may not be offered partnership, but how you can be terminated.

So should you dismiss partnership as a goal? Not so fast. Do some research. Ask these questions to see if the promise measures up:

* Talk to recent partners and ask if there was any funny business. Did they get the offer as promised or were there any changes?

* Find out if anyone has ever been on a partnership track only to be turned down for partnership and why.

* Find anyone who has left the group recently and find out why.

* Talk to your attorney to find out exactly what partnership entails for you, and how it compares to the rest of the group, item by item, and dollar for dollar. Your attorney may know something of the groups’ history and reputation.

Also realize that the value of partnership depends on the type of practice. If you are partner in an anesthesia group that is 100% hospital based and you become partner as planned but then your group loses its hospital contract, you have a full share of nothing.

If the financial and benefits terms are good, do the math and figure out if you are better off taking more money earlier than waiting until partnership. If you are offered 5 years to partnership, salary and benefits package totaling $150,000 first year, $175,000 second year, $200,000 third year, and so forth, would you be better off with a salary from day one of $225,000 but no partnership option?

In my 17 years of practice I have heard more partnership horror stories than fairy tales. This is the place to be diligent, especially if the lure of partnership is the key to your decision.

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