Home Editorial 5 Tips to Maximize Your Earnings as an Associate OD

5 Tips to Maximize Your Earnings as an Associate OD

By Lauretta Justin, OD, of Orlando, Florida

Five years ago, I had an employee who was good at his job. He was a technician in the clinic and was becoming very proficient in pretesting. However, he was still learning our practice culture and was adapting as a team member. One day, he shared his salary information with another employee. That employee told him that he could make so much more working somewhere else as a technician.

Well, when he heard this he became very upset. He sent me an email immediately demanding a raise because he felt the salary I paid him was unfair. And, he further added that if I didn’t comply immediately, he’d quit. Well, when I got his email, I quickly thanked him for his employment and accepted his immediate resignation.

As an associate OD, you probably wouldn’t do something so elementary, right? I mean, who does that? Who’d give an employer an ultimatum for a raise? Who’d demand a raise just because his or her colleagues are making more? It’s ludicrous, right? Well, when you don’t have the right strategy to negotiate more income in your employment, you may sound just as ludicrous when you approach your employer. That is why I wrote this article; to help you approach this issue more intelligently!

Here are five tips to help increase your likelihood of success when negotiating salary or a raise. Asking your boss for a raise can be nerve-wracking, so much so, that some people wait for months or even years before asking for a raise they deserve.

The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a raise that reflects the hard work that you do, but there are some approaches and best practices that will always get better results than others.

Even though your boss may have data on the hard work you’ve been doing, you still need to present your case for why you deserve a raise and you need to be prepared to negotiate. These tips will increase your likelihood of getting a “yes” when you negotiate a contract or when you ask for a raise.

1. Do your research before you negotiate

Sure, we’d all like to be making one billion dollars (with a b) but that’s probably not a reasonable or feasible number. Before any salary negotiation, conduct background research to determine your professional market value. You need to have a solid foundation for the request and realistic expectations. Study salary trends for our industry in your geographic area.

Use sites like PayScale, Glassdoor, O*net and Salary.com to find out the market rate for associate ODs in your area. It will be useful when your boss asks you for the amount you’d like to make or tells you the amount she’d give.

2. Discuss raise and salary increase opportunities at contract negotiations or when you are hired at a new job

If you have a contract, make sure those terms are included. If those terms are not included in your contract, here’s a very important question you can ask to begin the discussion: How can I contribute to the growth of the practice?

Another way to start the conversation about wages is to ask the owner to share his/her goals with you for the company. More about that in tip #4.

If there is a review policy established for your practice, familiarize yourself with this policy in the employee manual.

3. Take on more responsibility, become the CEO of YOU!

As an associate, you may not own the liability or the assets of your practice, but you do own your job. You job is your business and that makes you a CEO. You may not be the CEO of the practice, but you should be the CEO of YOU. Treat your employment as your own business, and you will share in its profits.

Show your professional value. You want to be able to demonstrate that you have taken the initiative to solve problems. The problems you solve for your practice will determine the income you earn.

When negotiating salary increase, share examples of problems that you’ve solved and how they’ve positively impacted the practice. Was there an increase in revenue? Did you save a patient? Did you wow a patient?

Doing a great job is not enough to warrant a promotion or raise. You need to demonstrate how you’ve gone above and beyond to add value to your practice. Specifically, you need to Identify ways you’ve earned money for the practice, for example through

Average patient sales: If your patients spend more in the practice, you’ll have more leverage when negotiating salary.
New specialty: Take the initiative and develop a plan to implement a new specialty in the practice. Present the plan to your employer and ask for a percent of the profit that the specialty brings in. This one is a slam dunk! If you do this, your boss would be a fool not to oblige.
Improve a system to make the office more efficient: If you notice a systematic break in any of the office processes, think of a way to improve it. If it makes the practice more efficient, it will help save money; and that’s more brownie points for you!

4. Talk about the future

Show you’re invested in the practice. Every practice owner values loyalty. Start the conversation on a positive note, and explain how much you like working for your doctor and the practice. This is a great place to insert a compliment. Trust me, a genuine compliment to your boss will go a long way!

Then explain what you want to do in the future, and how you plan to contribute to the growth of the practice.

Volunteer for a project or create one by being a proactive problem-solver. When leveraging a project to get a raise, explain the new responsibilities you’d like to take on and how it will help the practice grow and generate more money.

5. Be prepared to hear “no”

Don’t be discouraged by a “no.” If you don’t get the salary or pay increase you requested, it doesn’t have to be the end of your negotiation. Request an interim performance appraisal with clearly defined goals and salary adjustment before your next annual review.

If that salary or a raise isn’t going to happen right now, consider asking for things beyond salary such as professional development opportunities, CE coverage, Liability insurance and license renewal contributions or more vacation time.

The worst that can happen is that your boss says no. Either way when you negotiate your salary, you’ll learn to advocate for yourself and understand and appreciate the professional value you add to the practice.

It’s not always obvious when, or how, to ask for a raise. But if you do want to get a raise, YOU have to ask for it. Educating yourself so that you can formulate a strategy will result in a better outcome than going in blindly and winging it. Although sometimes the response to a request for a raise is going to be a “no” regardless of how you construe the question. However, properly preparing before you make your proposal can vastly increase your chances of success.

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