Being a solo practitioner does not make you a lone wolf. Working at a hospital is not an excuse not to cover your own bases. It's vital that every physician has a team to take care of us behind the scenes, managing our finances, legal affairs, and retirement plans while we take care of patients.
Who needs to be on your go-to team?
A good team will include the following:
- An accountant. The role of the accountant on your team is to take care of your day-to-day bookkeeping needs.
- A tax accountant. Your tax accountant will advise you on your taxes. They will keep you up to date on the latest changes in tax law, help you maximize your opportunities, and help you minimize your risk.
- An attorney. Physicians are much more at risk of a lawsuit than other professions. Medical malpractice consulting is key. Your attorney should have experience with medical malpractice cases.
- A financial adviser. Your financial adviser will help you define your financial goals and develop a plan to reach those goals. They should help you develop an offensive and defensive strategy – plans to help you maximize your earnings and investing, and protect your assets. Your financial adviser will help you find the best liability insurance for doctors, the best disability insurance for doctors, the best life insurance for doctors, the best umbrella policies for doctors and more.
- A physician mentor. You need someone who has already been there and learned the lessons. You won't be able to find all the answer in a class, in a book, or via Google search. You need to have an experienced role model who has already figured out the issues that newer professionals are likely to encounter.
How do I find qualified members of my team?
First, all members of your team must understand the unique context of a physician's work and life. Doctors' resources, time, risk exposure are all unique. Your team members should all have experience working with physicians. You can start your search by asking fellow doctors for recommendations.
Identify several candidates for each role. Be sure to sit down with at least three candidates for each position. You might like the first person you interview, but be disciplined and follow through with the other interviews before making a final decision.
Interview questions should include:
- What is your educational background and experience? What licenses or designations do you have?
- How do understand the special needs of physicians? What challenges or opportunities do I face as a physician, from your point of view?
- What are your fees?
- Do you outsource any of your work? Do you perform the work personally? If not, what is the review process?
- What would your approach to working with other members of my team?
As you make your decisions, pay attention not only to the answers to these questions, but to how you feel as you talk with the candidate. It's gut-check time: is this someone you trust? Does his or her communication style work well for you? Can you take his or her advice and feel confident?
Once you've settled on members of your team, it's time to get to work. Meet with each member of your team and develop a plan to identify and reach your goals. Share your goals across the team – your tax accountant should know your financial plan; your financial planner should know what is happening with your day-to-day accounting, and so on. Get all the members of your go-to team on the same page.
Schedule follow-up meetings with each member of your go-to team on a regular basis, at least annually. The purpose of these check-ins is to review your progress towards goals, and make updates and adjustments. Be sure to share information across the team as appropriate.
Remember, it takes a team. We are always BTER together!