If you are looking for chiropractic jobs, do you wish to waste years of your life on one dead-end chiropractic associate position after another?

Or if you are on the other side of the fence, do you want to throw away precious time and money on an associate that doesn’t work out?

Regardless of whether you are looking for chiropractic jobs or you are an employer looking to hire a chiropractic associate as part of your transition strategy, it’s easy to see that a lot of time and trouble can be eliminated by avoiding a bad-fit associateship.

Unfortunately, most chiropractors have either first-hand experience or have heard about chiropractic jobs that have ended badly. In fact, the “associateship gone sour” is so commonplace, that there are docs that believe than none of these arrangements work.

If this rumor were true, that means that your associate position won’t work out. This is obviously bad news regardless of which side of the fence you are on — either as employer or employee.

While there may be an element of truth to the fact that many chiropractic associate positions don’t end well, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, in today’s post we are going to discuss some “warning signs” of a bad associateship in the making so that – if you are seeking chiropractic jobs – you will know what to avoid.  And if you are on the employer side, you will know how to structure (or how NOT to design) a winning arrangement.

Three Bad Signs of Chiropractic Jobs to Avoid

Here are three bad signs that the chiropractic associate position is simply not going to work – for either side of the equation:

1. The Declining Practice

Many DC’s looking for chiropractic jobs fail to ask their future employer about WHY they are looking for an associate in the first place.  This can be a deadly mistake.

While an employer will not likely admit that they are looking to find a chiropractor who can help them boost their numbers and bring the business out of the toilet, there is one easy way for you to see if this is an expectation or hope of your employer: ask them about their last three years of collections.

If the trend is staying the same or increasing, then it may make sense that they are looking to bring you on as an associate either to keep up with the growth (in a business where collections are increasing) or to keep things as they are (in a busy & stable practice, where the owner wants to work less).  On the other hand, if the practice is declining, this may be a major red flag to stay away.  Sure, there may be exceptions (owner has fallen ill or the previous associate left and they have yet to replace them).  But you need to dig a little deeper to ensure that you are not being put in the role of the associate who must heroically save the practice.

If you’re the employer, think twice (and then think twice again) about hiring an associate to boost your sinking ship of a business. Only the rare associate will possess the required skill set to bring a declining practice into a better direction. And if your practice lacks the funds to take that gamble, you would both be better off going in a different direction.

2. Overhead Sharing Obstacles

The doc that is looking to reduce their overhead may seem like they are offering a sound solution that can make for a winning associateship.  Unfortunately, the opposite is usually true – and worse, the associateship creates some unexpected problems in several ways.

Yes, it makes sense that two chiropractors both producing income would make the overhead easier to pay.  But there’s one big piece of the puzzle that makes the equation work – or not – and it’s patients.

If two experienced docs who practice in the same town want to join forces and share overhead, this may make sense financially.

But in the case of an associate arrangement whereby the owner is seeking someone with the goal of lowering their overhead, there are two big problems here. First, if there is no second practice to combine, the key question to ask is: are there enough patients for both of us? If the current owner is looking at reducing overhead, then the answer is probably “no” because if they had enough patients, overhead likely wouldn’t be an issue. Secondly, these chiropractic “jobs” tend to have a limited lifespan because unless the associate generates a lot of new patients and revenue quickly, the owner cannot afford to payroll because (at least initially) the associate causes the overhead to go UP (because of their salary).

With so little time to work out well, both parties would do well to avoid this type of associateship.

3. Percentage Only Pitfalls

Chiropractic jobs that offer an associate position with no salary and pay a percentage split only are typically a worse variation of the “lowering overhead” ticking time bomb.  To be blunt, this bomb is going to explode eventually. The real question is whether the owner or the “associate” will be impacted first.

The chiropractor who agrees to work for no pay and who has no patients to start must hustle to create an income so that they can eat with little to no cushion to begin their adventure.  This is remarkably like starting your own practice, except that you are going to give a percentage of your income to the owner and be subject to their rules, second-hand treatment by their staff and all the limitations of working for someone else (without the steady paycheck).

As owner, you are expecting that the associate will build their own clinic within yours in a very short amount of time with little to no training. In my opinion, there is not enough here to even warrant the name “associateship.”  But unfortunately, the IRS may diagree and declare that this arrangement wasn’t independent enough to be a valid independent contractor according to their definition. And if you failed to take out taxes and fulfill payroll tax requirements on your associate, you will end up with a tax surprise on your hands later.

Finally, if this twisted percentage-only arrangement were to actually work out, the future will often be fuzzy with one big non-compete question. Here, the owner wants a non-compete to be enforceable so the associate doesn’t take his practice across the street to compete. But if the “associate” went out and obtained their own patients, then of course, the associate wants to walk his patients anywhere across town that he wishes to open a new office.

Sadly, the non-compete question is rarely solved beforehand and so, of the many chiropractic jobs that start in this category, few will work out well in the end.

How to PREVENT Chiropractic Jobs From Turning Into Nightmares

So if the above scenarios cause chiropractic jobs to go south, here are a few ways to prevent this from happening:

Equal Expectations Mismatch

Perhaps the most common reason for the failure of so many chiropractic jobs that start out as associateships with good intentions can simply be stated as an “expectations mismatch.”

The classic mismatch can be seen when the associate believes that they are being paid to show up and take care of the owner’s patients; and the owner expects that the associate needs to go out and build their own practice, find their own new patients and share nothing but staff.

Turn this around and start your relationship with equal expectations and you have the beginning of a beautiful relationship! It takes some discussing and navigating before you begin working with each other, but it is so worth it!

Properly Structured Promises

Many associate doctors will run after chiropractic jobs where there is the promise of future ownership. The owner typically states something like “I’m looking for someone who can start as an associate and eventually take over, so that someday all this will be yours.” Too often, this ends up as an empty promise.

Let me start by stating there is nothing inherently wrong with a properly structure associate buy-in, buy-out or future partnership. In fact, our chiropractic transition coaching programs assist chiropractors in creating solid and successful transition plans all the time – that work for both sides.

They key words to pay attention to here are the words “properly structured promises” which is in direct contrast with the “empty promise” shown above. Here, there are three critical elements to creating a future sale ownership opportunity that works:

  • Defined Time Period – although it’s not unreasonable that the owner will establish a trial period whereby you both can see if the relationship works, the time period to purchase should be better defined than “some day.”
  • Defined Purchase Price or Purchase Point – some docs will want to establish a purchase price at the start of the relationship; others will want to set the price at a certain point or milestone that needs to be met. Both have their advantages and both can work because the price or point is defined and decided from the outset.  Each side knows when or under what conditions it will happen. This is  opposed to some day “all this” will be yours –and a price is never set for what “all this” costs, nor is a point set at which “all this” can be purchased.
  • Define Financial Transaction – At the structured time and for the agreed-upon timeframe, the “how” of the financial transaction needs to be defined. In other words, are you expected to get a purchase loan, come up with a downpayment or start some other structured arrangement that will lead to your ownership? Here, it’s important to not only map out Plan A, but also what happens if the original route won’t work (Plan B) and/or any additional contingencies.


If you are an associate actively pursuing chiropractic jobs or ownership opportunities, I hope this article serves you well in what to strive for and what to avoid. In this respect, we have two additional resources to help you.

For those of you who are wondering how to evaluate a possible position or practice purchase, you might want to consider our FREE WEBINAR Buy, Build or Break Up to help you in the process of analyzing best opportunities that fit your situation.  And if you haven’t found your ideal associate position or opportunity yet, you should take advantage of our FREE Practice Match service where we can notify you of chiropractic practice sales, chiropractic associate jobs and ownership opportunities that meet your profile and interests! Click the link above to register today.

For those of you who are on the other side of the fence and considering offering chiropractic jobs such as associateships or ownership opportunities, I hope this shed some light into what often goes wrong beforehand and “behind the scenes” so that you can successfully structure your transition or associate position.

If hiring an associate is part of your transition strategy, you’ may want to consider seeing our FREE WEBINAR: Sell, Switch or Slow Down: How to Maximize the Value of Your Chiropractic Practice Sale or Transition and How to Minimize Costly Mistakes.