Published in Non-Clinical

5 Signs It’s Time to Fire Your Associate Optometrist

This is editorially independent content
5 min read

Dismissing an employee is always difficult but may be necessary to keep your practice running smoothly and your patients leaving satisfied. Here are 5 signs that it is time to let your associate optometrist go.

5 Signs It’s Time to Fire Your Associate Optometrist
Firing an employee is never an easy or pleasant thing to do. Letting go of an associate optometrist can be more challenging mainly because it is almost like firing one of our own. Yet there can be times when letting an associate optometrist go is best for the practice. The overriding reason to let any employee go should be that it is done in the best interest of the practice.
With that in mind, what are 5 signs that it is time to let your associate optometrist go?

1. Poor productivity or productivity that is lower than practice norms

For most practices, the reason you hired an associate optometrist in the first place is to increase the productivity of the office and thereby increase revenue to the practice.
If your associate is new to the practice there should be a realistic time frame to build up their productivity. That time can vary from practice to practice, but when I was the practice owner two years seemed to be a reasonable time for an associate to start generating productive revenue. Of course, all this should be laid out to the associate when they come on board so as to give them a target to shoot for.
In our practice, that number was around $600K by the third year in practice. How did we arrive at that number? One, it is the average revenue most optometrists in the U.S. generate. Two, it relates to the associate optometrist's compensation. We used the 17% of revenue figure as a guide to the reimbursement of an associate. At that level, the associate is fairly compensated and the practice should make a bit of profit off what the associate generates.
If the associate has been with the practice for a number of years and there is a down-trend in productivity, this could also be cause for termination. In this case, it is trickier to resolve since in most cases it is a slow, long process.

Eventually, if the compensation of the associate does not correspond with the amount of revenue they generate, it is time to consider letting them go.

Realistically, their productivity should be reviewed on a regular basis so that the associate will know far in advance what is coming. Office metrics should be reviewed monthly and yearly.

2. Company or staff morale is down

After hiring your new associate, have staff members expressed to you that they feel like they are being talked down to? Has the tech who assists the new doctor recently quit? Is the new associate constantly involved in office gossip or drama? Are they bad-mouthing your management style behind your back?

Any good office is normally the result of a good team. There are some individuals who are just not good team players. Either get them to change or move on.

3. They are apathetic to growth

If you’ve had discussions with your associate about expected growth in the revenue they generate and they don’t seem receptive to the idea or they don’t care, then they are holding back the practice and this would be a reason to let them go.
In a smaller vein, if they are not willing to embrace new technologies that are brought into the practice or don’t want to recommend the latest products to help patients, that would be a sign that they will hold back growth within your optometry practice.

Growth is essential to any business and an employee that shows an indifference to growth needs to be either trained in its importance and change or you need to move on from that employee.

4. You’re getting patient complaints

An oft-repeated statistic from the Small Business Administration states that 86 percent of customers will stop supporting a business because of a poor customer service experience. Furthermore, dissatisfied customers are going to tell between 9 and 15 people about their bad experience.
Only a very small percentage will ever reach out to a manager about this experience—which means that if you get multiple complaints about a single associate, you can expect there are even more patients who haven’t complained, but are unlikely to return to your practice. If this is happening with your associate, they might not be the right fit for your practice!

A good tool for patient feedback is to have patients fill out surveys of their experience in the practice and use these to help judge the performance of the associate doctor—but also to use as a learning tool in order to fix things that patients see as a negative before having to release someone.

5. They have violated company policy

As in any other business, there are some rules that can’t be broken without immediate consequences. These include the obvious: theft, threats, and substance abuse, among others—the kind of things that are obviously outlined in your employee handbook. Violating these policies warrants immediate dismissal, and will come as no surprise to any employee!

For issues with an employee that don’t come down to gross violations of the safety and security of your business and colleagues, however, it’s reasonable to operate under the “three strikes and you’re out” policy.

However, each strike should come with a warning—firing should never be a surprise.

Final Thoughts

Letting someone go is difficult and especially in the current employment market with its low unemployment rate and so many businesses looking for employees. Associate optometrists may be a slightly different animal, but your practice does not want to get a reputation for a revolving door of doctors. That’s not good for the patients and ultimately not good for the practice. Hiring correctly from the beginning can solve myriad issues. A good rule of thumb for hiring any employee, including an associate optometrist, is to hire for personality and train for everything else.


  1. Justin O. Walker. 6 Signs It's Time to Terminate an Employee. Apr 03, 2018
  2. Riia O'Donnell. When (and How) to Fire an Employee: 7 Signs it's Time to Terminate In Human Resources.
Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
About Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA

Ken Krivacic, OD, has spent over 30 years building his private practice from one doctor and one employee to a 3 doctor/21 employee multi-million dollar growing practice with an emphasis on personal care and contact lenses. He continues to see patients after partnering with MyEyeDr in 2020.

He believes the success of a growing practice can be attributed to honoring three factions of an optometric practice: the patient, the employee and the doctor/owner. In order to better hon his business skills he went back to school and received an MBA from Texas Tech University in 2011. His optometric education was procured from the University of Houston College of Optometry.

Dr. Krivacic is currently the Lead Advisor for the First Eye Care Buying Group and also has been published in numerous optometric journals with an emphasis on practice management. He has also been a speaker for Johnson&Johnson Vision and Review of Optometric Business.

He currently resides in Dallas, Texas with his wife and enjoys golf and traveling.

Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
Eyes On Eyecare Site Sponsors
Iveric Bio LogoOptilight by Lumenis Logo