Negotiation Strategies with Dr. Mark Phebus

8:11 AM

Negotiation can be so intimidating for new doctors, so I was thrilled to get a chance to pick the brain of optometrist Mark Phebus, the expert behind 20/20 Consulting.  Wouldn't it be great if you had your own personal coach with years of negotiating experience to guide you through your contract and help find ways to maximize your offer? That's Mark.  He's a graduate of Indiana University School of Optometry with a residency in primary care and ocular disease and now practices in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Since he began practicing, he's worked in both private and corporate practice optometry, and learned firsthand the importance of negotiating his own contract in the trenches of these experiences.  He sat down with us to answer a few questions about how to make the most of your negotiation.

What inspired you to start consulting?
In all honestly, it started from me learning from my own mistakes. For my very first contract, I made the worst negotiating mistake possible.  I didn’t try to negotiate at all!  However, I negotiated pretty aggressively for my next two jobs, and I enjoyed the process and the results.  Shortly thereafter, I ended up helping a good friend of mine with her contract just as a favor.  She was scared to negotiate for fear of seeming greedy and having her job offer rescinded.  However, after coaching her through the process, she realized it didn’t have to be scary and accepted an offer significantly higher than the original offer. Through helping her and from my own experience, I realized I had an idea for a company that could help a lot of students, residents, and young ODs negotiate their employment contracts.

What are common mistakes you see doctors, especially young female ODs, making in the negotiating process?
The biggest mistake that is made BY FAR is simply not attempting to negotiate at all.  Not negotiating is probably a 50/50 split between fear and ignorance.  I am trying to be the pied piper making every optometrist know that negotiating is not only an option but it's expectedNegotiating is a lot like dating.  The worst they can say is no!  No one ever regrets taking a shot.  We regret being too scared to try.  Our culture as a whole generally creates an environment where young females are expected to be proper and sweet.  But when your business is at stake it's ok to separate from your normal comfort level in order to get what you deserve! I enjoy coaching that confidence into optometrists.  That fear gets turned on its head and becomes a strength when you are armed with the right knowledge of how to approach the negotiation.    

How often in your experience are doctors able to negotiate for a higher starting salary when they ask?
Every time.  100%.  Although I don't just help negotiate salary.  Most salary offers are competitive and only need minor tweaking.  Benefits are much more important.  Benefits can add up to 10 or 15 thousand dollars annually just by knowing what to ask for.  Having a good salary but few paid days off is pretty common in initial offers.  Let's be honest, we've all worked our tails off for 20 years to get where we are and we all deserve a paid vacation or two throughout the year!  Paid leave is the most overlooked and under-appreciated benefit there is, especially for young female ODs who plan on having kids in the near future.  Having lots of paid leave can help offset not having paid maternity leave as an employed optometrist.        

Are there certain items that employers tend to be less willing to negotiate on (vacation days, non compete clauses, etc)?
Everything is negotiable.  Nothing is off the table until you sign on the line.  Paid leave and medical benefits are the hardest to negotiate.  Employers within optometry tend to offer lower paid leave because it costs them money to pay you not to work.  There might be a generational differences factoring in as well, but for the most part it just comes down to following the money.  Medical benefits get a bit more complicated due to the changes that arose with the Affordable Care Act.  Employers can no longer offer benefits to a select group of employees (e.g. offering medical to the doctor but not the optician) and thus this benefit became a larger cost to the practice that goes beyond just you.               

If you have a roomful of doctors you'd like to inspire about the power of negotiation, what 3 things would you tell them?
  • If you are a female and you don't negotiate, you are contributing to the gender wage gap!  It isn't just about you when you negotiate.  Especially in corporate optometry, you can raise the bar on what is an acceptable offer for every doctor that comes after you.  It becomes a great feeling to know you are both helping yourself and the profession.
  • Business insider recently estimated that the cost of not negotiating your entire life will amount to a loss of $1 million.  $1 million!  Go get your million back!
  •  Whenever you negotiate and begin discussing money, you learn a lot about your employer.  That can be both good and bad.  But you want to know your employer before you begin working with them.  And if they are willing to invest in you, then you know have found a great opportunity and have an employer who truly believes in you.  

Are you looking for help negotiating your contract?  Mark offers consultation through every step of the negotiation process, so reach out if you need a mentor in this process!

Mark Phebus, OD
Founder & CEO of 20/20 Consulting
(770) 548-6667

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