Q: I don’t have time to keep up with the business end of my practice unless I want to work 60 hours a week. Any ideas?
A: Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon. And while it would be difficult to zero in on exactly what’s happening in your office without a thorough evaluation, I will say that what you’re describing usually comes about through a combination of two different factors. They are:
1. No Office Manager
2. Doctor and/or Office Manager (or both) have no executive training and therefore waste time with needless actions that turn out wrong or need to be redone later.
Let’s take these up one at a time:
1. No Office Manager: As a doctor, you’re spending (or should be spending) the majority of your time chairside. That’s what you’re there for! From a purely business standpoint, you’re delivering services that no one else in your office is qualified to deliver. So, every minute you spend doing something else is lost income for the business! This is where an Office Manager comes into the equation. And let’s define what I mean when I say “Office Manager”: an Office Manager would be a trained executive who directs the affairs of the business. They would be responsible for overall business expansion (or lack thereof).
No office manager means one of two things – both of which are bad: a) no one is running the business, as the doctor is chairside or b) the doctor is managing the business, which means that he or she is not treating or managing patients! Most of what makes a business productive MUST be handled while the business is running – not after hours. The answer is to get and train (as an executive) an Office Manager who can run the business and allow you to be the doctor/owner.
2. Untrained Doctor/Office Manager: When it comes to getting something done, there’s only a few ways (or one) to do it “right” and potentially an uncountable number of ways to do it “wrong.” You could apply this concept to anything: building a house, prepping a crown, hiring staff, marketing, etc. etc.
Doing something the right way comes from KNOWLEDGE. Ask me to do something I’m not trained to do (i.e. carpentry or dentistry and many other things) and you’d have a real mess! With that in mind, I’m always surprised how people think management is done by “having a knack” or “luck.” No…when you see it done right consistently – it’s a result of KNOWLEDGE.
The handling for this is simple – get trained. You’re going to spend decades practicing dentistry – why not make your life easier and your practice more successful with knowledge about how to run a business?! My suggestion – do the MGE Power Program and learn how to become an executive! The reason is simple: whether you like it or not – you own a business and by default ARE an executive. Shouldn’t you have the skillset to succeed as one?
(Related: Fixing a Broken Area of Your Business)
Q: I have a problem with my staff. They do what I ask if I constantly remind them to, but if I don’t things don’t get done. I’m frustrated. How should I handle this?
A: I promise you that in the majority of cases, your staff is not being malicious.
As most know, pilots have a checklist prior to taking off. Why? They don’t want to forget to check something that is impossible to do at 30,000 feet! And they check this list off – every time – before they take off. They don’t expect this list to check itself!
In a similar vein, we have executives in business. Being an executive does not just mean keeping an eye on the numbers, overhead or just planning for the future. These are just a part of how an executive functions. Managing the staff (which requires interaction, problem solving and the like), ensuring they are utilized properly and that necessary actions are actually being done – is an executive’s job. As your staff goes through the day-to-day routine of handling patients, answering phones and other unexpected things that happen throughout the day, a good executive keeps them focused on the things that MUST get done consistently. Don’t get frustrated – just do your job as the executive, or hire an office manager to do it for you.
(Related: 7 Steps to Well-Trained Staff)
Q: It doesn’t matter how much I collect – I never seem to have any money. What should I do about this?
A: 99 times out of a hundred, situations like this are a matter of financial control and budgeting.
Proper financial management follows certain rules that when not observed, create a situation of “no money.”
To start, you would obviously need to make sure that your overhead does not exceed your average collections. This begins by calculating what your overhead actually is. This is a precise number; you don’t “ballpark” it. Overhead for this purpose is defined as: the amount of money you need every month to cover all your operating expenses (salaries, marketing costs, labs, mortgage, etc.) To help, I’d be more than happy to provide you with MGE’s overhead expense worksheet – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s easy to use and walks you through the entire calculation process.
Now, assuming you’ve calculated your overhead and your average monthly collections, you MUST take two immediate steps: a) cut back your overhead while b) working to increase collections.
That said, I usually find that this (base overhead exceeding collections) is not the case. Normally I find in these situations that the doctor is simply overspending or is failing to plan properly.
To avoid this situation, discipline yourself to not spend money that isn’t allocated for in your monthly budget. Don’t approve any expenditure that is not allocated for in your monthly budget. And realize that this is a very simple answer to a pretty complex question that has tremendous variables. At the chance of being redundant, I will say the following: the proper handling of finances are a standard part of owning a business and being an executive. It would serve you well to get some training in this area so that owning a business stays fun and profitable.