Q: I just don’t seem to have enough time to keep up with the business end of my practice. Any ideas?
This is a fairly common question, and it’s usually a problem with delegation. As an executive or business owner, you have to know what to handle yourself and what to delegate. As a dentist, this problem is magnified, as normally you are the primary producer. When you’re wearing your “business owner” hat you’re not producing, and when you’re not producing, the practice isn’t making any money. In the end it can translate into a lot of time at work.
The first thing that I would do is make a list of all this functions (i.e. jobs, activities in the office) that you are doing personally. You might end up with quite a list. Go to the top of the list and review each item; write next to each who (which staff or team member) should be doing it.
Now, beyond clinical duties that you have to execute personally, there are certain administrative functions you shouldn’t ever give up—i.e. policy approval within the office, financial management and oversight, and overall goals for the business to mention a few.
With the other duties that should be delegated, the key is to get someone else doing it—correctly—so you don’t feel the need to! Set some time aside to get with the appropriate staff to train them properly on how you want this function done.
As you go through this process, it can wrong in three ways:
1. You have no one to delegate to.
2. You don’t trust your staff to execute the function properly.
3. You hand over the function and never follow up or check that it’d being done correctly.
The solution for number one is obvious. Hire some staff! If you can’t find them it’s time to get yourself some training. We can help with that (shameless plug).
Number two is a little trickier, as could either be a real problem or an imagined problem. I had a client a few months ago who was handling the insurance submissions herself. Upon inspection it was found that the Financial Coordinator had been trained properly but was still making an inordinate amount of mistakes. Exasperated, the doctor’s solution was to do it herself in the evenings—while continuing to employ the Financial Coordinator! In this example the inability to trust that the staff member to perform her duties was based in fact. The solution should have been to replace the Financial Coordinator with someone who could perform the tasks required of him/her.
Another example: I had a client who refused to hand over any work as he simply did not trust people. Period. His staff had given him absolutely no indication that they were incompetent or unwilling—as a matter of fact, the staff were becoming disgruntled because the doctor would not let them do their jobs! This was a little harder to handle, but by training the doctor as an executive, and working on his communication skills, little by little he was willing to hand over more work. Now he has a stable flourishing organization—and a staff that enjoy their jobs!
Hope this helps! Let me know if you need any more help on this point.
Q. When I try to make a change or implement new things in the practice, they never seem to get done. Any advice?
Now, my answer may or may not take you by surprise, but the first thing I do when I hear this is have the doctor examine their own job performance—as an executive.
Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing to create a productive and flourishing staff? As an executive you have a responsibility for providing policy, guidance and making sure that your staff is trained on this policy.
Second, the business processes in a dental office aren’t difficult but have quite a few “moving parts,” meaning there are quite a few steps to each process (think about verifying insurance benefits, filing a claim, etc.). Or even something as simple as everything involved with opening the office (lights, TV in reception, etc.) None of this is hard, but it’s quite a bit to remember.
For this, checklists (daily and weekly) which include each of these duties/actions for every job in the office are invaluable. No one “forgets” to do something then—it’s on the checklist. If you don’t have these, you’ll find yourself reminding people about what to do frequently.
Third, do you have an Office Manager? The office manager is more than “your front desk person”—they are your CEO. They run the business in “real-time,” while it is operating because ideally, you should be working on patients during this time. The office manager would follow these things up regularly as a part of their daily routine (as opposed to you doing it between patients or at the end of the day).
Lastly, it very well might be a staff member issue. But a couple of points here:
a. One non-performing “bad-apple” staff member can cause chaos and make it seem like “everyone” is doing poorly.
b. Someone who continuously makes the same errors/mess-ups and changes or doesn’t follow through with clear orders probably shouldn’t be employed by your office. If you have one or more people who fit this description it can make things very difficult. Luckily, most people you hire are generally willing and able to do their jobs and will do so. See the beginning of my answer (checklists, policy, etc.).