A: This is an important question for a dentist regardless of the growth stage of their dental practice. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in practice for 15 years or more, an effective Office Manager who operates as an executive is a MUST for sustained growth.
A competent Office Manager is an absolute necessity if you want to avoid being caught up with and stressed about the business side of your practice. You can find out more about this in our article What Exactly IS an Office Manager? (And Why You Absolutely Need One!) by our COO, Jeff Blumberg.
As Jeff discusses in that article, the definition we use for an “Office Manager” is:
“The chief executive of your practice. They would in effect “run” (manage) your business so you can do what you’re supposed to be doing: dentistry.
That means when filling this position you’re looking for someone who can (or can be trained to):
- Solve problems,
- Create growth in a business.”
So, with this in mind, I often hear the question, “Where do I find a good Office Manager?”
And the real answer to this question is that you don’t find a good Office Manager. The pool of “ready-made” trained candidates that could walk in and make a difference on Day One is infinitesimal. You can handle this by making a great Office Manager. Essentially, we’re looking for someone with the raw ability that, with training, would become that person you’re looking for.
(Related: Suggestions on Training Your Staff)
Where to Find a Good Candidate
I usually prefer to promote someone that’s already on staff in your office. You may have an assistant, hygienist or front desk employee that is sharp, works well with you, would be happy to take on more responsibility and learn the things they need to grow into the position.
It’s typically easier to hire a replacement for their old job, e.g. Dental Assistant, Financial Coordinator, etc. than it is to hire a workable Office Manager candidate.
If you don’t have an internal prospect, you can hire someone new, but I wouldn’t start them out as the Office Manager. I’d have them hold another position until they learn the ins-and-outs of the office and develop a proven track record of productivity. Then, assuming they do well on the position and tasks you’ve given them, you can make the move to Office Manager.
What You’re Looking for in a Potential Office Manager
The things I look for are:
- Problem-solving ability
- Willingness to learn and get trained
- Willingness to go the extra mile to become highly professional at their new job
- Responsibility and accountability
If you want your practice to grow, you need someone who is driven and wants to grow with the practice. You also need someone that is reliable and capable of solving problems on their own.
And you may have noticed I did not list “dental experience,” as a quality. Experience can be good…or bad. We’ve all seen that employee with past dental experience who routinely states: “that’s not how we did it in my last office.” In many cases proposing solutions which are completely inapplicable to your office. After all, this isn’t the “old” or “last” office. It’s YOUR office! So again, experience could be great – but could also be a hindrance in certain cases. In any event, I don’t use it as a requirement for administrative (non-clinical) staff in a dental practice. I’m more interested in how trainable the individual is and how quickly they pick up on what they are being taught. If they are trainable, they can learn dental-specific knowledge quickly.
Making a Great Office Manager
It means they would need to put in the time to ensure they are properly trained. You can’t just hand them a manual. They need training, correction, coaching, practical experience, correction again and so on.
Ultimately, as business, every job in the practice is your job. You’re hiring an Office Manager to take pieces of your job. And training done well pays off with increased skills for your OM. A few months of extra work and training time to make a great OM can buy you years of less headaches, more growth and profitability – and more time to spend with your family.
And until this person is fully functioning on the job, the doctor IS the “Office Manager.” The doctor would need to be doing the functions that the Office Manager normally would and apprentice the new candidate under them until you can pass the baton without anything dropping off.
You can’t train someone if there’s nothing to train them with. This means you need effective systems and clear-cut policy to train your Office Manager with.
They need to get a thorough understanding of all front office procedures, organization, staff management, statistical analysis, employee training, communication, and more.
And that’s why MGE exists. We provide training for the Doctor-Owner and Office Manager on how to run a successful, growing dental practice and implement effective organizational systems.