Last updated on June 20th, 2023 at 11:44 am
As a dental practice owner, being able to delegate well is vitally important. You canâ€™t be productive or achieve much growth if youâ€™re micromanaging everything while also practicing chairside.
So, delegation is a nice idea: â€śI can focus on treating patients while my office manager and team take care of everything else!â€ť
Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, it often plays out differently in real life.
Instead, while youâ€™ve had your head down treating patients, the schedule has developed holes, appointments are in the wrong time slots, there arenâ€™t enough new patients, overdue bills are stacking up, and collections are down againâ€¦
Since you werenâ€™t involved in these administrative activities in the first placeâ€”and possibly donâ€™t even know what the staff are doing or how they should be doing itâ€”you wonâ€™t know how to fix it, either.
Your only option now is to yell at the office manager and then hope they figure it outâ€¦or suddenly butt in at the front office (where you donâ€™t have much familiarity or experience) and start giving orders like a bull in a china shop.
Not a very good management styleâ€¦
So, in this article, we have two rules to help you delegate successfully:
1. Understand it before you delegate it
This may seem counter-intuitive, but the only way you can stop doing something is by being able to do it well yourself.
If you donâ€™t know how to do something effectively, then youâ€™re probably going to be stuck doing it forever no matter how many times you try to pawn it off on someone else.
And related to this idea, our COO, Jeff Blumberg, has a great saying that I love. It goes, â€śI never ask anybody to do something I wouldnâ€™t be willing to do myself.â€ť
If you are asking your employees to do things that you donâ€™t know how to do and wouldn’t be willing to do yourself, then youâ€™re asking for trouble.
Here is an example:
You donâ€™t have any clear policy or systems for scheduling patients, but you assign the job of managing the schedule to an employee and expect them to figure it out. What happens? Your schedule is a mess because they put patients too close together, didnâ€™t understand why two certain procedures canâ€™t be placed back-to-back, and a patient arrived for their crown seat before the lab was ready. Now youâ€™re up at the front handling the schedule yourself again.
Youâ€™re not comfortable discussing fees or making financial arrangements with patients, so you hire a treatment coordinator to do it for you. Now you have two possibilities: a) You get lucky by hiring a fantastic salesperson and this makes you super-productive. Great! But then what happens if they go out on maternity leave or need to move out of state? You canâ€™t do the job as well as they did and find an equivalent replacement, so your production falls off a cliff. Or b) you hire someone but canâ€™t train them to do it well (because you yourself canâ€™t do it well), and then either have poor case acceptance or wind up needing to do it yourself anyway.
In either example, if you had taken full responsibility for those duties and became good at them yourself, then itâ€™s no problem if you lose an employee. You can cover for a little while with negligible drop-off in production and confidently train a replacement.
So, in order to delegate something, there are four steps:
- Understand how to do it well yourself.
- Create policy on how it should be done.
- Provide adequate training for the person you hire to do it.
- Maintain oversight and give correction if anything goes wrong.
2. You canâ€™t delegate the job of being a business owner
There are certain core responsibilities you have as a business owner that can never be turned over to someone else.
These responsibilities include things like financial oversight, providing direction and purpose, planning, creating or approving new office policy, overseeing certain HR matters, and reviewing key statistics (see this blog post for which statistics you should be tracking).
These duties donâ€™t need to be time-consuming, but they do need to be done. (See the blog post: Making Time for the â€śBusiness Sideâ€ť of Dentistry on how to do this efficiently.)
Hereâ€™s an example of â€śover-delegatingâ€ť:
Last week I spoke with a dentist that had downloaded our Insurance Plan Analyzer tool to evaluate his PPO plan participation and help determine whether he should drop his lower-paying plans. When I asked him what heâ€™d found with the analyzer tool, he said, â€śOh, I gave that to my office manager. Itâ€™s more her job.â€ť
This answer just did not compute for me. As the owner, itâ€™s his signature on the dotted line of these insurance plans. Heâ€™s the one discounting his services and writing off 30%+. If I was in his shoes, then sure, Iâ€™d like my OMâ€™s feedback, but if we canâ€™t make a profit, the OM still gets paid. If we go bankrupt, the OM can just get another job. Itâ€™s my practice, so a decision like that would absolutely be my job.
Thatâ€™s one example of â€śover-delegating.â€ť Iâ€™ve also seen dentists give up financial oversight to the point where they donâ€™t realize theyâ€™ve been being embezzled from for years.
And more than anything else, Iâ€™ve seen countless offices where the staff lack leadership, direction, and training, and then the doctor continually complains that his staff need to â€śtake more responsibility and accountability.â€ť The staff arenâ€™t the problem! The doctor never gave them the foundation they needed in order to be more accountable and responsible.
All in all, delegation is a great thing. Your staff handle the functions of the practice while you get to do what you loveâ€”dentistry.
But it only works if you also know how to conduct the main functions of your practice. As the owner, youâ€™re ultimately the one who is responsible for your practice.
At MGE, we make it easier for you to learn the skills you need and implement effective systems so you can start delegating duties to make your job less stressful. Request a free consultation here to find out how we can help you.