Every Practice Owner Needs A Sidekick

The Lone Ranger had Tonto.  Batman had Robin.  Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson.  Johnny Carson had…well, you get the idea.

The owner of a practice has several different jobs: Doctor, Managing Executive, Practice Owner and sometimes Landlord.  This is important when you realize that the most common reason for lack of expansion of a practice is owner overwork.  Because who is going to come up with the Big Ideas and make sure that they get done if the owner is drowning?

Every hero needs a sidekick.  A practice owner is no different.

So, what do you call a practice owner’s sidekick?

An office manager.

The main reason for a practice owner to be overworked is an unstable office manager.  There is simply no way possible for one person to treat patients full time, be the building landlord, be the owner/CEO and also be the manager of the practice.  And even if a person could pull it all off in a small practice, how are they ever going to expand?

The solution is to hire an office manager that works well with you and turn over the “Managing Executive” job to them.  Get them trained up so they can take all of the day-to-day decisions, paperwork and staff problems off your plate.  That way you will have time to focus on the jobs that only you can do.

What To Look For In Hiring An Office Manager

In hiring an office manager, there are a couple of things to look for:

1.  What is their production record?  It is very important that your office manager be able to get a tremendous amount done in a short period of time and you have to be able to trust them to take care of it on their own without your constant oversight, so they really have to be competent.  The best way to judge this is to actually have a track record with the person.  Whoever has the best record of actual PRODUCTS will be the best person to promote.  This is why it is often best to promote from within.  That way you have a chance to see how they produce on their job.  Remember though, being busy isn’t the same as being productive.  Saying nice things to the owner isn’t the same as real-world productivity.

2.  Do you like them?  You will work best with people that you genuinely like.  After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and sharing in your hopes and dreams.  If you don’t actually like them, don’t make them your OM.

3.  Do you trust them?  This is extremely important.  If you’ve got a bad feeling about someone, NEVER put them in a position of power in your office.  The last thing you want is to be proven right that you shouldn’t have hired someone.  If your instincts tell you not to trust them…don’t.

4.  How quick are they at learning?  An office manager doesn’t need to be already trained to run a practice.  In fact, a lot of times this is a mistake an owner will make.  They hire an outside office manager at a high rate of pay because of some previous credentials or experience and then are unhappily surprised that they were all talk, or the person didn’t fit well in THEIR practice.  You can train up an OM yourself.  But they will need to be quick at learning.  Someone managing a whole practice has a lot to do and learn, so they need to be quick at picking up on how to do new things.

Ok, I Hired Them.  Now What?

Now you’ve got to train them.  Many a good office manager has gone bad simply because she wasn’t trained properly.  No one can do a job they weren’t trained for.  They will sit around and grumble and complain if they aren’t trained.  Don’t expect them to be telepathic.  They don’t know your office, your rules, your software or your patients.  Once you hire them you will have to set aside a substantial amount of time to actually get them up to speed, continually training them every week until they are actually able to do everything they are expected to in each part of the practice.

Use Them Or Lose Them

This is normally spelled D-E-L-E-G-A-T-E.  Everyone has heard of it and everyone knows that they need to do it.  However, this is extremely important to reiterate.  Remember that as the practice owner, it is still your job to provide the direction for the practice and do the long-term planning.  Don’t expect the OM to run on autopilot.

Make sure that she is correctly utilized, that she knows what direction you’re taking the practice and she has a plan that she is working off of.  Meet with her each week and help her sort out the priorities, making the best use of both hers and the staff’s time.  Ensure that your office staff are working on something productive and take responsibility for providing valuable work for them to do.

Don’t Give Up

The right office manager is out there.  Just keep looking.  Most of the time people get one office manager and then think that there aren’t anymore out there in the world.  Sometimes the best way to find the right office manager is not to actually make them the OM until they’ve worked in the office a while and you’re sure of who they are.  Just keep hiring and hiring office staff in a continual flow.  Let the ones go who don’t work out.  This will give you a chance to see how different people function in YOUR office.  Once you’ve got a winner, promote her to OM.

The main thing is just not to give up.  This is a key part of building a practice and any time you spend on this will be well spent.  As always, if you have any questions about hiring, training, personnel or anything else, just drop us a line.


Have a question about your practice?  Try our free “Ask a Consultant” service.  Just send us your question in the form below.  We’ll email you back as soon as we can and may even post our answer to your question (but not your name) for others to see in the future.



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