Optometric Management Tip # 245   -   Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Should you delegate more even if youíre not that busy?

Act as you mean to go. That single statement is extremely important in practice building. What I mean by that is that you should design your procedures and policies as if you have great numbers of patients, even if you actually donít. The reason is that patients notice thousands of little factors that define your practice, and if they perceive that your office is successful, they will be more impressed and will refer more friends and relatives. Word of mouth referral is the single biggest way that independent practices are built.

Delegation

Most eye care practitioners (ECPs) realize the value of delegation of clinical and optical procedures to qualified technicians. It makes economic sense that doctors should work at their highest level. Yet, many doctors delegate fairly little because they have the false idea that they are saving overhead costs by doing many trivial things themselves.

Donít get me wrong, Iím not one of those big-ego guys who thinks heís better than his staff or above doing manual labor. Quite the contrary. But I am interested in building and maintaining a large, profitable practice and the only way to do that is with delegation.

I believe many doctors would like to delegate more, but they reason that they will do that when they get busier and have more patient demand. To do it now seems wasteful. Sadly, many ECPs never get busier. Their careers pass by and they always end up doing most tasks themselves. Their reasoning seemed logical, but it was flawed for two main reasons.

Two reasons to delegate now
  1. By compressing your patient schedule into fewer days of the week, youíll create more time to spend on management. That will pay huge dividends in building a busier practice. Your practice is a business and it needs attention to more than just the eye exams being performed. The business itself needs work and office managers canít do it all. As an example, if you currently perform exams every hour, spread over a four-day work week, try seeing the same number of patients in two days and devote the other three days to management.

    Now you will see patients every half hour. How can you do that? By hiring a technician and buying a new automated instrument to use in pretesting. By equipping a second exam room, so your staff can get the next patient ready while you go back and forth between rooms. By becoming more efficient.

    On your management days, you can concentrate on staff training, marketing, community involvement, office procedures, office technology, reading management books and a host of things you will see if you just wander around your office.

  2. The second reason to delegate before you really have to is because you will immediately create the appearance of a busy and successful practice. Instead of seeing a slow office where the doctor does everything, your patients will see a busy, vital practice that obviously is doing things well because itís the most popular place in town. That perception is worth a great deal in public relations value. People refer others to places they believe are successful and well-run. People judge your skills by what they see and understand.
Cost

Of course there is a cost to making your practice appear to be successful, and you should not take that lightly. Be careful not to take on more financial obligations than you can handle. But also realize that you must spend money to make money and that there is no better investment than your own practice.


Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management