In my consulting work with optometrists, one of the most frequent ways I've been able to help is by identifying the need for an additional staff member. I actually find most optometric practices are understaffed. Most OD/practice owners resist hiring more employees because a) they are concerned about increasing their payroll cost and b) they dislike the management challenges that are brought on by a larger staff. I teach my clients that the first concern is usually without merit (see reason #1 below) and the second concern is holding back their practice growth.
Let's look at the four major benefits you could realize if you hire one more staff member.
1. Productivity will increase
Hiring another employee often increases production by any metric you care to use: gross revenue per day, number of exams per day, average sale per exam, collection of fees, etc. Having more staff allows everyone, including the doctor, to function at a higher level and to spend more time with patients. Not feeling rushed allows opticians to explain a lens feature better or to bring up the benefits of a second pair of glasses. Doctors who have enough staff support might recommend a new patient try on a pair of bifocal contact lenses. A receptionist who has time can check the exam history of a patient's family members and recommend scheduling appointments. There are many ways productivity increases with more staff.
The increased production is also the reason why a new employee will not reduce the practice net or drive up the payroll cost. Gross revenue typically increases more than the cost of the new employee. Usually much, much more.
2. Customer service will improve
This one is pretty obvious when you think about it. An extra staff member will allow everyone to spend a bit more time with patients, greet them a little quicker, explain things slightly better and stay on time for appointments more often. Do I need to mention how important customer service is for practice building? Do you want to get more five star reviews on Google? In this way, an extra staff member can actually increase patient demand because there will be more word of mouth referral. Word of mouth is the biggest source of new patients in private practices.
3. You will delegate more
Delegation is one of the best strategies there is for increasing practice revenue and profit, yet it is widely underutilized by ODs. You would delegate more if you had someone to delegate to! You could provide high quality clinical care with less doctor time. Start by challenging your clinical routine by asking what you could delegate. Eventually, you could increase the number of appointments you offer and the number of patients you see per day, without working any harder. You can see more patients per day with no added stress if you have enough good technicians to assist you.
4. Current staff members will perform better
Bringing in a new employee often improves the behavior and performance of existing staff members. This occurs because of one of two reasons (or both): the current staff member a) feels a bit of competition and tries harder or b) feels less stress on the job because there is someone to share the workload. Current employees often develop a better attitude, try harder, become more punctual and try to learn new skills.
If current employees do not perform better, having the larger staff will make it much easier to discipline, retrain and possibly even dismiss problem individuals.
Next week I'll present some ideas on how to evaluate your practice to see if you need more staff members and how to go about recruiting them.
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