Article Date: 9/1/2007

An Inside Job
o.d. to o.d.

An Inside Job

An effective consultant with a good grasp of how your practice operates is closer than you might think.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

Whether you speak in terms of practice management, staff motivation, or any one of the other terms you know from our industry, the bottom line is ultimately the bottom line. Strategies turn the practitioner's and the office manager's attention to the details of the processes that run the practice. Often, practices turn to consultants for answers. Consultants challenge doctors and managers to take processes apart and put them back together in an attempt to make those doctors and managers intimately familiar with what it is that makes the office run. Practice managers learn how they might modify processes to enhance efficiency and thereby improve profitability.

Additional attention is focused on the employees who make the office processes run. How do you make the employees more time efficient? How do you delegate more responsibility to the employees? How do you get more out of the employees per hour of compensation?

The employee factor

All too often, the employees are treated as though they are no more than just another part of the practice process, nothing more than another variable to manage, another variable dealt with as impersonally as a piece of paperwork, a detail to be included or tossed away.

One of the primary shortfalls in this approach to employees is to see them as "the ones who need to be managed," when, in fact, they are often the ones who are more able to assist in streamlining and modifying the office processes most efficiently; mainly because they are part of the process rather than an observer, they are living the process rather than on the outside looking in.

All too often, employees are treated as though they are no more than just another part of the practice process.

The big questions

So, now it's time to ask the question: If you can call on an employee not only to be part of the processes in the practice, but to also monitor and enhance that process, isn't that employee more valuable than one who can merely perform their part of the process? Isn't an employee who recognizes inefficiency and brings it to your attention helping you become more efficient and therefore more profitable? You bet he is.

So, if they are proactive and creative and willing to enhance the performance of your practice, shouldn't you recognize their efforts? Shouldn't an employee like this be recognized as a more valuable employee? And, shouldn't employees who are more valuable be compensated as such? Of course they should, they're working in the role of a manager at this level.

In fact, they are even providing information to you that is often only gleaned by hiring an outside consultant — one who observes and makes recommendations about a practice they have never seen before. By no means is my intention here to minimize the impact that a consultant can have on a practice. My hope is that you utilize all the resources at your disposal, including a valuable asset that is often overlooked: your very own staff.

The answer within

So, maybe the next time you feel as though you need a consultant to help you identify ways to reduce wasted effort, streamline your office and increase efficiency and profitability, you should look "in-house" for your consultation rather than flying someone in.

Sound silly? In my own practice experience, staff that had a sense of pride where their work was considered taught me the greatest lessons I ever learned about "how we could do it better," and in return, they were compensated for their insights and expertise along with being told, "Thank you!" OM

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2007