Article Date: 8/1/2009

How to Manage in Tough Times
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How to Manage in Tough Times

If there is a recession, your practice can choose not to participate.

RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q The recession during the Carter Administration is the only one remotely close to the one we are currently experiencing. The media chirp negativity throughout the day. Can you offer management dos and don'ts for these difficult economic times?

Dr. L.A. Nibolin
via e-mail

A: It's the obligation of you, the owner, to portray a positive attitude and enthusiastic leadership under all conditions. One of my favorite sayings is: "If there is a recession, I (we) choose not to participate." More specifically:

DO: Have positive, high-energy staff meetings. Site examples of interesting pathologies that you diagnosed and treated. Stress the importance of preventive eye care regardless of the economy.

DO NOT: Complain about cash flow. Avoid any mention of difficulties meeting accounts payable.

DO: Set reasonable monthly targets whereby all staff have the opportunity to profit share. If you provide your employess with the opportunity to build earning power in difficult financial times, they project a more positive attitude to your patients.

DO NOT: Take away existing bonuses or perks.


ILLUSTRATION BY DAN MCGEEHAN

DO: Continue to give raises only on the commissions, not on regular salary. This must be merit-based. Giving raises on a target-based incentive enables you to keep your percentage of salaries-to-gross in the ratio of earnings. You should not give annual raises based on employees breathing for 12 months. The employee must exhibit greater efficiency and productivity than before in order to merit a commission raise.

DO NOT: Cut or reduce the compensation of employees. This will lead to low morale and the likely loss of staffers.

DO: Teach employees how to become better income producers. Educate and train each staff member in new technology, data entry, medical coding and electronic medical records. Delegate more tasks to increase unit sales per patient.

DO NOT: Go into an economic shell like a turtle. Now is the time to spend money to make money.

DO: Evaluate your operating hours. Base this on your patient's needs. If you don't have a pulse on the community, your staff may steer you away from Saturday and evening hours because they don't want to work those hours.

DO NOT: Cut staff hours across the board. If you are sure a reduction in hours is necessary, petition the staff. Ask for volunteers who are willing to reduce their hours.

DO: Be upbeat at all times. Never let the staff know that you are stressed in any form. Have fun with your patients. Always exhibit high degrees of enthusiasm.

DO NOT: Be moody or snap at your employees. Your staff will give to the patients what you, the doctor, give to them.

DO: Come in early. Arriving at the office 30 minutes before patients gives you great organizational time. It allows the staff the opportunity to communicate with you on patient records or business situations. This increases efficiency, productivity and profitability. The end result: Staff morale increases.

DO NOT: Be tardy. If you arrive late, you send a non-verbal signal that you're stressed and want to avoid the office.

During good and bad economic times, you must portray positive leadership. No "stinkin thinkin," no negative remarks or mood swings. Enthusiasm is contagious — catch it! OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2009