Article Date: 3/1/2011

Can't We All Just Get Along?
fix this practice

Can't We All Just Get Along?

When staff at different locations become rivals, it's time to take charge.

Richard S. Kattouf, O.D., D.O.S.

Q For almost 20 years, I have had two private-practice locations. The employees in each office ys at odds with the other office. What can be done to correct this?

Dr. D.L. Davie
via e-mail

A: As the business owner, there are several things you can do to correct and/or prevent this annoying behavioral pattern. They include:

Have employees work at both locations. If the logistics permit, have as many staffers as possible “float” between locations. This will allow these employees to be team members at both practices.
Appoint one central buyer. Do not allow personnel in each office to see frames and diagnostic contact lens representatives or purchase product. This alleviates the attitude that “our location has better more stylish product than yours.”
Hold weekly organizational meetings with all staff from both offices. At these meetings, include the topics of scheduling, patient volume, billing, coding, patient flow and collections. Create a team-orientated approach, as opposed to simply gathering for a Christmas party.
Appoint one office administrator. It's fine for each office to have a manager or department leader. However, to develop one team, delegate management responsibilities of both offices to the administrator who floats between locations. (Empower the location manager to handle patient situations within her level of training. Refer only difficult issues to the administrator.)
Create a profit-sharing (commission) system for the total organization. Again, this facilitates the team approach. Everyone makes more money when the monthly goal for the entire organization is achieved. Do not base commissions on a single location.
Hold monthly training sessions. All employees from both offices attend these sessions, which can address new drugs, instruments, lens materials or frame lines. Serve food, and make it fun and educational. This sends the message that the practices are an organizational family, not separate entities.
Adapt the organizational method. That is, have both offices use the same forms, collection policies, scheduling, recall and language skills. Make all procedures in each location identical.

Many offices that have multiple locations employ associate doctors. Train these O.D.s to ensure that data entry procedures and other clinical duties are performed the same way in both locations.

Create an organizational e-newsletter. Oversee this task, but delegate it to the administrator. Published monthly, the e-newsletter can include employee profiles, marriage or engagement announcements, births, employee introductions, new product/service introductions, etc.

This type of communication creates the family atmosphere that is critical in developing a cooperative group.

The articles I've written have always put the responsibility for efficiency, productivity and profitability directly on the practice owner. Do not get caught in the blame game (“If I only had better employees”). Your staff is as good as you train them. They will perform at a high level and work as a team only if you, the doctor (owner) establish structure, organization and consequences to negative behavior. OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR NFORMATION, 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: March 2011