Article Date: 5/1/2011

Management and Your Practice
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Management and Your Practice

Can an office administrator and a staff manager benefit your practice?

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

Q How important is it for an optometrist to have an office manager? Also, is it better to hire from within for this position?

Dr. G.I. Layman
via e-mail

A: There are several factors to consider. For example, small offices with one to three employees and an owner with good awareness skills and a sense of business may not require a manager. Larger offices, however, certainly lend themselves to a more structured management model. There are two methods of management, which I'll explain here:

Managing from the bottom up

Through hundreds of office consultations, only once have I experienced the phenomenon of a staff having the maturity, chemistry and caring at level where they effectively managed themselves. It was so delightful—I'll never forget the experience. The eight-person staff exhibited the highest caliber of professionalism. If an employee was “out of bounds,” it was corrected within the employee work family. No one from the “top” oversaw this group.

The doctor/owner of this practice confessed this simply happened by accident. We should all fall victim to such a tragedy.

From the top down

Managing from the top down is the most common practice among optometric offices. The classic model is typically comprised of:

An office administrator who monitors the financial data. Data include accounts receivable, accounts payable, cost of goods, purchases, budgeting, expenditures and percent of salaries to gross income. The administrator prepares profit-and-loss statements, tracks gross-and-net incomes and reports the financial welfare of the practice.

A staff manager who acts as a human resources employee. Responsibilities include scheduling and overseeing staff, putting out staff “fires,” maintaining a pulse on morale and preventing embezzlement of time.

The administrator and manager comprise the owner's/doctor's “executive council.” This model shields the doctor from the daily stresses of managing the practice. The doctor becomes involved only if the departmental leader cannot handle a situation.

(Note: There must a defined line between managerial levels and employees in order for this model to be effective. Socialization among your management staff and your regular staff breeds rule-breaking.)

The right match

How do we select employees for these positions? Do we promote from within? It depends on the talent pool. Is there anyone on your staff who has the financial background to regulate the practice? If not, conduct a search to find the proper fit. Your administrator will spend a lot of time in front of a computer. If your staff is extroverted, you won't want them confined to a small space. So again, consider a search.

With conducting an outside search, you have the opportunity to give aptitude and personality tests to determine whether the applicant is the proper match for the position. A critical step in any search is to request references and speak to previous employers.

Throughout your search, keep in mind that these positions must reflect the successful management style you have established for your practice. 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: May 2011