Article Date: 4/1/2012

When Not to Delegate
fix this practice

When Not to Delegate

Without a check-and-balance system, you open the door to embezzlement.

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

Q I have been in private practice for 12 years. With little knowledge of the optical, I have delegated the entire functioning of this department to two employees, both highly paid opticians who “run” my optical. My dilemma is that they have overstepped their bounds and are holding me, the owner, “hostage.” For example, they constantly hint of new offers at higher pay scales. I know I caused this mess. Any suggestions?

Dr. T.R. Tannenbaum
via e-mail

A: Many doctors have demonstrated that delegation is a great business tool. Empowering employees is a key to a successful business. However, problems occur in areas of the practice where the owner has no check-and-balance systems or a significant lack of knowledge. One solution: Never delegate at levels beyond your expertise.

Without a check-and-balance system, the optical staff is given free rein to order product, frames, lenses, lens enhancements and choose the suppliers. This is a formula for embezzlement of money, product and time that may lead to:

► Frame and lab reps who “payback” directly to the optician.
► Opticians developing a “side business” in which they sell inventory from the practice for their own personal profit.
► Opticians “hiding” errors in the lab, or ordering prescriptions without the owner's knowledge.
► Employees ordering products for friends, themselves and family on the owner's account at no charge to them.

Kattouf Consulting Services (KSC) has uncovered long-term, trusted employees who have embezzled tens of thousands of dollars, or more, from a practice with no recognition by the owner.

Steps to halt embezzlement

Consider the following steps in your efforts to prevent possible embezzlement.

► Create a budget, including a monthly amount for purchases that cannot be exceeded.
► Check and sign for all frame and lens orders that are for office inventory.
► Inform all sales representatives that any perks or favorable treatment toward one of your employees will result in their loss of your account.
► Prohibit staff from extending any courtesy (savings) to a patient without your consent.
► You, the owner, must ultimately decide on which lens labs or in-house lab is used. Leaving this to the discretion of a staffer may lead to supplier favoritism by the employee. Similarly, do not allow employees to decide which frames or contact lens manufacturers to use.

Beyond the optical

In addition to your optical, be aware that without a check-and-balance system, you leave the door open to the office manager to make personal purchases with the practice's credit card, or cash the reimbursement checks that the practice receives from insurance companies.

Be aware that as a business person, you operate a clinic and a retail optical. Delegation and empowerment with proper check-and-balance systems results in an efficient, productive and profitable practice. Without these systems, the practice controls you, instead of you controlling the practice. It is this lack of control of staff and day-to-day operations that is stressful, not seeing patients. 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, Volume: 47 , Issue: April 2012, page(s): 23