view from the top
Be Firm But Fair
Too much of a softy when it comes to
staff? Learn to rely on your manual.
Gary Gerber, O.D.
Wouldn't it be great if your staff performed like
a well-run, mechanized assembly line? Tending to every patient perfectly,
scripting every word flawlessly and executing each task smoothly every time.
You'd never hear, "I'm sorry, I forgot" or, "I was too busy doing
But perhaps the best byproduct of this robotic
staff would be that if a complaint ever did arise, you'd have an equally
standardized and effective way to deal with it.
"But Dr. Jones, you mean I don't get paid
for July fourth because it falls on a Sunday? The last doctor I worked for paid
me for Groundhog Day!" The typical response? "Okay, I'll pay you this
time. But next time . . . ."
If you really had an android staff and a fully
automated office, you could simply say, "Consult the file on our server
called youaintgettingpaidforjuly4th.doc for an explanation."
I'm not advocating an assembly line practice but
this example does however illustrate how having a better administrative system
in place can help you deal with the day-to-day speed bumps that plague most
Keep it professional
I counsel my clients that while it's okay to be
friendly with your staff, you're better off not becoming their friend. It may
sound harsh, but it generally makes for a more efficient, productive and
ultimately happier workplace.
This is because you need to maintain a certain
"distance" to uphold your authoritative edge. Because when someone is
in control, a business runs smoother. As the owner of your business, you'll have
to make tough decisions and it's easier to make them when there is less emotion
involved. I'm constantly working with clients to help them achieve this fine
balance between boss and buddy. Some doctors really struggle with taking the
reigns of their own business and dread having to speak to staff members about
everything from raises to vacations.
Consult the manual
To help you with this transition of personality
from pal to principal, having a centralized, easily accessible
policies-and-procedures manual can help take the place of your having to make
every administrative decision.
While you can't possibly have a predetermined
plan for every situation that arises, you can plan for most contingencies. A few
examples are policies on eye wear for staff and their families, continuing
education, jury duty, etc. Instead of having to deal with these issues with each
staff member every time they come up, simply direct them to this central
The point here isn't so much to reinforce that
you should have such a master manual but to alert you to its ability to excuse
you from making certain management decisions because it contains the
"company's policy." The same goes with the clinical side of your
practice. For example, at what point during a returning contact lens patient's
visit should you perform corneal topography? You should outline the answer
step-by-step in your manual.
For the sake of efficiency
We should learn from the fast food industry and
put the same systems and process management that they use into our own
practices. Not for the sake of being fast, but for making our offices efficient,
our systems reproducible and driven by a concrete set of methods -- both
clinical and administrative -- not driven by the doctor.
You don't have to rule with an iron fist. Just be
firm and fair and have a good solid procedural infrastructure in place to help
you run your practice.
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power
Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.
Learn more at www.powerpractice.com
or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.
Optometric Management, Issue: September 2003