Article Date: 8/1/2005

fix this practice
Regain Control of Your Office
Organization and attention can help you get your practice back to business.
RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q I have owned a private practice for eight years. Clinical optometry is a joy but     controlling my staff is burning me out. I feel like my employees refuse to listen and don't follow my directions. What can I do to gain control?

Dr. P. A. Stanko, via e-mail

A: I see this type of doctor/staff scenario quite often in the one or two practices I consult with per week. Here are some examples of negative doctor and staff behavior I have witnessed and some solutions.

PROBLEM: Lack of checks and balances to alert owner of problem behavior.


ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN PATRICK

Example: The insurance coordinator leaves piles of records incomplete and not filed.

Solution: Develop a closing-procedure checklist to be monitored by the manager or doctor. No staff member may leave for the day until each task on the list is complete.

PROBLEM: Staff members embezzling time.

Example: I noticed one employee used the rest room at least six times in a three-hour period. The employee was using this time to text-message friends.

Solution: Pay attention to how many times and how long employees are away from their posts.

PROBLEM: Owner lacks policies or fails to impose consequences when standard operating procedures are broken.

Example: One client had an optician refuse to sell multiple eyewear on the day of the exam because "it took too much time."

Solution: Impose penalties on those who do not follow your instructions.

PROBLEM: Constantly tardy staffers.

Example: This puts undo stress on employees who are punctual, especially in the morning, after lunch or during shift changes.

Solution: Deduct $3 from employees' commission payments for each tardy per pay period.

Master and commander

In order to be successful in private practice, you must run your office as a business. Set policies, do not deviate from them and demonstrate that infraction of the rules will lead to consequences.

Too many times, I observe doctors who practice in fear of their employees. I realize the labor pool can be shallow. Owners must perceive themselves as coaches. As head coach, you must assess your talent. It's essential to determine the individual skills and abilities of your team and position them well. If an employee is out of position, it's generally the doctor's fault.

Adrift at sea

Dr. G. L. Young had reached his breaking-point with his out-of-control staff. When informed of my role, the staff felt threatened.

I met with this staff (without Dr. Young) to get their perception of the practice. They felt over-worked, short-staffed and over-stressed. I then met with each staffer alone for five minutes. Each reported negative behavior of fellow workers.

The solution was to establish Standard Operating Procedures. Dr. Young had to change his behavior to control the staff. I coached him and assured proper implementation. Of eight staff members, two would not change their behavioral patterns and gave notice. We replaced them with staff members who did adhere to policies and office morale is at an all time high.

Assess your own management skills. You must be in control before the staff will exhibit positive behavior.

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 2005