The Big Problem with Practice Management Seminars: Implementation
August 26, 2015
Before digging into this week’s tip topic, I want to make note of the very large number that is in the subject line of this email: We have reached Tip #700! I say “we” because we have made this journey together and I can’t thank my loyal readers enough for your ongoing support and encouragement for the tip series and also for just reading it week in and week out. Our profession keeps changing (faster than ever) and I have many more ideas to share with you, so let’s keep going.
I have been quite busy over the past few weeks presenting practice management seminars and I have several more before the end of the year. These lecture presentations always get me very charged up and I love helping doctors with practice building. In my most recent talk, I started by acknowledging to the attendees that the biggest problem with management seminars is implementation of new ideas when they get back to their offices. They universally agreed. A good practice management lecture should provide the practice owners with several exciting new concepts that will increase their productivity, efficiency and profitability, but those ideas can be very hard to put into effect.
I’ve analyzed the obstacles to taking action and here are the three major factors and some tips on how to overcome them.
In many cases, the problem with implementation is not that you don’t know how to implement the strategies that sounded so good in that seminar; it’s that you don’t have time to do it. Doctors who attend practice management seminars are trying to build their practices (or they would not have been there) and they see a lot of patients. They also have a personal life. They are busy. The usual scenario after attending a conference is that work and patients have piled up while they were gone, so when they return, the doctors are busier than ever. A few days pass and the enthusiasm over the seminar subsides. The details have faded. Nothing happens.
Finding the time to actively manage and lead your practice is crucial to your success and here is how I recommend you create a huge amount of time: delegate more. Much more. Reinvent your eye exam to be faster. See more patients per day by compressing your current patient load into fewer days per week. Create one or two management days per week. Your exam can still be very high quality if you just delegate more to well-trained technicians and consider the possibility that you are talking too much. I realize this process can be difficult, but the rewards are huge.
Getting staff and partners to buy in
We’ve all had this experience: the ideas in the lecture were great and you are ready to embrace the whole thing, but when you tell your partner about it, the excitement does not translate. Or you tell your staff about it and the response is not very supportive. They tell you why it won’t work in your office.
My advice on how to manage this obstacle is slightly different for staff members and doctors, but with either group it is important to start with describing the reason for the change. Talk first about the problem you think it will solve or talk about the wonderful goals you’ll achieve through implementation of the idea.
Also, try to consider in advance what fears the other party has. Partners might be concerned about cost. Staff might worry they will have to work harder. Be ready to overcome their fears by reassuring them that this has worked for other practices and by promising the resources that will be needed. Do some projections to show the new tactic will increase profit more than it costs. Reassure staff members that if the idea works out after a trial program, you’ll hire additional staff.
Use your leadership skills to convince others. Staff who help the practice grow are helping their careers to grow as well.
Unsure how to start
Sometimes, the problem is not time or lack of support, but simply you are not sure what to do first. Here are two specific action steps that will move most projects forward:
Hire another employee. This conveys to your existing staff that you are not just dumping more work on them and it helps you achieve the time management advice described above by delegating more. Don’t worry about the cost of the additional employee; the new project will cause an increase in profitability and the delegation step will help many aspects of your practice.
Find the money. Not all projects require a financial investment, but if your project involves buying equipment or redesigning your optical, you need the money first. So meet with your sales rep, banker and CPA and come up with a plan to lease, borrow or invest some personal funds.
After considering those two items, meet with your staff and develop a plan. Put the steps on paper. Start small with a test program if that will get you going faster. Set aside time to train staff if needed. Just do it.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.