Most practice owners get so caught up with patient care, day-to-day clerical tasks and putting out fires that there’s no time to work ON the practice, even though they may be working FOR the practice 60 or 70 hours a week.
It’s an important issue, since only the owner can set the vision for the practice, establish the culture, decide what services to add, or what equipment to invest in. Often, the owner is the only OD. And few, if any, staff will be as invested as the owner in recruiting new patients to the practice.
If you’re struggling to focus on what matters most, here are three ideas for how to buy more time to do the things critical to the long-term success of your practice.
1. Recognize the value of your time
If you own your own practice, your time is incredibly valuable. Have you ever calculated your hourly rate? Take your annual income and divide by 2080 hours (40 hours per week x 52 weeks).
If you’re the owner of a $750,000 practice with a 30% net income, your time is worth $108 per hour ($750k x 30% = $225k; $225k ÷ 2080 hours = $108/hour).
Now ask yourself: is there any 'job' in your practice you can’t pay someone far less than your hourly rate to do for you?
Patient care? Average wages for associate ODs are no more than $60/hour or $65/hour.
Staff Management? Bookkeeping? Claims Management? Most practices can hire these out for less than $30/hour.
If you are focused on the high-value tasks ONLY you can do, how much better could you train your staff, delight your patients and grow your business in the long run?
2. Remember that for every task you hate, somebody loves doing it
Years ago, I was in a seminar where our group was asked the question, "Who here hates using Microsoft Excel?" Predictably, about two-thirds of the hands in the room went up. Can you guess the next question? "Who here LOVES Microsoft Excel?"
Chances are, if there’s an administrative task you hate doing, it’s also something you’re not great at anyway. And chances are good that you can find someone who actually likes that task and – don’t be surprised – is better at it than you are.
But let’s say you are the best at that one task you hate. Aren’t you still better off delegating that task if one of your team can do it 90% as well as you for a quarter of your hourly rate?
3. Pick something easy to delegate first
The personal money-management expert Dave Ramsey has a contrarian approach to reducing debt. From a purely financial perspective, the best way to retire debt is to pick the highest interest rate and pay that off first. Dave Ramsey’s advice? Pick your smallest debt and pay it off first. Then take on the next smallest debt and so on.
Financially, it’s not the 'optimal' strategy. But psychologically, you’re more likely to succeed if you can pick up an early "win" by paying SOMETHING off, however small.
If you feel like 'that task' you hate doing is too big for you to let go right away (or if you’re just terrible at delegating), consider taking a similar tack. Pick something small or less critical and hand it off to a trusted team member. Once you see a little thing successfully taken off your plate, you will have greater faith that your staff can handle bigger tasks as well.
Invest in Your Practice with the Gift of Your Time
If you’re constantly burned out or stressed, feeling like your weeks are a repetitive loop of patient care and putting out fires, ask yourself: is my practice suffering because I’m too busy with the day-to-day? Could we do more if I had time to work ON the practice?
If your answer is yes, pay someone to take something off your plate. Patient care and staff management are the two most obvious areas to delegate, but the key is to make time to do the things that only you – the owner – can do.
It may mean a modest drop in your income in the short run, but you’ll likely end up with a better, more profitable, and less stressful practice you’ll enjoy owning for years to come.
Nathan Hayes is the Practice Finance Consultant for IDOC. He is a 10-year veteran of the eyecare industry, working at HMI Buying Group and Red Tray, Prima Eye Group from its inception and now IDOC. In his current role, Nathan helps OD practice owners manage their overhead, grow practice revenues and profits, and maximize their personal income, free time, and professional satisfaction. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.