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Comparing statistics from your practice with other practices is a very useful business tool.
The AOA, eye care publications and consulting firms often compile useful benchmarks from practices
all over the country. The benchmark I’m asked about most often is staffing. Frequent questions
include: Do I have enough staff or too much staff? Am I paying too much in salaries and
I will share my take on three important national benchmarks that can help you analyze your
Payroll as a percentage of gross
I’ve long held the position that the old standard of 17 to 19% of practice gross revenue is
out of date. After analyzing my own practice and many other practices, I believe that amount
would be too low to attract and retain the high quality people we need to properly staff a
high service / high fee practice. We should look for that percentage to be 20 to 23%. To be
clear, many consultants are not recommending the 17% figure – but rather are simply reporting
what the data actually shows on average. That does not make it optimum -- just the mean or
It’s important to review the definition of the payroll category, so you’re comparing apples to
apples in this benchmark. You should include all costs related to employees, such as benefits,
uniforms, and payroll taxes. You should not include associate doctors; those salaries and
benefits should be placed in the practice net income category even if the doctor is an employee.
You should not include lab technicians who make glasses; that amount belongs in the cost of goods
sold category. If you have a person who works in the lab part time and works with patients part
time, prorate the lab time and move that part to cost of goods sold.
I would be concerned if your payroll percentage is under 20%, because you may not be offering a
high enough level of patient service or may not be delegating enough. I would be concerned if
your payroll is over 23% because you may be overstaffed or paying too much. Another important
consideration is that your professional fees may not be keeping up with the cost of living.
Staff productivity per hour
A good number to shoot for here is $80 per staff hour, or higher. To calculate your current
number, simply take your gross revenue for a month and divide it by the total number of staff
hours worked during that month. Use the same definition for staff as above; do not include
doctors or lab techs.
If your number is lower than $80 per staff hour, there could be several factors to examine.
Your fees are too low (or you are heavily dominated by vision plans – same thing)
You don’t see enough patients per day
You don’t sell enough high end options in optical
You have too many patients taking their eyeglass or contact lens Rx to go
You have too many staff
Staff productivity per person
This is a rough rule of thumb, but I find that the optimum gross revenue per full-time staff
member is $125,000. There are many factors that can cause exceptions to this, so don’t take
it too literally, but the rule is pretty darn close in most cases. So, if your practice grosses
$1 million, you would need about eight full time staff members. If you gross around $400,000,
you would need 3.2 staffers. If you have some part-timers, just add them together to come up with
a full time equivalent or use decimal points to quantify fractions.