11.1.13 Issue #608 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter
 

What Does the Office Manager Really Need to Know?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Once upon a time in a dental practice down the street, the title of office manager was bestowed upon one “lucky” employee. From that moment, the doctor was certain that all the managerial challenges facing the practice would be remedied, as now there was an “office manager” on the premises. As time went on, the practice continued to lose money and employee headaches and problems plagued the practice. “Why isn’t the office manager taking care of these problems?” wondered the doctor. Because the employee had zero training before s/he was anointed the title of office manager. It’s not a scenario limited to a grim practice fairy tale, it’s one we see in dental practices regularly.

Time and again dentists reason that somehow, someway, once the title of office manager is bestowed upon the “lucky” individual, s/he will figure out exactly how to address all of the managerial shortcomings facing the office. Rarely does it occur to the owner/dentist that s/he didn’t “figure out” dentistry without training and education, so perhaps it’s a tall order to expect that of their newly anointed manager. Nonetheless, the doctor simply “thinks” the employee can do it. Why? Because the individual has been a reliable, hardworking team member and has demonstrated initiative, perseverance, and, well, chutzpah. All of which are very good qualities, but none of which will prepare the person to be an effective office manager.

If your practice is to make the most of an “office manager,” this person will need a set of skills that goes beyond being a loyal employee and working well with staff and patients. S/he should be a natural leader or get education in leadership skills. The individual must be comfortable taking the reins on an issue and addressing it. Being a good problem solver by nature is essential because the office manager, not the doctor, should be the first point of contact for the patients and the staff when issues arise.
 
This person needs to have the right personality traits for the position. S/he should be both personable and efficient. In other words, this person should exhibit a good balance between thinking and feeling in her/his temperament type. Additionally, if the individual is going to be best utilized by the practice s/he should be comfortable working with numbers and be able to access as well as fully understand practice reports. Moreover, the office manager must be able to work well under pressure; s/he will be pulled in multiple directions.

But that is just the beginning. A “true” office manager is responsible for overseeing practice overhead, and the most critical duty is effectively managing the office’s human resources. This person is in charge of recruitment, hiring and firing all employees, performance reviews, schedules, grievances, raises, salary reviews, employee policies, team meetings. S/he also must oversee and manage all of the business measurements and analyze fees as well as profit and loss reports - just to name a few.

The office manager will need a job description that is customized to best fit the needs of the practice. But most importantly, the designee should complete a professional office manager training program in which the individual learns the “business” of dentistry including each practice system as well as other management specialty areas. Below is a sampling of a few areas in which an effective office manager should be well trained:

Practice Numbers vs. Industry Standards
- Manage practice overhead (personnel, rental/maintenance of office space, administrative expenses, equipment/furnishings, clinical supplies/lab, office supplies, marketing)
- Determining hygiene availability
- New business vs. lost business

Staff Management
- Drafting specific job descriptions
- Employee policies: vacation, jury duty, sick leave, etc.
- Team planning meetings
- Employee warning system

Systems Management: Watching the Numbers
- Patient retention
- Cash flow management, accounts receivable, over counter collections, delinquent accounts, financial arrangements
- Effective recall
- Facilitate staff meetings, agendas
- Computer utilization
- New patient protocol

Not every practice needs an “office manager.” Some doctors are comfortable managing the practice as well as doing the dentistry, while others do not want to be burdened with the management responsibilities. My advice, don’t toss around the term “office manager” lightly. This is a position that carries significant responsibility and requires specific skills. If you do appoint an “office manager,” give her/him the tools to succeed, specifically, professional training.

For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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