4.8.11 Issue #474 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Office Manager, or Not?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s interesting how people tend to evolve into certain positions in the dental practice. One in particular is that of office manager. In our consulting work, we see a lot of existing loyal employees, such as a hygienist or a dental assistant, who have “graduated” to an office manager position. As is often the case, they are bright and energetic, good with patients, and the doctor perceives that those skills are all that is necessary to be an effective office manager.

Then things start to go wrong. The employee may exhibit too little initiative or too much control. Others on the team may resent their former colleague being “promoted.” The employee has little direction from the doctor. If there is a job description, it’s typically vague at best. And the doctor begins to wonder if s/he has made a terrible mistake. In most cases, office managers are dropped into the position with no training. The doctor assumes that if the individual has been with the practice for awhile, then they know what it takes to do the job. Let me assure you that learning by osmosis has never been an effective training method.

Certainly, 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. This person should be a natural leader. They have to 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. They should be both personable and efficient. In other words, they need to be a good balance between thinking and feeling in their temperament type.

Additionally, if this person is going to be best utilized by the practice, they 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. “True” office managers are responsible for overseeing the practice’s overhead, and their most critical duty is effectively managing the office’s human resources. They are in charge of recruitment, hiring and firing all employees, performance reviews, schedules, grievances, raises, salary reviews, employee policies, and team meetings. They oversee and manage all of the business measurements, have leadership skills, analyze fees, and run profit and loss reports - just to name a few.

The office manager is like the chief operating officer of the corporation. The dentist is the CEO, Chief Executive Officer. Their job description needs to be customized to best fit the needs of the practice, which is why you will not find a generic office manager job description on my website along with all the other job descriptions. Rather, what we recommend is a two-day training course in which the designated office manager learns the “business” of dentistry - including each practice system as well as other management specialty areas. From there, with input from the doctor and the office manager, the job description is built from scratch to best serve the needs of the specific practice.

Below is a sampling of a few of the areas covered in the two-day Office Manager Training Course:

  • 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
  • Facilitating 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 them the tools to succeed, specifically, professional training.

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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