1.25.13 Issue #568 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

What Exactly Does Your Office Manager Do?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Congratulations! You did it. You named your new office manager. Now you can sit back, relax, and rest assured that all of those annoying, time consuming business duties will be taken care of. No more employee evaluations to worry about. Finally, you’ll have someone who can make sure office policies are upheld. Employee complaints distracting you - send them to the office manager. Disgruntled patients annoying you - let the office manager handle them. Budget worries stressing you - give them to the office manager. You can now do exactly what you want to do - the dentistry, and nothing but the dentistry.

Is it a dream come true or the start of another nightmare? That depends on how well you’ve prepared your newly anointed office manager for the responsibilities you expect her/him to assume. Too often “good” dental office employees that are proficient in answering phones, scheduling appointments, and developing financial arrangements are given the title of office manager but not the training. They are tossed into the position, congratulated on their promotion, and left to discover that performing the aforementioned duties well simply isn’t enough preparation for their new job of office manager. There’s a lot more to the position than many doctors realize. Read on.

First, any individual deemed office manager must be a natural leader. If the employee is not comfortable taking the reins on an issue and addressing it, s/he will not be comfortable tackling the challenges of being manager. Moreover, this person should enjoy being a problem solver. After all, when it comes to dealing with issues and concerns with patients, it is the office manager who is to be the first point of contact, not the doctor.

That being said, you don’t want a dictator in the position either. This person needs to have a good balance between “thinking” and “feeling” in her/his temperament type. If the individual is high on the “thinking” scale, s/he may be very efficient and task oriented, but, without training, is likely to come across as demanding and inflexible. Similarly, without proper training, someone who is highly “feeling” in her/his temperament type will find it very difficult to hold staff accountable and maintain practice policies. The office manager also must be able to handle pressure. If this person becomes flustered and short-tempered easily, the stress of office manager duties may be too much for her/him.

Additionally, a designated office manager should be skilled in working with numbers. S/he must be able to access as well as understand practice reports, such as profit and loss statements, patient retention and attrition reports, overhead percentages and benchmarks. A well trained and fully functioning office manager is also prepared to manage the office’s human resources, which includes hiring, firing, performance and salary reviews, staff schedules, grievances, employee policies, and team meetings.

As you see, there is far more to the position than just answering phones, scheduling, and preparing financial arrangements. A fully functioning office manager is the COO (chief operating officer) of the business, whereas the dentist is the chief executive officer. It is a position that is unique to each dental practice. Certainly, the parameters that I outlined above are central to the position, but the job description should be customized to best fit the needs of the practice.

 And before the individual job description is developed, it is critical that the designated office manager be trained to know and understand the “business” of dentistry including each practice system as well as other management specialty areas, including:

  • Practice numbers vs. industry standards
  • Practice overhead management
  • Hygiene availability management
  • New business vs. lost business
  • Staff management
  • Cash flow management
  • Patient management
  • And much more …

Only then are the doctor and the office manager prepared to build the job description from scratch to best serve the needs of the specific practice.

Certainly, some doctors are comfortable managing the practice as well as doing the dentistry. Understandably, many do not want to be burdened with the office management responsibilities. The key is to ensure that the individual designated as the office manager is prepared to fulfill the responsibilities of the position. Not every practice needs an office manager, but every office manager needs to be given the tools to succeed - specifically, professional training such as McKenzie Management’s Office Manager Training Course.

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
Interested in having Sally McKenzie Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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