Tips to Help Your Family-Run Practice Thrive
It seems like the perfect setup. You need help running your dental practice and your brother just told you he’s interested in taking over as Office Manager. The two of you are pretty close, and you love the idea of having him in the office every day to bounce ideas off and to provide that extra bit of family support. Your first question to him is simple: When can you start?
Not so fast. While it can be pretty rewarding to work with family members to achieve your goals, it’s not a good idea to hire people just because they’re related to you. Family relationships tend to be rather complicated, and of course that spills over to any business association you form.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of very successful family-run practices, and dentists who are happy to work with their loved ones by their side. The problem is, if you don’t handle it the right way, hiring family members could do a lot of harm – to both your practice and your relationships.
Not to worry, doctor. I can help ensure your family-run practice thrives. Here are my tips:
Make sure they’re right for the job. Your brother might be excited about taking over the Office Manager role, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best fit. Before you hire him, or any team member for that matter, make sure he not only understands and can handle the job responsibilities, but that he also has the right temperament. Does he have a flare for crunching numbers and reading reports? Does he like tackling human resource issues? Is he a problem solver? If the answer to any of these questions is no, he’ll probably be miserable, and ineffective, in the Office Manager role.
Develop detailed job descriptions. This, of course, is important for every employee, but even more so for family members. In many cases, family members think they can get away with more than other employees because, well, they’re family. That might mean they think it’s OK to stroll in late every day, or to offer deep discounts or even free services to other family and friends.
You have to let family members know what’s expected of them from the beginning, and that comes from detailed job descriptions. Include tasks and responsibilities as well as how performance will be measured. Make it clear they won’t be treated differently just because they’re related to you.
Remember the practice is a business first and a family operation second. What exactly does that mean? The best interest of the business has to come before anything else. This can lead to complications, but if you want a successful practice, you have to deal with issues as partners, not as a family.
Ask the right questions. Putting people on your payroll just because you’re relatives can lead to trouble. You really need to make sure you can work with them day in and day out and that they share your practice philosophy, vision and goals.
How? I suggest you ask yourself and your family members these key questions before bringing them on board:
• Do you want the practice to grow or stay where it is?
This type of communication not only tells you their attitude toward the practice, it gets everyone on the same page, helping you avoid problems in the future.
Have a system in place for raises. It’s important to make it clear how performance will be measured and under what circumstances raises will be given. You really can’t hand out raises just because a family member asks; raises have to be earned, no matter what. Giving out raises “just because” can really hurt your practice, sending salaries over the 20-22% of revenue benchmark and your overhead costs soaring.
Set them up for success. You can’t expect your family members to excel if you don’t offer them proper guidance. Beyond job descriptions, it’s also important to provide necessary training and continual feedback.
While it’s true that family-run dental practices come with their challenges, they can also be pretty rewarding. But for it to work, you have to remember to put the business first. Be sure to develop clearly defined systems and hold family members accountable for their actions. Remember you’re the practice CEO. It’s your responsibility to offer proper guidance and to put family members in roles that match their skillset as well as their temperament. When you do, you’ll reap the many benefits a family-run practice can bring.
Next week: How to deal with conflict in your family-run dental practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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