Common Problems That Can Damage a Family-Run Dental Practice
Hiring family members to help run your dental practice can be both rewarding and challenging. On one hand, it’s great to work side-by-side with people you love and respect, but on the other hand, there’s always the risk of emotions getting out of control and family dynamics taking over – leading to frustration and damaging the practice.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen many successful family-run dental practices over the years. These teams understand the practice is a business first and a family operation second. Every decision they make is based on what’s best for the practice. The family-run offices that struggle are filled with conflict and inefficiencies because team members aren’t held accountable, and think that because they’re family, they can basically do whatever they want without facing any consequences.
While family run-practices can thrive, they have to overcome several common problems to get there. Here’s a look at some of those challenges and what you can do to avoid them.
Family members are placed in roles they’re simply not qualified for. I see this happen all the time. Dentists ask the spouse to serve as Office Manager – but the problem is, spouses don’t always realize what they are signing up for. They may not be great with numbers and while they’re friendly enough with patients, they may not like dealing with human resource issues. In addition, they have never worked in a dental office and have no training, but yet they want to be supportive.
You can see where this might be a problem. Not only is the practice not running to its full capacity, it can lead to low team morale and high turnover, and cause the practice to lose money – lots of money. That’s why you simply can’t hire someone for a job just because they’re family. It’s great to have someone who has your back, but you must make sure they have the right skillset and temperament to handle the role. Hiring someone who isn’t qualified is a recipe for disaster that will only serve to hurt the practice, making everyone on the staff (including the family member) miserable in the process.
They don’t have enough guidance. Just like with any employee, your family members need clear guidance from you, the practice CEO. This comes in the form of detailed job descriptions and proper training. Job descriptions will keep everyone on the same page and reduce the risk of conflict brewing among your team members. Training will help ensure everyone is confident and efficient in their roles.
They’re not held accountable. This is a huge problem I see in family-run practices. Sister Susie strolls into work late just about every day, and often takes an extra 20 minutes or so for lunch. The other team members notice and start to resent the fact that Susie doesn’t have to follow the same rules they do.
Family or not, every team member needs to be held accountable. That means showing up to work on time each day and performing their jobs to the best of their ability. Bottom line: Make sure family members understand they won’t get any special treatment from you, and there will be consequences for their actions.
Communication is lacking. Communication and trust are essential for a successful family-run practice, and that includes letting each other know when there are problems. All too often, family members won’t question each other’s decisions or actions. Why? They don’t want to deal with the argument it could lead to. That means nothing ever changes or improves in the practice, often resulting in bigger problems down the road.
Let family members (and all employees) know it’s OK to come to you with any concerns they have. When they do, really listen to what they have to say and work with them to address the issue. You’ll find you have a much happier, collaborative working environment and a much stronger practice.
Family businesses can be very complex. If you don’t have clearly defined roles and detailed practice systems, it’s easy for family dynamics to take over and damage the practice. To avoid this, make sure any relatives who work for you understand they must follow the same rules as everyone else, and only hire family members who are qualified for the role they’re filling. Remember the practice is a business first, and never let family issues get in the way of its success. With all this in mind, you can achieve practice success and profitability – working alongside your family as you meet your goals.
Next week: Secrets of successful family-run dental practices
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
Is Your Practice Run by Bits and Pieces of Advice?
Recently a conversation came up at a dental meeting as to whether to use a dental consultant and which one would be best. A dentist in his early fifties said he had employed several different consultants over the years and had taken something from each one to incorporate into the fabric of his practice operations.
He had systems in place but was not measuring whether they worked or not. He wasn’t sure who or what was responsible for the practice remaining stable and productive. He was practicing a “head in the sand” approach – only coming up for air when there was a problem. We all know that is often when it’s too late.
When you attend a practice management seminar, you are going to get some “industry standard” advice along with that particular speaker’s “twist” on the subject. Usually something they are using as a “must have” to sell future services. Consultants will have different approaches and philosophies when it comes to how they help their clients. It has to be a good fit for you and your practice.
Whether you practice by bits and pieces or employ the measurable, trackable advice of a good consultant, take the time to build a plan.
Define Your Practice Goals
Define Your Leadership Role
Define How Much Help You Really Need
Can you get a short-term contract with a provision to expand it later? Make sure to have a clear understanding before you sign the contract as to what style of consulting you are getting, what time commitment, what the team will have to do and what you will have to do. Will there be training of staff for new systems? Will there be follow-up; how much and how long? You will need help implementing new practice protocols and systems.
Define the Reputation of the Dental Consultant
McKenzie Management has been an industry leader in positive dental consulting for decades. Call and discuss your practice management concerns and goals for success with a firm that can help you achieve your journey.
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