The office manager serves as the practice's chief operating officer and must have a certain skill set and temperament to succeed in the position. Many dentists have no idea what the role entails and may think it's just a matter of answering phones and handling financial arrangements. Not so. This team member must be good with numbers, understand practice reports, be comfortable managing human resources, and work well under pressure. The ability to solve problems also is key, as the office manager is the first point of contact for both patients and team members when issues come up.
Finding the right office manager isn't easy, which is why many dentists end up hiring the wrong person. This misstep can cost you thousands of dollars and lead to countless sleepless nights.
Here are three common mistakes dentists make when hiring an office manager and what you can do to avoid them:
1. Promoting a star employee
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.
Many times dentists wish to avoid the hiring process, so they promote one of their top employees. The problem? Just because team members excel at their current role doesn't mean they have what it takes to be an effective office manager. Unfortunately, they usually don't.
Here's a common scenario: The team member you plan to promote is great with numbers and is comfortable running reports, as well as looking at practice financials, which are all key parts of the office manager role. But this team member hates conflict and isn't all that excited about the human resources duties that come with the job. The employee wants the promotion and is convinced he or she can handle it, but in reality you end up with a miserable office manager who dreads coming to work each day.
Eventually, this once-valuable team member will start looking for another job, assuming the employee doesn't have to be terminated before then. So instead of the office manager helping you make the practice more efficient, everyone ends up dealing with a lot of extra stress, frustration, and lost revenues. And you have to restart the search for an office manager from scratch.
The lesson? Before promoting from within, make sure the employee you're considering can handle the job. Not everyone can, so chances are you'll need to look outside your practice to make this hire.
2. No job description
“The office manager serves as the practice's chief operating officer.”
Just like with every other position in a practice, the office manager should have a detailed job description. The person who takes on this role must have a variety of skills, all of which should be outlined in the description. It's also important to include the expectations. This will help with both finding the right person for the job and guiding this new hire to success.
What about hiring someone who has worked as an office manager before? In our experience, I usually advise our clients against doing so. Every dentist looks at this role differently, which means you'll likely have different expectations than past employers. A detailed job description will make it clear what those expectations are and help set the office manager up for success.
3. No training
While hiring an office manager is often an exciting time, even if you hire someone with the right skill set and temperament, nothing will go as planned if there is no training provided.
Part of the problem is many dentists have no idea what goes into properly training an office manager. They just want someone to handle the business so they can focus on the clinical. If you're one of these dentists, look for outside help.
Hiring an office manager can lead to positive change in your practice, but only if you avoid these common mistakes and find someone who can handle the job. With the right person in place to handle running the business, you'll be able to focus more on providing exceptional patient care, which will reduce your stress level and grow your bottom line.
Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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