How to create powerhouse office administrators

March 27, 2017
Dr. Roger P. Levin
Dr. Roger P. Levin
Dr. Roger P. Levin

Dr. Roger P. Levin is the CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm. Founded in 1985, Levin Group has worked with over 30,000 dental practices. Dr. Levin is one of the most sought-after speakers in dentistry and is a leading authority on dental practice success and sustainable growth. Through extensive research and cutting-edge innovation, Dr. Levin is a recognized expert on propelling practices into the top 10 percent. He has authored 65 books and over 4,000 articles on dental practice management and marketing. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time magazine and is the creator of the Levin Group Tip of the Day, which has over 30,000 subscribers. To contact Dr. Levin, visit www.levingroup.com or email rlevin@levingroup.com.

Providing training and standardizing the job description can take your practice to the next level.As the business of dentistry continues to evolve, many dentists are opting to form small group practices to compete more effectively in a changing marketplace. Owning multiple practices requires a greater degree of business management than running a single practice.

As the business of dentistry continues to evolve, many dentists are opting to form small group practices to compete more effectively in a changing marketplace. Owning multiple practices requires a greater degree of business management than running a single practice.

Over the last 10 years, the Levin Group has had the opportunity to provide consulting services to numerous small group practices. In that time, we have observed that the majority of them have evolved without a formal strategic plan. For example, one client opened three offices, bought another practice from a recently deceased doctor’s family, purchased the patients and equipment of another practice, and added specialists to all five offices in the practice. This rapid growth occurred over the span of three years with little planning. The doctor expanded as opportunities presented themselves, creating a small group practice, but one with major issues.

Related reading: 5 essential staff training strategies within the dental practice

As you would expect in such a scenario, each office runs very differently from the others, with its own individual systems, processes and policies. In addition, the office administrators have varying backgrounds and capabilities with little in the way of formal business training:

  • Office #1 – Former dental assistant who had been with the doctor for 17 years.

  • Office #2 – A former hygienist who had been with the practice for 13 years.

  • Office #3 – A medical secretary hired from a medical group practice who worked at the front desk.

  • Office #4 – Doctor/owner’s daughter.

  • Office #5 – Former front desk coordinator who had been with the practice for five years.

Don’t misunderstand. Levin Group has worked first-hand with many excellent office managers or administrators who started their careers as hygienists, assistants and front desk coordinators. But these individuals didn’t just rely on their dental experience––they supplemented it with management training.

Standardizing office administration

Small group practices should focus on standardizing the role of the office administrator as early as possible. This employee’s job description should be created prior to the formation of the group practice. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Many owners attempt to retrofit tasks and reporting onto the position after someone is already serving in the role. It’s always better to give employees, including new hires, an accurate and updated job description.

Training office administrators is necessary, but it can be time consuming. Some owners aren’t willing to make the proper investment, feeling that, because they’d training only a few people, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.  In addition, a cultural shift must also take place on the part of office administrators–– they must realize they can no longer operate independently or with their own managerial methodology. The goal is for all offices to operate with uniform systems and policies so that the practice can achieve its highest potential as a business. Without standardization, chaos ensues. The lack of consistent and effective systems in one practice is highly stressful… imagine that scenario played out across 10 offices in a group practice. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?

Up next: Three key recommendations ...

 

Where to begin?

Office administrators of small group practices need to be trained in management, operations, reporting and leadership. Here are three recommendations we make to our small group practice consulting clients at the outset of their engagements:

1. Identify a best model scenario

As a group practice owner, you don’t want to be herding cats, and that’s what you’ll be doing if every office has its own distinct systems and processes. Standardizing the office structure will simplify the jobs of the owners and management employees, including office administrators. While there must be some allowance in the model for variation regarding types of services, patient base and other factors, the emphasis should be on creating a similar structure for each office.

More from the author: The biggest mistake dentists make: Keeping staff members who are poor performers

2. Standardize the job description

All office administrators should have the same responsibilities and duties across the organization. No matter the individual office, the position should be basically the same. This type of standardization allows you to improve operational efficiency throughout the organization. It also gives you the flexibility to move administrators to different offices if someone is on vacation or out sick.

3. Provide management and business training

The office administrator plays a critical role in the business performance of a dental office. This employee needs a wide range of management and business skills to be successful in the position. Duties include implementing systems, standardizing processing, leading and motivating the team, tracking financial performance, communicating the practice’s goals and policies, and ultimately, ensuring that the office runs efficiently. By training office administrators in key areas, small group practices can improve performance in individual offices and in the practice overall.

Conclusion

Small group practices face many different challenges. One of the most critical is the wide variation in the backgrounds and capabilities of its management staff. Each small group practice should provide uniform training for office administrators and create a business model that can be replicated throughout the organization. Standardized systems provide the best opportunities for small group practices to reach their production potential.

Levin Group, the most respected consulting firm in dentistry, has deep experience working with small group practices and DSOs of all sizes, improving business processes, strategic focus and organizational design. To learn more, visit www.levingroup.com.