6 Ways to Maximize Startup Success - Hire an Employee from Day One
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I talk with a lot of healthcare providers who are starting into practice, and
invariably they say, "I'm not going to hire a staff person right away, until I'm
making enough money to afford this person." This is backwards negative thinking.
I get a vision of some young doctor running around on roller blades, with a
headset and a stethoscope, trying to make copies, treat patients, handle bills,
all the while drowning in a sea of paperwork and phone messages. YIKES! Why
would you do this to yourself?
Having a staff person in your practice from DAY ONE is an essential element
for your startup success. Going it alone is just not an option, if you want your
practice to be successful. Here is my list of six reasons you need a staff
person from the first day of your practice in order to be successful:
Reason 6: Having another person in the office can keep you out of trouble. In
other words, you need another person in the office as a witness, to support you
if a patient accuses you of something. For years, gynecologists have been taught
to have a nurse present at internal exams. I'm guessing other types of doctors
have similar protocols. This doesn't mean the staff person needs to be in the
room with you, but the staff member should be able to hear what's going on and
to testify about what both you and the patient said or did. These are litigious
times; it's better to have someone on your side in a court case.
Reason 5: You need someone else to talk with patients about money. Talking
about money with a patient interferes with the doctor/patient relationship. Hand
the patient over to your front desk or billing person at the end of the visit,
and let the money conversation happen out there. Beside the fact that this staff
person is trained in billing and collections, it's much less personal than
having you directly confront a patient or beg to be paid.
Reason 4: Having an employee in your office makes you look more professional
and successful. When someone calls and the phone goes to answering machine
because you are with a patient, it makes people wonder if you are in the
office...or are you even open? When people are in pain, they want an immediate
response. Even if you get back to the caller within a few minutes, it sets up a
doubt in the person's mind.
If someone walks into your office and there is no one at the front desk, a
similar question comes to mind: Is there anyone here?
First impressions are so important, and it only takes a minute to form a
doubt in someone's mind that it might take many years (if ever) to dispel. Don't
sacrifice your professional image trying to save a few dollars by not hiring
someone as soon as you open.
Reason # 3: More people = More gets done. You can't do everything. You need
someone to do all those little things you don't have time for each day. For
example, you need to call patients to remind them of their visit; reminders
increase compliance. You need someone to send out birthday cards. For marketing
activities, you need someone to handle all the details. For example, if you want
to run a Grand Opening, you need help with the publicity, food, prizes, whatever
you decide to include. The day of the event, you should be free to talk with
people and not worry about having to answer the phone or deal with spilled
drinks. The saying "many hands make light work" is true in an office.
Reason #2: Patients need someone else to talk to. During a typical office
visit, patients see the staff more than they see you. They see you as the
professional, and they may be reluctant to tell you things they might tell a
staff member. This is particularly true with members of the opposite sex. Of
course, a good staff person keeps things confidential, but there may be things
said that need to be passed on to you. Having another person in the office
provides patients with another ear for things they need to say.
Reason #1: You must focus on what you do best. This is the most important
reason for hiring a staff person immediately. You must spend your time doing two
things: patient care and personal marketing. Any time you must spend not doing
those two things is time lost. How much could you make if you see your maximum
number of patients per hour? Let's say you could gross $250 an hour on a good
day (before expenses). Why would you do $15 an hour work answering phones and
booking appointments when you could make $250 an hour treating patients?
To re-emphasize this important point: Any time you must take from your two
essential activities of patient care and personal marketing is time lost, and
time lost is money lost. It's about working smarter by finding a great employee
who can help you get started faster and who can maximize your practice growth.
Here are some suggestions to get you thinking about how to use staff
How to Maximize Your Employee's Time and Minimize Employee Costs
1. Don't try to save money by getting an unskilled person in to "help out."
This strategy is not going to help; you'll spend more time dealing with issues
created by an unskilled person than you will gain by having someone answer the
phone. This means family and friends, too.
2. Get an answering service. Find a local service that will personally answer
your calls when you are in the office and can't get to the phone or when your
staff person isn't available. You will need an answering service for evenings
and weekends anyway. Give the answering service a script and keep in touch with
them so you can respond quickly to patients, or train them how to make
3. Hire a skilled part-time person who is experienced in healthcare
practices. You don't need to hire a full-time 40-hour-a-week person right from
the start, because you probably won't be seeing patients that many hours a week.
Pay an excellent hourly rate and make sure the person has experience in front
desk work, appointments and billing. Oh yes, and a pleasant personality is also
a must-have asset.
4. Cluster Book. Set specific hours each day and specific days each week when
you see patients. When someone calls for an appointment, give them some
alternatives, but control the conversation so you can have a steady stream of
patients. This is also a good reason to get a skilled front desk person who
knows how to maximize your time with patients.
5. Set clear expectations. Most problems with employees result from unclear
communications. Before you hire that staff person, write up a job description
and include all the duties you expect this person to perform. Most important,
tell the person what to do during non-busy times. For example, if there is a day
when few patients are scheduled, what can the employee do at the front desk to
stay busy and advance your practice? This might be the time to make reminder
calls or do recalls of no-shows, or to work on marketing activities.
6. Include scripts in your list of expectations. Don't be afraid to tell the
employee exactly what you want said and when you want it said. For example, at
the end of every visit, you might want the front desk person to say, "The cost
of your visit is $67.00, Mr. Jones. Would you like to use your debit card to
pay, or will you be writing a check?"
7. Consider hiring a temporary employee. You might want to start out by
calling a local temp agency to see if they have someone to help you during the
first few months. Sure, a temp employee will cost you more per hour, but
consider the benefits (above). If the person works out, you may have found a
great employee. If not, you can simply say, "Get me someone else."
8. Consider "ad hoc" help. For marketing or special events, you might find
someone to do a specific project for a short time. Set the fee for the project
in advance, to make the total cost reasonable for both parties.
Finding and using a great staff person can be a tremendous benefit to your
startup healthcare practice. I hope this article has convinced you to staff your
office from Day One.
About the Author
Copyright 2007-2008 Jean Wilson Murray, MBA, PhD. Dr. Jean Murray has been
advising small business owners since 1974. As the founder of Planning for
Practice Success, she specializes in assisting health care professionals with
business plan construction and startup details. She can help you gain the
knowledge to act and the confidence to begin.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-06-16 09:25:45 in Business Articles