There is a force in our offices that can move our practices closer and closer to the perfection we all know exists, or can destroy the fabric of our being.
I like to refer to this exciting, frightening behemoth as… the Office Manager.
Slay the Beast
When I first started, the office manager had been with the practice for more than 25 years, and she had limitless power over all. She built pyramids and destroyed whole villages with a single glance—and was paid probably five times more than me, a mere mortal doctor.
She was the staffer who decided patients could buy glasses and contact lenses with no money down and a simple monthly payment of any amount, even as little as $3 every 90 days. Brilliant business strategy!
When I became the boss, I had her exorcised from the practice on day one. My senior partner was aghast, until we had twice as much net income within the next year and a half with no angry patients. The good ol’ boys he said didn’t have the money to pay us outright started pulling out huge wads of Benjamins to get that 10% “cash discount.” We did not miss that office manager/Goddess of War.
A New Sheriff in Town
Years ago, I wrote a column about my next office manager called, “Sleeping with the Office Manager.” This got a lot of attention until you realized I was also married to the office manager. Oh, you can be sure the earth shook and both angels and fiends huddled in fear when she walked the halls, and by “earth,” “angels” and “fiends” I mean “Dr. Vickers.”
I had enough sense to get out of her way and let her build the practice with her smarts, amazing humor and loving and giving personality. I was overjoyed that at least one of us had those qualities. Every day I thanked my lucky stars that I had lost that Super Bowl bet and had to propose.
We had a great run all the way up to selling our 36-year-old practice in 2015 and moving to Texas.
Assuming you choose not to bet on Super Bowls when choosing your next office manager, I have some tips to help guide you:
Never choose anyone who seems to want to whup your butt. They will all be able to whup your butt, but hire someone who doesn’t want to.
Always choose someone smarter than you. That should be easy.
Always choose someone who dresses better than you. Again…
In the interview, ask, “What was the worst business decision you’ve ever made?” Avoid the impulse to add, “until today.”
Ask them, “When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” If they answer ‘Uh oh,’ that does not disqualify them. If they answer ‘My what?’ then think again.
Nail the window of your office shut and ask them to open it. Their reaction will tell you a lot. If they can open the window, don’t say anything that will tick them off.
We have a new office manager here in Texas. Shelly meets every requirement referenced in the above list. She also has a notable lack of experience in the eye care field, which means she has an open mind that has already helped us a lot. Someday I will tell her there’s no such thing as “cryopia” for patients whose eyes water a lot. For now, it’s my little secret.