There are a lot of shiny objects in marketing and practice management vying for your attention.
It’s fun to think about the latest social media craze or newest extension to your Google ads. They’re all great, and they’ll help you grow. But there is one fundamental that all large practices have in place.
It’s the key to your ability to expand. Without it, you’re signing up to headaches and ultimate failure.
I named my company Think Basis because every business needs to think about the foundation. The basis for stability and growth. If you want to grow, you need to think in this way too.
It’s not exciting, but it will lead to stability and confidence to expand.
If you’re a typical office, you probably have one or two doctors and an assortment of staff.
The receptionist knows how to do her job, and the office manager knows how to do hers. But more likely than not, they can’t do each other’s job consistently and accurately if the other one isn’t there.
What happens when one of them gets sick? Or has to go on vacation?
What I usually see if the patient coordinator goes away is the office grinding to a halt.
Or whoever is left behind ends up texting and calling the vacationing team member while she’s on the beach. It’s no fun for anyone, and it makes you look bad in front of patients.
In some ways, that reliance can make your staff feel important. The fact that the office can’t run without that key member fills her with a sense of unjustified importance. She gets rewarded for making your life harder. I discourage this kind of negative incentivisation and so should you.
As a business owner, you should be horrified and angered by that situation. You’re putting your practice in the hands of your staff. You’re letting the inmates run the asylum.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You have to take control.
Like I said earlier, all successful practices have this handled by doing one single thing.
I’m referring to your practice manual.
Not the manual mandated by the government. Not the one that talks about medical protocols and fire exits.
I’m referring to your business manual. The one that frees you from internal office politics and petty fiefdoms. The one that lets your staff deliver quality service with consistency.
The benefits of creating a practice manual
Despite your staff’s insecurities, your training manual is the key to liberating them.
Imagine how convenient it would be if you could replace your employees when you had to. Or in the case of emergency or vacation.
Ask your staff to imagine how wonderful it would be to go on vacation and truly be on vacation. To come back to the office and not have a pile of work and unhappy coworkers.
A comprehensive manual will allow each of your staff to step in the other’s shoes. Of course, they won’t have full proficiency, but they’ll be able to get things done.
Your practice doesn’t have to grind to a halt. You don’t have to let employees hold you hostage because only one person knows how to order implants or book surgical time.
How to take control of your staff and your office so you can grow.
Building your practice manual is an easy 3 step process.
1. Identify your processes
Look at what you’re doing. Figure out what each person’s job is and write that out in a list for each position.
Not only will this clarify things for the manual, but it will also give you a chance to identify issues and redundancies. If you’re like most doctors, you probably don’t even know all the things your staff does every day.
In this case, ignorance is not bliss.
2. Create the manual
Have each of your staff members write out every step of their tasks. Get them to go into detail so anyone can pick up the manual and go through it step by step.
Having them work on it individually is also a way to lessen the work. You’re essentially crowdsourcing your manual creation to your staff.
As the saying goes: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Having each person outline their personal duties allows them to contribute to the manual while making the overall project bite-sized and manageable.
3. Test the processes
Steps one and two are great, but they’ll be useless if people can’t follow the manual.
The way we solved this problem ended up being quite simple. Once each staff completes their process-outline, we swap.
Have each person take the other’s process steps and attempt to finish the task from start to end with no guidance or help. If the tester runs into problems, make notes and kick it back for more detail.
Keep doing this until each staff member can complete the other’s task from stat to finish with no help.
Once you’re confident that all the processes are clear and actionable, take the completed manual and make sure everyone knows where it is.
At first, your staff will be resistant to making the manual. They’ll fear for their jobs and think that you’ll replace them.
It’s not about replacing them. It’s about you taking control of your business and treating it seriously.
It’s almost a kind of insurance against catastrophe at the employee level.
Your patients deserve to have their needs met. Your manual will ensure that whey will be, no matter the circumstances.
Even though it’s not about replacing your staff, it does allow you to do it if you need to.
I don’t touch on this fact with employees but talking to you as a business owner; I’ll tell you about a huge added benefit to creating your manual.
It makes your staff completely replaceable.
Think about your current process of hiring staff. If you have to fire someone, you’re likely in fear that you’ll have to retrain the next person.
And you would.
Training staff is a terrible task. Often the new hire has to shadow an existing employee. Training eats up days and weeks where your old team has to teach the trainee. Any bad habits get passed along from person to person with no agreed upon norm. Since you’re not there to supervise, there is no quality control.
And that’s assuming your staff stays. What happens if you have to fire someone unexpectedly? Or if they have to leave due to a medical emergency? Chaos ensues.
With a manual, all of that changes.
When you hire new people, you don’t waste your current employee’s time on training them. You ask the new person to study the manual and attempt each of the tasks associated with her job. She has to bother your current team only if she runs into complications.
Once she learns her tasks, the manager or you will evaluate how well she learned.
It saves a ton of money and time.
It eliminates mistakes and poor training.
It provides security and stability to your practice.
It allows you to expand by adding more employees easily.
I could go on for days about the benefits of doing this in your practice, no matter how big or small it is. It’s not shiny and exciting, but it is the basis for success.
It’s one of our secret weapons and the ONLY way to handle the kind of growth we bring to our clients.