Hiring an associate can be a daunting task. As an owner of a podiatry practice, you would like to continue to grow and make more money, while at the same time not spending more time away from your home and family. In addition, you don’t want to go through the pain of finding a new doctor. So, before hiring an associate, make sure you have everything in order so you truly can have more time and money.
9.5 Things to Do Before Hiring An Associate
1) Master your marketing: It is imperative that you have a constant flow of patients walking through your door. The purpose of an associate is not only to free up some time for you, but also to grow your practice. Doctors who hire associates do so because there is an increase demand to be seen in your practice. If you cannot consistently see patients within three days of them inquiring for an appointment, then you are ready for an associate. In addition, associates want to make sure they will see new patients. They will definitely ask you this question on an interview.
Organize your marketing so that you have a daily, weekly, and monthly plan. Make yourself a marketing board that separates your marketing into four types: internal marketing, external marketing, web-based marketing and shoe leather marketing. Shoe leather marketing is meeting referring doctors eye to eye. Decide what you are going to do weekly and monthly in each category, and assign people to each project. Overflow of new patients wanting to come to your practice is your ultimate goal and will get the new associate busy immediately.
2) Get your office organized: If your office is in disarray, you won’t have time to train the new doctor, and he/she will actually make the office more disorderly. Your office needs to be a smooth running machine. Have every job description written up and make sure your staff understands their purpose. For example, the purpose of the receptionist should be to keep the appointment book full with productive patients and to collect all monies due at the time of service as well as any past balances. Their purpose is not to answer the phone, but it is to make an appointment. Make a flow chart of a patient visit that begins with the phone call and ends not only at the exit desk, but continues with any form of communication when the patient is at home. Then train your staff on the systems that are set forth. A doctor wants to join an office that is efficient, not chaotic.
3) Be an excellent owner/manager. Read books on leadership, attend seminars on being a better leader and, most importantly, listen twice as much as you speak. Leaders are great listeners and ask good questions. Great leaders care about their team and try to help others succeed. Don’t expect the new associate to know everything. If they did, then they would be their own boss.
4) Make sure your office is in the black. You need to be profitable. You don’t want to add to your expenses by hiring a high-salaried employee. In addition, you don’t want to increase your work load with non-productive procedures just to stay busy. Make sure everything you do is productive. If presently your office is not profitable, then take a fine tooth and comb and see where you can cut expenses. Also, make sure you are billing properly, and collecting all monies that are due to you in a timely manner. In addition, are you providing DME products that the patient needs to get better? If not, then do so.
5) Do not repeat past problems. Make a list of what is right and what is wrong with your practice. Strengthen the good and work on your weak areas. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses as an owner and a podiatrist. Hire someone who can do procedures that you don’t like to do or do not have enough training on. The associate can teach you as well.
6) Prepare to invest your time—this is the biggest mistake I see in practices. You get busy and things are not as orderly as they use to be. When the office grows very quickly, your present systems need to be tweaked in order to maintain that smooth running machine. This requires staff meetings and empowering staff to give you their input on how to improve certain areas of the office. This also requires constant training and re-training. The same goes with your new associate. Make sure you put away time to train the new doctor. They need training in coding, office protocols, treatment protocols and insurance information, as well as how your office performs certain tasks.
7) List the associate duties. Include not only the duties of a physician and proper treatment protocols, but also office management duties, marketing responsibilities and any on call duties. After listing all of these duties, then describe how to perform each individual job. This way they now have a complete manual of their job and if they have any questions they can always refer to this job description packet. The associate needs to know what is expected as it is their road map to success.
8) List your ideal associate’s qualities. Know what you are looking for in an associate. List these qualities; include everything from personality, surgical skills, clinical skills, and appearance. Then look for someone with these traits. Most people do it the other way around. They interview first then they make their list, thus the new associate doesn’t meet the criteria.
9) Write your contract before looking for the new associate. That is right—write it BEFORE you start promoting the position. Do not work the terms with the associate. Cover pay, hours, duties, malpractice insurance, outside work, patient privacy, termination terms and preventive measures for everything that might go wrong.
9.5) Find an associate that wants to be with the practice in the long term. So, create a buy-in opportunity. To attract and keep the best associates, give them an opportunity to become partners or to buy your practice. This written agreement shows you are organized and serious. Include time lines, production requirements, options and so on. Leave plenty of ways for you both to change or back out of the deal.
If your goal is to grow and become more profitable, a great associate can help. However, you have to make a business plan that allows for growth and like with everything else in your practice, you have to be prepared. Get your practice in order first then go out and get the best associate. They might cost you at first, in both time and money, but if you are prepared for the associate, they will make your practice more exhilarating.
Dr. Peter Wishnie is a Fellow of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Medicine. He is also a practice management consultant for Top Practices and is a co-author of “Ultimate Podiatry Practice Management Survival Guide”. Dr. Wishnie is an adjunct associate clinical professor at Temple University.