By Jeff Russell, Author of Secrets to a Successful Practice & Executive Director of the IAPAM
Components of a Successful Team
In order to build a successful and profitable practice, you are going to need a team. Not just any team, but a highly functional team. One of the keys to a highly profitable practice is to allow you to see other patients while your team of extenders is busy seeing the patients in your aesthetic or cosmetic practice. This ability is the key that allows you to grow and achieve your goals. However, many of the issues you will experience in a practice revolve around the people you hire. Remember, the largest expense in a practice is typically your payroll.
The challenge with the medical practice structure is that you usually have a small team—three to five members. With small teams, you have a much higher chance of drama, which could impact your business. Patients can easily sense if there is tension in a practice. You are going to have competing personalities, some strong, others more passive. Maintaining a cohesive team will be your biggest challenge.
Five C’s of Talent
John Spence, author of Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies For Turning Ideas Into Actions, says there are Five C’s of talent:
- Competence means you need to have the skills to be able to do the job. This doesn’t necessarily mean the exact procedures you are currently offering; they may have experience doing similar procedures using different equipment or products.
- Character is all about what kind of person they are and it’s also about trust. There are certain character flaws that cannot be changed easily, and not acting with integrity and being trustworthy is two of them.
- Collaboration covers their ability to work in a team, and that is critical in a small practice environment. They need to have a history of working well with others.
- Communication is a key part of a successful practice. It entails having the ability to ask great questions, listen and connect emotionally.
- Commitment is also an important consideration. Be warned, part-time team members are not going to be committed to the practice and in going over and beyond for the patient. If they are full-time, you want to make sure they are 100% committed to the practice and its success.
During my years of owning a practice, I have seen my fair share of destructive team members, from the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, to the passive-aggressive, to the pathological liar.
As you know, managing people and their personalities can take a lot of time and energy. Your goal is to minimize the amount of conflict and have a cohesive team in place to see patients when you are not there.
“Nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field. All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the world are not effective without great people to put them to work.” – Former GE president and chairman, Jack Welch:
Practice Integration Tips
If you have an existing practice and are looking at integrating non-insurance based procedures into that practice, you will need to evaluate your existing team to see if they are the right fit.
Good to Great author, Jim Collins, uses the analogy of a school bus and asks the question, “Do you have the Right People in the Right seats?” For example, the receptionist role is a critical position that gives every patient his or her first and last impression of the practice. You need to have a detail-oriented, people person in this role. If they don’t smile, don’t speak in a kind manner with empathy, they are not right for this role. They are, in fact, in the wrong seat on the bus. If this happens, you want to see if there is another seat on the bus (role at your practice) that is better suited for them. In some cases, there is not, and you need to let them go.
When deciding whether you are going to remove someone from the practice, I like to use this question, “Would you, without hesitation, hire this person again?” The key phrase is without hesitation, not well, or maybe.
If you are hanging on to someone because of loyalty, thinking you can change him or her, think again. You want to focus on working on people’s strengths, not their weaknesses. For example, if you have someone who complains from the time they arrive to the time they leave, you are not going to be able to change that behavior; that is a dominant personality trait. These types of people drain the life out of a practice—out of other team members, you and your patients. They need to go. On the other hand, if you have someone with an excellent bedside manner, who has a natural ability to connect with people and whom patients love, you want to strengthen that strength. Sending them to a Dale Carnegie course will make them significantly stronger and make a difference in your culture and practice revenues.
Creating the Culture You Want
I don’t know anyone who sets out to create a negative, demotivating culture. However, when you look at the statistics, many people are unhappy in their jobs. Therefore, whether you are starting fresh with a new team or working with an existing team, it’s important to clearly identify whom you are looking for and encourage positive behavior.
I like author and management consultant, Patrick Lencioni’s take on the three virtues of a successful team. In his book, The Ideal Team Player, he has discovered that the best team members exhibit three virtues: humility, hunger, and people smarts. Think about it, do you want people who show off their ego to your patients, who are lazy, and who have no idea of the impact of what they say has on their fellow team members and patients? Of course not!
- Being humble is a great personality trait to have; no one likes a know-it-all who doesn’t listen. Look for those who are good at being active listeners. Hunger is also an important trait. Often, you are not at the practice, so you need to have a dependable, trustworthy team in place. There is no place for lazy team members that constantly need to be told what to do.
People smarts, or emotional intelligence, is the person’s awareness of how they impact other people. Are they the bull in the China shop, or do others like them and want to work with them or follow them?
If you can find someone with a degree of all three traits, you are ahead of the game. But if someone does not have any one of the traits, you are not going to have a happy team or patients.
In the book, First, Break All The Rules, the authors say the greatest managers have the following insight when evaluating and hiring the best people:
- People don’t change that much.
- Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.
- Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.
To learn more about developing a successful practice, check out the IAPAM’s annual Practice Growth Symposium, where leaders come to learn the keys to a profitable practice. For those preparing to start their first practice, there’s IAPAM’s Practice Startup Workshop.