You are Probably Working Too Much

Matt and I opened our first office from scratch in 2006.  Our dream was to work together in a single location, two doctor practice in my hometown.  We built out a 4500 square foot office with room for 8 chairs (3 of which we had installed).  It was twice the size of our home.  Reflecting back, I can honestly tell you that we were very naïve about many things.  One of my biggest misconceptions was thinking that I needed to be present in the office all day, every day.  From day one, we set daily hours from 7AM-5PM.  I continued to worry about not being convenient enough, so we adjusted one day to close at 6PM.  When I think about it now, it was really ridiculous.  We were open 40 hours a week and had only a handful of people to see.

Not knowing any better, both of us showed every day.  We were lucky enough to always have a patient or two on the schedule, but most of the time we were just finding things to keep us occupied.  I used to eat my lunch in the waiting room and watch soap operas. Matt spent a lot of time working on systems we would use in the future or researching how we could grow the practice.  I learned how to file insurance claims and compiled an employee and OSHA manual.  Fast forward 5 years later.  We had two locations and a third child.  I was working three days a week and Matt was working 4-5 days a week to “make up” for my absence.  We were growing and lucky to be surviving the great recession.  Fast forward 2 more years and Matt was feeling overworked.  He loved the clinical practice of orthodontics, but wasn’t getting the behind the scenes work done as well as he would have liked.  As we all know, seeing patients is just one part of the job.  His struggles with lack of completion of administrative duties stemmed from constant interruption by team members needing him to do something or even worse –  just wanting to chat.  We also noticed a scheduling problem that is very common in our profession – our days were busy in the morning and later afternoon and the middle of the day was pretty quiet.

Matt wanted to consolidate our days.  I was firmly against the proposition.  I continued to feel that we needed to be available all the time for our patients.  He took a long time convincing me that we were working harder, not smarter.  To further his argument, Matt devised a schedule where we were each working 3 days a week and each of our offices would have patient days 2 days a week (we now have 3 offices).  Patient days were just that – full days of seeing patients and they would get our complete attention.  Non-patient days were not days off.  The offices remained open for emergencies, phone calls etc.  But those are the days where we got all of the necessary work done to grow our practice.

My husband would be more than happy to report that I was wrong.  The new schedule works like a charm.  Through creative templating, new patients can be seen within a week, prime appointments are not always full and our days are much more consistently busy – although not perfect.  Patients haven’t complained, because we are there to meet their needs.  I’m just no longer there watching soap operas.  Matt “working” less has resulted in huge growth for our practice.  Adding more non-patient days is one of the most valuable thing we have ever done.  In the office, we are running smoother and smarter.

So I urge you to do a little self-reflection.  Is your constant presence in the clinic actually hindering the growth of your practice?

4 Responses to “You are Probably Working Too Much”

  1. Jackie Demko says:

    with the growth how are you able to see the pts with the fewer days. We are easily booked 6-10wks out for regular visits.

  2. Courtney says:

    We made sure that our new template had more than enough adjustment appointments. We also made adjustments 20 minutes and really focused on efficient treatment mechanics. Not sloppy- we are both board certified and plan to keep our certification. That being said, we cleaned up things that were inefficient. Always learning new and better ways……

  3. How do you decide on the best place for a satellite office? What have you found most helpful in determining location?

    • Courtney says:

      That’s the million dollar question! In our case, the first additional office we added was an existing, healthy practice. That was a no brainer. I realize that those don’t really come up for sale very often these days. Our third location also just sort of fell into our laps. A small office space became available that was in a dental complex, across the street from a middle school and no other orthodontists within a few miles. Let people know you are looking and a lot of information may start to come your way.

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