Spell It Out
By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA
You are going to spend 50 to 60 cents of every dollar on your staff. They are expensive because they are worth it, but if you don’t manage their time correctly, you will soon find that your bottom line is a little closer to the bottom than it should be.
It’s a plight business owners are all familiar with—getting the most out of our labor dollar.
We spend a lot of time focusing on the “P” word, productivity, and while strategies to optimize productivity are of paramount importance, not every moment on the clock can be measured with a billable unit.
What about project management, administration, training, and business development activities, which are much harder to track with traditional productivity measures? How do we ensure our investments in these areas achieve a positive return for our companies?
Many of us will be drawn toward quality or efficiency metrics which can (and should) be used to measure time spent by staff in these areas; however, it is what you do before the time is spent that is key to the wisest use of staff time. How clear are you being about how your staff’s time is to be used? It is the owner or manager’s job to ensure that staff know exactly what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured. Without this, how can we truly expect that their time on our clock will be used in a way most aligned with our business objectives?
Clarity takes a bit of work, but it’s worth the effort. Try these tips to ensure you are getting the most out of your staff.
- Be specific. Ever require a member of your team to go out and “market” to referral sources or small businesses in your area? How much latitude did you provide them in how this was to be accomplished? Sure, your top marketers will have this dialed in, but if you expect the same from everyone without specific instructions, you will be sure to incur payroll expense that isn’t rewarding your business. Instead of saying “go out and market,” be specific: “I’d like you to share our pelvic wellness packet with five women’s health physicians within the area.”
- Measurement. What gets measured gets managed. Without a specific measurement, it is impossible to know if one’s actions are in alignment with the business objectives. If you have asked your lead clinician to make recommendations for improved throughput of patients, define the measure that will be used to drive their work. “I’m looking to reduce our average time spent in the waiting room from 10 minutes to less than 3 by improving our patient throughput.”
- Deadline. Without a deadline, everything is a priority. More specifically, without a deadline, nothing is a priority. Deadlines put needed pressure on projects and activities by letting your team know there is an actual finish line, and that you will be there to watch them cross it. If you have asked your office manager to train a new receptionist, let him or her know that you expect the new employee to be fully effective in their role within X number of days of the hire.
Being absolutely clear with your requests of staff time—actually spelling it out—is critical to the effective use of the most important investment we make in our businesses. It takes some discipline, but it’s worth it.
Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, lives at the intersection of physical therapy and entrepreneurship, spending his time helping physical therapists build and operate successful practices through his company, Vantage Clinical Solutions. He specializes in marketing, finance, and business planning, and authors and speaks regularly for the APTA and PPS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.