How do I know if I need a practice manager?

July 20, 2018
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM

Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.

Its never a bad time to have an extra set of hands, but heres some guidance on when adding a veterinary practice manager makes the most practical and financial sense.

Confused about when you need to hire a practice manager? Dr. Sarah Wooten shares advice that can help get rid of the head tilt. (Shutterstock.com)You're running around the practice like a chicken with its head cut off. First, you answer a question from the client service coordinator about your schedule. Then a technician wants to know if you can do a quick check on a laser patient in exam room 3. Meanwhile, Gloria is doing inventory and needs to know the surgical glove size for the new doctor, and there's a drug rep at the front wanting your attention. Plus, there's a stack of 15 resumes on your desk for the open receptionist position, and your son's History Day project is due tomorrow (he just told you about it today, of course).

By 9:30 a.m., you've seen one patient and you're already on the brink of exhaustion.

Does this sound familiar? If the answer is yes, I bet you don't have a management team. And if that's the case, the best advice I can offer is this: Strive to only do the things that no one else can do.

On a gut level, you probably realize that being pulled in so many directions is draining your energy and taking you away from doing the work that only you are trained to do and that makes you money. The most productive veterinarians don't divide their days between team training, facilities issues, hiring, firing, inventory, accounting, bookkeeping and practicing medicine. Instead, they focus all of their time and attention on inspiring the team with their vision, goal setting, managing the big financial picture of the practice and treating patients. Everything else is delegated to a staff member or outsourced.

Hiring a practice manager is one step that can help you use your time and talents most efficiently, but how do you know when you really need one? Here's a basic rule of thumb to follow that I learned from the book, The Ultimate Guide to Doubling and Tripling Your Dental Practice Production (yes, it's technically about human dentistry, but our practice models are very similar):

Three or four employees? Wait. A practice manager can be hired any time, but when a practice is this small, it might not be worth the time and money just yet.

Five to nine employees? It's a good time to hire a practice manager, though the position doesn't have to be full time. You could design the position to share front-desk responsibilities and start gradually delegating your management duties.

Ten or more employees? Make the practice manager position full time.

As your practice grows, you'll need to continue to designate additional leadership roles, such as a team leader who reports to the practice manager, who then reports to you. Delegation can be difficult at first, but when done wisely and incrementally, it can give you more time to do the things you love and were trained to do, and your team and practice will be the better for it.

Fetch dvm360 educator Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, scuba and participating in triathlons.