The owner/manager of a podiatry practice is tasked with three important functions. These functions are as follows: performing and promoting a medical service for which there is a sufficient demand; hiring the right people and putting them in the right positions to help provide this service in a competitive marketplace; and providing the leadership and guidance for those people who will help the practice prosper over time.
Accordingly, I would like to discuss ways to find and hire employees who mesh with your practice culture and help you ultimately succeed on your own terms.
One of the best small business books that I have ever read is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.1 The basic premise of this book is that small business owners, such as podiatrists in private practice, tend to spend too much time working in the business and not enough time working on the business.
In other words, most podiatrists in private practice should spend more time improving the processes and systems of the practice so the business could be sold for a tidy profit but the owner is having so much fun that he or she doesn’t want to sell it. Ideally, the practice would be designed so it could run efficiently without your actual physical presence.
If you decide that you want to work more on your business, there are some key principles you should try to put in place for your practice. In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish, these guiding principles are called “core values.”2 The five to seven core values of your practice should provide the foundation of all the actions of your business, including the hiring and firing of your employees.
In our practice, we came up with the following six core values.
Patients first. We seek to place the patient’s health and welfare above our own convenience and business interests at all times.
Efficient with time and money. My personality has a conflict with the wasting of these two resources.
Teamwork. The phrase “It’s not my job” is rarely to be uttered around the office.
Affable. We are cordially polite to everyone who interacts with our practice and strive to maintain a cheerful and positive atmosphere at work.
Trustworthy. We need honesty and integrity in our business and personal affairs.
Show initiative. If we are not getting better, we must be getting worse.
Throughout our practice, we emphasize the aforementioned core values, which form the basis for our hiring decisions as well as our employee reviews. You can graphically analyze your people according to how well they embody your core values. One can find more information on this technique in Gino Wickman’s fine book Traction.3
The second habit of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of high effectiveness is: “Begin with the End in Mind.”4 Covey was referring to designing your life according to this principle but the same idea also applies to any endeavor, including the hiring of a new person in your office. One way to apply this principle would be to write out a list of attributes and qualifications that the ideal person would need to have in order to do this job. (Note: A detailed job description to help the new person learn what is important in fulfilling his or her role at the practice would be another way for you and your employees to work on your business.)
In order to find the best person for a position at your office, it is optimal to have a host of qualified applicants. It is advisable to be on the lookout for quality people as you go about your life and it also helps to have a network of friends and acquaintances you can tap for referrals. However, perhaps the quickest way to obtain a high number of applicants is to use Web sites such as Craigslist.
It is important for your advertisement to sell your practice as a great place to work in order to attract applicants of both quantity and quality. Which of the following ads do you believe would garner a greater response?
Help wanted for busy medical office. Seeking experienced candidate for billing and accounts receivables position. Competitive salary and benefits with 401(k) plan after three years. Criminal background check, credit check and drug test required. Send resume and application to ______.
Do you want to smile on your way to work and smile on the way back home? Are you good with numbers? Do you enjoy helping people? If yes to all of the above, you may be just the person for an accounting position at our fast paced medical office. Please send your resume and a cover letter detailing your qualifications and attributes to _______.
I believe the second ad would attract a better response.
At our office, we were recently looking for a person who would serve in a hybrid position, which would require both front and back office skills. This person would be “rooming” the patient, initiating the medical record and treatment process, and assisting with “checkout.”
Here is the ad that we came up with for Craigslist.
We are a small medical practice in Concord looking for a person with a rare combination of traits. We need somebody who is pleasant and kind, but also someone who is fast on their feet and quick with (his or her) mind. If you feel that you fit this description, please reply to this ad with “It’s me” in the subject line and send your resume (as a Word document) with a note telling us why “it’s you.”
We received over 100 resumes within a 72-hour period. Many of the replies were immediately deleted because there was no “It’s me” in the subject line. If a person cannot follow the instructions of a want ad, he or she probably will not follow instructions at the office either.
The replies that we paid the most attention to were from people who thoughtfully (and sometimes humorously) sold themselves as being the right person for our office. We ended up with seven candidates who we seriously considered.
Of course, you cannot believe everything you read. Interviewing prospective job applicants is a very valuable skill. This can be daunting. I recommend more than one interview and more than one interviewer with each serious candidate in order to decrease the chance of a mistake. The focus of a good interview consists of behavior-based questions in which you ask about a past experience or provide a hypothetical scenario, which will reveal the candidate’s character and problem-solving skills. I try to ask the same question to each person I am interviewing for a position and compare all the answers.
Another idea is to have a (paid?) tryout day in which the job seeker spends a half day or an entire day at the office so you can really get to know him or her.
Probing reference checks and resume fact checking are standard tools to evaluate job applicants. Psychological testing can profile job applicants and can pinpoint potential problem areas.
Jay Henderson of Real Talent Hiring offers a fine and economical service whereby job prospects can complete a 20-minute online test.5 You will receive the results via e-mail and can discuss the results with Real Talent Hiring over the phone. These profiles can reveal how people think, how well they work independently and how well they work with others.
Dr. McDonald is in private practice in Concord, N.C. He serves on the Education Committee of the North Carolina Foot and Ankle Society.
1. Gerber M. The E-Myth. Harper Business, New York, 1988.
2. Harnish V. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. Select Books, New York, 2002.
3. Wickman G. Traction. Get A Grip On Your Business. EOS, Livonia, MI, 2007.
4. Covey SR. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press, New York, 1990.
5. Available at www.RealTalentHiring.com  .