Perfecting the Art of Practice Management

If you’ve been around my tribe for a while, you’ve probably heard me say this over and over again: There is no MBA school for aesthetics. There is no real resource hub where you can go to learn how to be an owner or practice manager.

It’s a difficult job with a lot of responsibility.  You have to lead people. You have to develop a culture where people want to listen to you and follow you.  You have to understand data, be accountable for goals, have the skills necessary to coach your team to achieve those goals and put strategic plans in place for growth.

After being a managing partner for an aesthetics practice in Beverly Hills, I know firsthand the importance of having strong business acumen. If I hadn’t had the perspective of coming from a Fortune 500 company, I would not have been so successful.

A lot of times people think it’s easy or you can just wing management skills as you go. That’s why I wanted the newest member of the APX and Terri Ross Consulting team, Dana Hatch our new Director of Client Success, to share her perspective (based on 14+ years of real-world, management and consulting experience with aesthetic practices of all sizes) on what it takes to perfect the art of practice management. Dana and I sat down for a chat, and here are her answers she shared.

Q: What does the role of practice manager mean to you? 

A: To me, a practice manager is someone who is the biggest cheerleader. When things are tough, they are out front leading, identifying challenges, and developing solutions so that their people can grow, succeed and be the best versions of themselves and a high contributor to the business. When things are going great and it’s time to celebrate, that’s when they take that step back and let their team be in the spotlight. They are the first ones there in the morning to make sure the lights are on and everything is orderly and running smoothly.  In addition, they are the last ones to leave at the end of the day. They are the person who makes sure that every single person feels seen and heard–asking and accepting feedback both from team and from clients, The practice manager, along with the owner, is responsible for setting the tone for the company culture and has an innate ability as a leader.

Q: What are the most important attributes of a good practice manager? 

A: Company culture is not something that gets talked about often enough. A good practice manager sets the tone for establishing a company culture. First and foremost, they must be passionate. Having passion for the industry and passion for helping others is essential. Second, they need to have confidence. Confidence in their skill set. Confidence that they can get the job done. Third, they must be organized. Fourth, they must possess the ability to delegate. Fifth, they must have the emotional intelligence to be able to ask for help. They must understand that asking for help is not a sign of failure, but truly a sign of strength.

Q: What about analytical skills and knowing and understanding financial numbers? 

A: Yes! That is absolutely a huge aspect of being a good practice manager. Not everyone is born a “numbers” person, and that is EXACTLY where emotional intelligence comes in–realizing you need help with not only knowing what numbers to run but understanding what to do with that information once you have it.

That’s why the APX platform is so amazing and impactful, and quite honestly, one of the main reasons I was so excited to join the APX and Terri Ross Consulting team. The APX business intelligence platform is so universally easy for people to understand. It breaks finances down into bite-sized pieces and is so user-friendly that it really allows you to wrap your arms around understanding critical numbers for aesthetic practices. Again, you can be a great cheerleader, have excellent leadership skills, but not everyone is naturally a numbers person, which is a critical skill a practice manager must have in order to run a successful and profitable practice. If they don’t come by that skill innately, they should seek out experts to help them understand the why and the how.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as a practice manager and how did you overcome them? 

A: I’d say the biggest challenge is dealing with different personalities. You’ve got an office full of medical providers, administrative staff, managers, and clients with different personalities on a daily basis. Figuring out how to best leverage the best qualities of each person and get everyone to work together and communicate is always delicate. The best way I’ve found is to check your own ego at the door and be transparent. Put everything out there in black and white. No hiding. Open communication and full transparency is the key to a good company culture, and for me that has been my key to success.

Q: I love what you said about being a good leader means studying emotional intelligence. You can’t just fly off the handle when things don’t go your way. So how do you deal with a difficult team member?

A: When dealing with somebody with a strong personality or perhaps who doesn’t want to follow the rules, I always start with coaching. I always try to figure out what is driving this person. What is their motivation for their behavior? Why are they coming from such an aggressive place? Sometimes it is a challenge to get them to open up and get them to understand what their role is in the process. I always try to show them how not being a part of the process can actually disrupt the entire organization.

I have had some of my most Rockstar sales team members feel above the rules and resistant to fall in line. It was by actually sitting down and having an open, honest conversation and explaining directly what a negative impact they were having on the practice, that I was able to help them motivate to change.

Q: How important do you think job descriptions and performance reviews are? 

A: I truly believe you can’t hold an employee responsible if you haven’t set them up to be successful. To me, a job description that gives them a full outline of their duties and responsibilities is absolutely non negotiable. If you are hired for a job, you should know exactly what that job entails, how you are expected to perform, and how you will be held accountable.  I also believe in a 30/60/90-day review plan. I don’t want an employee to get to their one-year review and then let them go without them having any idea of why. When you have frequent performance review conversations, it is a very compassionate way to give someone the opportunity to grow, change, or even realize that perhaps this is not a job he/she is well suited for and allow them to make a shift.

Q: If a practice was looking to bring on and hire a new practice manager, what would you say an owner should look for? 

A: I’d look for somebody who is passionate about medical aesthetics, people and growth. That’s essential. Also, someone who is extremely organized and detail-oriented because the practice manager has to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.  I’d also say to look for someone who always wants to learn and develop their skills because nobody knows everything, especially when it comes to learning the data as well as how to lead and coach to see effective change.. Being willing to adapt, change, grow, learn…those are skills I can work with all day long.

Q: Let’s talk about personality types and even personality tests to help place people in positions where they can excel. 

A: I don’t see any downside at all to personality tests and matching skill sets, natural abilities and personality traits. The more tools a practice has to build the culture and set everyone up for success, the better.

Q: What’s your take on having regular team meetings and setting goals?

A:  I’m a big proponent of regular daily or weekly meetings. I also advocate  talking about goals at the beginning and middle of the month, not at the end of the month when there is nothing you can do to make up for missing the mark. A brief morning meeting to talk about what’s on the books, what you can upsell or cross sell, and how you are going to educate your patients that day can be an amazing tool to increase revenue and foster teamwork.  There are practices that only meet once a quarter to go over goals or have employees working different shifts, so they have difficulty meeting regularly. I get that it can be challenging, but you have to invest in your team and find a time or method that works for you.

Q: So, what are some topics to discuss in team meetings, so you are not just meeting for the sake of meeting?

A: Meetings are essential but what is even more essential is communicating. The more you communicate with your team during meetings, the more everyone knows exactly what is happening and won’t be caught off guard. As far as major topics go, I think celebrating wins is very important as well as discussing areas of opportunities or things that could be done better. I always come at it, though, from a place of empathy and encouragement so the team can grow and learn about numbers. Everyone should know the pacing for the month and what they can do to help drive the numbers up. That fosters a sense of ownership. Inform your team about any major event going on or coming up so that everyone knows what needs to happen in order for it to be successful.

Sharing your annual forecast and numbers for the year is important. Then, break them down per month, per day, per provider per room. What are your retail goals? Get nitty gritty. Another topic that is great to discuss is new patient appointments, new treatments available, and what might be beneficial to bring to new patients’ attention. A lot of times you may have a new piece of equipment or a new service you are offering, but nobody knows how to sell it or talk about it. Take the opportunity to discuss features and benefits, so everyone has a sense of ownership in promoting it. If somebody is really apprehensive to have conversations about a particular service, give them the chance to role play and practice in a safe setting to become more comfortable.

Another really great exercise to do from time to time is have everybody go around the room and talk about their respective role, what they think is working, where they may be struggling, and where they may need support. This helps with accountability.

Q: What is your best advice for a new practice manager or for someone who has been at it a while but thinks they could be doing better?  

A: The number one downfall of any practice manager is to let your ego run the show. You have to get out of your own head and understand that your job is to make your team better. It’s not about you being the star. That will be your biggest blind spot if you view yourself that way, and you’ll never be able to move forward. I would also tell you to sit down and make a list of everything that you know. That is a great place to start when you have a feeling in your gut that you could be doing something to improve. Once you have this list, then you can start to really dive into the areas you don’t know enough about, or you need to gain some new expertise in. Getting comfortable in the uncomfortable is key. The quicker you move past that feeling of not knowing, the quicker you take action and grow.

I came from managing large medical spas and resorts. When I found APX, it was like this gold mine of areas where I have seen countless practices have gaps in knowledge. I just knew I wanted to be a part of your team to help aesthetic practices bridge the gap of where they are to where they want to be.

A Note from Terri Ross:

Thank you so much to Dana for sharing her words of wisdom. Again, Dana is our new Director of Client Success. That is not just a title or some empty words. Everything we do here is to support you, build your confidence, grow your practice, and cultivate your people and culture. Our goal is to help you increase profitability and efficiency.

Please reach out to Dana if you have any questions and be sure to look for exciting new content coming your way soon. For more information regarding APX or to experience a demo of how APX can help you grow your aesthetic practice, visit apxplatform.com.