By QUINTIN L. GUNN, Sr., CSO
Let me say at the outset that this was a very challenging article to write. However, it was absolutely necessary in light of the consistent stories I have heard as a Practice Development Consultant, not to mention the professional and personal toll that a dysfunctional husband and wife practice can have on their staff and their marriage.
What I've seen over the last fifteen years while advising and working in the Cosmetic and Aesthetic medical practice industry is, at times, shocking. And while this may not happen or apply across the board for all husband and wife teams, for the great majority of medical practices where the husband is the doctor and the wife is the practice manager or doctor partner, we find many employee casualties and discontent in the practice among the staff.
What are the typical issues and challenges that happen where the husband is the doctor and the wife is the practice manager?
- Employees get confused as to whom they should listen to and who is truly in charge
- A wife can become jealous of female employees that work closely with the doctor
- While emotions can be used to inspire and encourage, emotional considerations must be avoided when it comes to making business decisions
- Often internal conflict of loyalties can occur if one or the other is charged with all employee selection, firing, and payroll of staff
- Good Cop, Bad Cop routine causes the staff to be paralyzed in decision making
- Husband and Wife personal and family conflicts get brought into the practice
- The practice is brought to a stand-still when both are attending family events or go on vacations leaving no decision maker on site
- Employees are exposed to the business disagreements between husband and wife
- Inability to separate work life and family life which causes marital discord and makes for an uncomfortable work environment
- Bullying or abusive attitude toward employees because the husband is the doctor/owner
- Staff is required to do free services for family members and friends which could affect commissions for Aestheticians, Skincare specialist, or other staff who work for commissions or who work from a bonus structure, which in turn build resentment.
- When the doctor fails to demonstrate authority or leadership and defers to the wife this can lead to employees losing respect for the doctor or both
- A set schedule for the practice manager/wife as she is an employee also and she is required to use the same guidelines for time off request to ensure the practice does not suffer in her absence.
- Staff were requested to take care of personal business matters for the doctor or practice manager/wife during business hours or off the clock after hours
What we just listed is a partial profile from what employees have told us over the years and have experienced. Many have said that they would never work in that type environment again.
This type of practice arrangement is often done to create cost savings. It is much better to have the wife as a Marketing Director/Coordinator, Nurse, or in some other complimentary business away from the practice.
What is the Key to Success in This Type of Practice?
- A unified approach to patient selection, staff interaction, and management
- All hiring should be a joint decision based on each one interviewing the prospective candidate and viewing their credentials
- Weekly staff meetings with both the doctor and the practice manager/wife to ensure transparency
- Establish proper professional communication within the practice, leave personal attitudes and issues at home, the practice is not the place to air your family issues
- Create an environment where the staff feel comfortable to address either of you about their concerns without feeling or worrying about retaliation from the other
- Have clearly defined chain of command within the practice about whom the staff should speak to about problems and stick to that
- Jointly keep the staff informed about changes to process and procedures and get staff input if the proposed changes will affect their work routine and hours of operation.
The key for this type of practice is communication, separation of work life and home life, transparency, and a clear chain of command, and last, treat the staff like you would want to be treated if you were in that type of practice.
Quintin L. Gunn Sr. is a Practice Development Consultant with Social Media Solutions for Doctors. Visit www.SocialMediaSolutionsforDoctors.com