Sally McKenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management
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What Your Office Manager Needs to Know to be Successful
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

I’ve seen so many dentists make the same mistake. They finally decide it’s time to hire an Office Manager, but instead of conducting a proper search to find the right person, they hire one of their star employees instead.

The problem? All-too-often these employees simply don’t have the necessary skills or temperament to excel. So instead of the Office Manager helping the practice run more smoothly, the days get even more chaotic. Employees become frustrated and stressed, leading to low team morale and hurting practice efficiencies.

Remember, the Office Manager role is unlike any other in the practice and isn’t one you should rush to fill. You need to find someone who’s comfortable taking on the responsibilities and daily stressors that come with the title. What does it take to be an effective Office Manager? Read on to find out what your Office Manager needs to know to be successful. 

• How to be a leader. The person you hire to be your Office Manager will serve as your Chief Operating Officer. That means strong leadership skills are a must. There’s a lot your Office Manager will need to deal with on a daily basis, and he or she must be comfortable addressing the difficult issues that come up in a practice – including disciplining and firing team members.

For some, leadership comes naturally. Others have to work at it. Offering proper training and education will help your Office Manager become a more confident, effective leader.

• How to problem solve. Your Office Manager is the first point of contact for both team members and patients when problems arise. This person must be comfortable handling difficult situations and have the ability to problem solve. Otherwise problems will just get worse, which could result in lost patients and/or team conflict.

• Your expectations. Just like with every employee you hire, it’s important to create a detailed job description that outlines the Office Manager’s duties as well as your expectations. The job description will serve as a roadmap to success, eliminating any uncertainty about the role.

• How to actually do the job. That’s where training comes in. Providing proper training will help your Office Manager become more confident and effective. Not prepared to provide this training on your own? I offer an Office Manager Training Course designed to help these employees excel.

• How to work with numbers. This is a key part of the Office Manager position. If you hire someone who isn’t comfortable working with numbers, it will lead to misery for you, the employee and everyone else in the practice. Keep in mind this team member is responsible for overseeing practice overhead, accessing and understanding various practice reports as well as managing all the practice’s business measurements. This job simply isn’t for someone who struggles with numbers, no matter how well they perform their current job.

• How to be both personable and efficient. While working with numbers is a large part of this role, so is human resources. That means your Office Manager also has to be good with people. He or she will be in charge of recruitment, hiring, firing, performance reviews, schedules, grievances, raises, salary reviews, employee policies and team meetings. If that list makes the person you’re considering for the role uncomfortable, he or she simply isn’t the right fit.

Because this job requires working with numbers and people, your Office Manager should exhibit a good balance between thinking and feeling in his or her temperament type. I’ll explain. Let’s say your Office Manager scores high on the “thinking” scale. That means the employee is task-oriented and could even come off as demanding to the rest of the team. If your Office Manager scores high on the “feeling” scale, on the other hand, it will likely be difficult for him or her to deal with HR tasks such as holding team members accountable and maintaining practice policies. Either way, it’s not good for your practice.

• How to handle pressure. The Office Manager’s job can be stressful at times. This team member is constantly pulled in different directions and must be comfortable multi-tasking. The days can get pretty chaotic, so you need someone who is calm when the pressure is on. If your Office Manager gets flustered easily or is quick to anger, it will only lead to trouble and even more stress for you and the rest of the team.

Office Managers do so much more than answer phones and fill the schedule. This employee helps you run the business, taking on tasks you’d rather not do so you can focus on the dentistry. You can’t hire just anyone for the job, even your star employee. Make sure the person you bring on has the temperament and skillset needed to excel. Once you have the best person in place, your days will be more streamlined and less stressful, and you’ll finally start meeting your full potential.  

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm providing knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential. Learn more practice management tools from Sally’s “on-demand” webinars, 24/7, complimentary for Dentists and the Team.  Start here.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at or call 1.877.777.6151

Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

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