There’s nothing sexy about operations, right?
It’s boring. It feels like paperwork. And it sounds more like an expense than an investment.
Yet hiring a Chief Operating Officer (COO) may be the #1 most profitable move a midsized orthodontics practice can make. And it’s absolutely necessary for any orthodontist who wants to break through the $3M barrier, open more offices, or scale their revenue quickly.
Let us show you why that’s true…
The problem with managing your own growth
As an orthodontist, you’re a highly-educated and highly-skilled individual.
So it’s only natural that you want to have a hand in every decision your practice makes. But that’s actually one of the biggest mistakes that most orthodontists make.
Just think of operational things that take up your time—payroll, hiring/firing, approving vacations, HR paperwork—every moment you spend doing those things is less time you spend being a doctor. And being a doctor is where you make the most money for your business.
Your practice cannot afford to pay you to be a part-time orthodontist and part-time operations manager—in fact, we’ve never seen a $5M+ practice where the dentist hasn’t relinquished complete control of operations.
Of course, you’ll need to have your hands in more things in the early days of your practice. But you should start to hand off operational responsibility to a trusted manager as soon as possible. And consider hiring a COO.
What does a COO do?
Your COO is your co-pilot in running your orthodontics practice. They’ll work side-by-side with you to help manage the business side of your business and help your team be more efficient. Together, you’ll define the strategic direction and company culture, and the COO will help you execute those on a day-to-day basis.
Think about splitting your operation down the middle—one side is clinical (everything that involves treating patients), and the other side is operational (marketing, sales, staffing, HR, etc.).
In most cases, you’ll keep control of the clinical side— overseeing other doctors, treating patients, and ensuring you have the supplies you need.
But your COO will take charge of everything else, including training your team, hiring and firing non-clinical staff, executing growth strategies, and keeping track of your finances. (And ordering those clinical supplies when you need them.)
All of this means you’ll need to TRUST your COO enough to let them do their job without moment-to-moment oversight.
You should not hire a COO you need to micromanage. They should be a professional and a self-starter who can work independently to advance the company’s goals. And you need to restrain your urge to interfere with their work when it’s not necessary.
How to hire a COO
Since this is someone you’ll need to trust, you should approach the process of hiring a COO patiently and be prepared to search until you find the right person. Here are some ways to get started:
- Hire an executive search firm or recruiter. A COO is an executive-level position, and you’ll do well to find someone with previous experience. If they have orthodontics experience, even better. But your main goal is to find someone with the business experience and skill to help you execute your vision. You’ll be working hand-in-hand with your COO, so it needs to be someone you can envision yourself working with and trusting with your business.
- Ask for recommendations. Work your contacts in the local business community and your orthodontic network. The job market is very fluid today, and there’s a good chance someone you know has a valid candidate for you or can send out feelers within their networks.
- Define the specific skills you need. Every person, and organization, has specific strengths and weaknesses. So think about where you need the most help—what things are you doing that keep you out of the consult room? Do you need a strategic-thinker COO? A relentless optimizer? Or a gentle disciplinarian to buffer you from your team?
- Don’t settle. Eventually, you’re going to need to hire someone. But this is a critical hire for your team, so keep interviewing until you find the right fit for your needs and your team.
When should I consider hiring a COO?
We recommend that every practice hire a COO by the time they reach $3M in annual revenue.
If you plan to grow aggressively, and are already executing the strategies to get there, you may even want to add one sooner, like when you cross the $2M mark. Or as soon as you afford it!
And if you’re not at $2M but you expect to grow, we’d still recommend hiring a quality office manager that you trust and giving that person as much control over operations as you can.
The main lesson is this: the faster you can hand off operational control to a trusted partner, the quicker (and bigger) you will grow.
And growth is what we want for you!