Tips for New Business Manager Success

It isn’t easy being the new kid on the block, so start with your best foot forward.

By Virginia “Jennie” Outlaw, CPC
Congratulations! You just landed the business manager position at a physician office. As the “new kid on the block,” you must not only gain control of accounts receivable (A/R) and charge input, but also establish a bond with the business office staff you’re managing. Without their cooperation, dedication, and strong desire to excel, you’ll have difficulty achieving financial success.

Get Started on the Right Foot

The first step is to meet with the staff as a team and note the body language during the meeting. Disinterested and un-engaged employees will be the first to show their true colors by gazing into the distance, crossing their arms, or drawing on paper. These will be the hardest employees to win over.
Pass out a questionnaire to the staff, and announce your plan to meet with each staff member individually to discuss his or her answers. Suggested questions might be:

  • Are you satisfied with your current job duties?
  • Is there another position you would like training on?
  • Do you have everything you need to perform your job properly?
  • Do you receive continuing education for your job?
  • When performing your job duties, what are your strongest and weakest points?
  • Do you feel upper management listens to your concerns?
  • Is communication a problem in the workplace?
  • What are your goals for the coming year?

Set a time on each employee’s calendar and be prepared to listen. Some employees will come with two or three detailed pages of their thoughts, suggestions, and questions. After all, employees see this as private time to find out what may happen in the office. A few employees may use this time as an attempt to discuss other staff members. It’s best to direct these individuals back to the conversation at hand.

Work with Different Personality Types

As you meet with employees, try to get a feel as to what their attitudes and habits may be. There are four common per-sonality types, based on the HRDQ® Personality Style Model:
Group No. 1 – Direct
These employees are strong, reliable, hardworking, independent, and require little or no supervision to perform their job function. Their weaknesses are harshness and “speaking their mind” without any thought as to how their words may be perceived by others. They also tend to hold a grudge when they feel co-workers are not working up to par.
This will be the first group to work with, as these employees will help to lead the other staff members in the direction of improvement. Your goal is to help them define necessary office changes and encourage the staff to draft a policy for needed improvement.
Group No. 2 – Spirited
These employees are compassionate, friendly, generous, talkative, extremely outgoing, and like to be the center of at-tention. They may also be unstable, nonproductive, unable to follow through on work assignments, and require constant monitoring.
An employee of this nature may require a managerial decision. Can you turn the employee around to become productive within the practice, or will you need to provide documentation to the medical practice indicating the employee should be terminated? An attempt should always be made to save an employee.
Group No. 3 – Considerate
These are your easygoing employees: Calm, but at times quite humorous. They are extremely dependable and rarely miss work. They try to see both sides of a story when making a decision.
Group 3 personalities make good employees, but require just a little extra praise and acknowledgement. They may need additional training in their job functions and a full understanding of what the complete A/R cycle represents to provide them with more security. Their lack of knowledge contributes to worry and indecisiveness, which makes them insecure.
Group No. 4 – Systematic
These are self-disciplined employees who, in an interview, appear to be the best you can hire. They are organized and able to think through a process from start to finish, and require little or no supervision to perform their job function.
Their weakness is the inability to relate to co-workers or management. They may have an extremely negative attitude and, when frustrated, take it out on co-workers. Other staff may ostracize these employees, which may result in an employee’s retaliation against an individual or a whole team. They tend to be non-professional in interactions with management.
Once again, the manager is placed in the position of determining if the employee should be kept. His or her work is good; however, the personality traits are almost like a poison spreading through the group. An attempt should always be made to save the employee before punitive action, such as dismissal, is taken.

Make a Plan to Build a Team

The first year may be rocky as you realize the staff is not trained sufficiently or does not work as a team. Positive change will not happen overnight (or even within six months).
Make a schedule for necessary changes and to plan a time frame for each improvement. Monitor your progress, and ask yourself:

  • Is the office moving forward or staying stagnant?
  • Are changes occurring too quickly for everyone to keep up?
  • Should I revise the plan?

If the office is ahead of schedule, recognize the employees who helped achieve this. After all, it took all of them to boost the business office ahead of schedule under new leadership.

Remember: You Are Being Judged, Too

Know that just as you are sizing up your staff, they are doing the same to you. Many managers are Group No. 1 people, such as myself. Whatever your personality type, “own up” to your weaknesses and seek positive change within yourself. For example, with the help of a professional job coach, I came to understand the various styles of management, learned to identify undesirable personality traits, and now recognize the value of teamwork. This training alone has made a phenomenal change in my management style, allowing positive interaction with staff, especially when recognizing their hard efforts.
Lastly, if you’re a new kid on the block: Best of luck in your endeavors!
Virginia “Jennie” Outlaw, CPC, has worked as a business manager for First Coast Cardiovascular Institute since January 2013. She worked in the finance industry for 20 years before entering the medical industry. Outlaw was a compliance officer for 10 years, including time working as a business manager at the University of Alabama. As a business manager at the University of Florida, she focused on employee education. She works with the Education First (EF) Foundation for Foreign Study and hosts exchanges students. Outlaw is a member of AAPC’s National Advisory Board and is local chapter president of the AAPC St. Augustine local chapter. She has chaired the educational seminars held by the St. Augustine chapter for the last four years.

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