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I recently had the opportunity to work with some newer practice managers, and we were discussing where to start in their latest roles. It got me thinking about the myriad responsibilities placed upon managers. This naturally raised the questions: What should they focus their efforts on, and how do they prioritize these responsibilities?

To answer these questions, my mind immediately went to the “Secret Sauce.” The Secret Sauce was born from the Allergan Practice Consulting (APC) team analyzing the strongest performing practices across the country and uncovering five common areas of success. Those areas are:

1. Financial Discipline

2. Business Planning

3. Customer Centric

4. Employee Engagement

5. Leadership

Using these areas as a framework, I’ve outlined specific considerations you, as a practice leader, should contemplate. These prompts will help you gauge where you and the practice stand in each of the Secret Sauce categories and identify areas of opportunity. Based on that introspection, items that need your focus and immediate attention should become clear.

Financial Discipline

I recommend you start your analysis with financial discipline, since it’s a cornerstone of a healthy practice. As a practice manager or business owner, it is crucial for you to understand the financial health of the practice and its providers. Only with that knowledge can you establish realistic budgets, set appropriate growth goals, and forecast for the future. To gauge your financial acumen, ask yourself:

  • Am I familiar with a profit and loss (P&L) statement and how to read it? Do I know the other reports I need to review—and how often—to evaluate the practice’s financial health?
  • Do I know what it costs to run the practice? Is the practice in the black? If yes, do I feel confident in the margins? If no, what would make me feel confident?
  • What revenue numbers does the practice need to improve its financial health? What are realistic revenue goals for each provider, and what are they currently producing in service and retail revenue?
  • How diversified is practice revenue? Does the business have more than one revenue stream, or is a majority of revenue coming from one person or one department?

Business Planning

Only when you have a good understanding of the practice’s financials can you effectively conduct business planning. A business plan is essentially your map to success. It outlines specific business goals and objectives and details the methods and resources needed to achieve those aims, all while taking the current and future market into account. To create a thoughtful business plan, you should consider the following:

  • Where would I like the practice to be in a year, five, and 10 years from now? How might I get there?
  • What are some market opportunities and/or threats that I should be aware of?
  • Am I staffed appropriately to reach these business goals? Do I have the right people in the right roles? Is staff aware of practice objectives, and are they effectively carrying out their duties to achieve them?
  • What kind of experience is the practice presenting to patients? How do internal staff, operations, and processes impact the patient journey? What changes might be needed to elevate the experience?

Customer Centric

To succeed in business, you must keep the customer top of mind. Remember: you rely on customers, not the other way around. Customers have multiple practices to choose from, so it’s important you present a great customer experience. This involves knowing the patient journey in detail—internally and externally—and making sure it’s up to high standards. To learn this critical information, ask yourself:

  • What is the practice’s main referral source?
  • What type of impression does the practice’s online presence present? Who is responsible for responding to all online inquiries?
  • Is staff timely in responding to customer inquiries? How detailed/frequent are our follow-ups, and do our follow-ups set the right tone for the patient experience?
  • Does the practice have enough staff to answer phones? When patients call the office, how are they welcomed?
  • How soon can a new or existing patient be seen for an appointment? Are patients willing to wait, and are they given a reason why we are worth the wait?
  • Is it easy for patients to check in? Does the team run on time? Are we conducting detailed assessments? Are we taking photos and developing treatment plans? What’s the patient experience like?
  • What is our conversion rate to other services? What is the patient retention rate for each of our providers?
  • How often does the practice send out surveys (not reviews) on the patient experience? Who is responding to those surveys, and how are we responding to them? Are we implementing any of the suggestions? Does the team need customer service training or to be refreshed on it?

Employee Engagement

In such a customer-centric industry, practices need quality, engaged, and empowered employees. To attract and retain such employees, you must value them, recognize them, and listen to them. In short, you must connect with them, but what’s the best way to do that? I recommend scheduling the following meetings with them:

  • Onboarding meetings. To ensure these meetings set up new employees for success, ask yourself: Are new hire expectations clear and realistic? Are the processes and duties covered up to date? Are new employees getting the training and mentorship they need? Do new hires have the tools and resources to do their job?
  • Group staff meetings. To make sure these meetings are valuable and promote team alignment, ask yourself: When during the day should these huddles take place? How often should they take place? How long should they be? What topics should be covered?
  • One-on-one meetings. To forge an open, meaningful connection with staff during these sessions, ask each team member: How is work going for you? What’s going well, and what isn’t? How can I support you? Are there any development areas you would like to explore?
  • Career development meetings. To help retain employees, hold these individual meetings and ask staff: What are your career goals? What motivates you? How do you like to be recognized for a job well done? How can I help you achieve your goals?


Lastly, the hallmark of a successful practice hinges on strong leadership. This includes a good owner/practice manager relationship, where they work together as a team to achieve established practice goals. Alignment among leaders ensures a common purpose, a supportive environment, and accountability. The way leaders conduct themselves sets the tone for the rest of the team. To make sure you’re setting the right example, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my definition of a great leader? What characteristics does that person possess?
  • How is my emotional intelligence (EQ)?
  • Am I aware of my communication style and delivery? Does it mesh well with my team?
  • Do I have someone helping me to develop myself?
  • Am I conducting reviews with my team to get their feedback on my leadership? Am I open to that feedback? Am I accountable?
  • What kind of work environment have I created? What kind of environment do I want to create?

Planning Ahead

Based the considerations outlined above, I hope you have identified some potential areas of focus. From those, you can come up with an approach that’s tailored to your situation. The Secret Sauce framework is not only great for short-term planning, but long-term planning, too. Even though the business environment is constantly changing, with the past two years proving just how much, the Secret Sauce principles are universal and can help you navigate the years ahead.

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