Welcome back everyone! Today we have an exciting interview about hiring a receptionist for your acupuncture office with super-successful acupuncturist and author Lorne Brown, Dr. TCM.
This is Lorne’s second interview on Modern Acupuncture Marketing and I’m thrilled to have him back. You can check out his first interview here, where we talk about his book and his advice for growing your acupuncture practice.
Lorne is the author of the acupuncture marketing book, Missing the Point: Why Acupuncturists Fail and What They Need to Know to Succeed. He runs a hugely successful fertility practice in Vancouver, British Columbia, with eight associate acupuncturists (yes, that’s right, EIGHT) and three administrative staff.
Did that just blow your mind? Talk about a booming practice!
Lorne is also the founder of two continuing education websites for acupuncturists, ProDSeminars.com and Medigogy.com. In addition, he created and hosts the Integrative Fertility Symposium in Vancouver, BC each year.
Lorne, when do you sleep??
Lorne is one of my favorite acupuncture superheroes because he’s not only an outstanding acupuncturist with an outrageously successful practice, but he’s committed to the growth of our profession. Through his continuing education efforts for acupuncturists, he’s pushing forward acupuncture’s acceptance in the medical community, not only in North America but internationally.
Today Lorne shares:
- What to look for in hiring your first receptionist
- What he did wrong when he first hired administrative staff
- His interview format for making sure an applicant is a good fit for your office
- Whether it’s important that your receptionist gets acupuncture (or even likes it)
- + How to get a copy of Lorne’s exact process, interview questions and the advertisement he uses to recruit new administrative staff
With so much experience creating and nurturing businesses, Lorne has phenomenal advice for building an established, successful practice. Don’t miss his book and his online CEUs for more in-depth suggestions that dive deeper into today’s topic as well as other practice management and marketing perspectives.
Okay, without further ado, let’s chat with Lorne!
Hi Lorne! Thanks for joining me today. So how many receptionists do you currently have in your practice? (I’m assuming you must have more than one, since your practice has so many acupuncturists and is open seven days a week.)
Three full time admin staff:
- Two patient coordinators
- One Office Manager
- Plus, I contract a bookkeeper to come in once a month
We are open 6 days a week.
- Monday to Thursday from 7AM to 8PM
- Friday 7am to 3pm
- Sunday 8am to 2pm
Currently I have six associates and we just hired two more to start in April 2017, to bring us to nine practitioners including myself.
When did you hire your first receptionist? Were you still the only practitioner in your office, or did you have associates?
I share in my book and in my lectures the importance of good delegation and hiring your admin ahead of growth. I started practicing in 2000 and rented a room in other clinics which did not provide me with any decision making over staffing.
I moved to my own space in May 2004 which I am currently in now and hired my first receptionist a few months later. I had one associate by June 2004 and hired another by November 2004.
Hiring in advance of your need will allow you to grow faster and bigger. You can focus on being the practitioner and doing other jobs that you love to do and are excellent at. And your admin person can do the things you are not great at and do not like doing but that they are excellent at and enjoy doing. A gold fish grows in proportion to the bowl. If you are doing reception and lots of admin tasks, then you are in a small bowl and you may not grow to reach your potential.
What was the tipping point that made you realize you needed your first receptionist?
I was scheduling and billing patients during times I could have easily been treating. I estimated that it was costing me one to two treatments a day by using that time to answer phones, schedule and bill. Back then I charged $75 a visit.
Let’s do the math … $75 X 2 treatments X 5 days a week X 47 week a year = $35,250
The cost is actually greater because it took me away from my visionary tasks of developing referral relationships and mentoring and supporting my associates.
How many people did you interview for your first receptionist position? Did you interview them, or did someone else?
Back then I did not really know what I was doing. My associate knew my first receptionist already from a previous job so we hired her. I made lots of mistakes back then. That is why I wrote my book and teach: so others do not have to fall down as many times as I have. She was amazing at her job by the way. We got very lucky!
But we did hire some poor fits after her and it was challenging until we figured out a formula and process to do it right.
We look for culture fit and competency. The interview process has several touch points. This is necessary because it is difficult to determine if someone is the right fit from a resume or a phone interview. And culture fit means they also want to be a part of your team. So, they are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.
Here is the process used at my office:
- Send in resume (office manager goes through resumes)
- 15-minute Phone interview (Done by me)
- 10 minute in person interview (Done by me)
- 30 min in person follow up interview where they get some front desk and computer time (Office manager)
- 2 hour working interview (max 5 candidates but prefer 3)
- Final two candidates 4 hour working interview (Paid for this)
The process takes 7-14 days depending on how many candidates we choose from the phone interviews.
What we look for in the resume and ask in the phone interview is key at helping us weed out people and find our gem.
**It is beyond the scope of this interview but if readers want to get a copy of our process at Acubalance.ca, our interview questions and the ad we place for admin, then please reach out to me through firstname.lastname@example.org**
Now that you have experience interviewing people for multiple receptionist positions, what’s the biggest advice you can give us about conducting interviews?
Take your time to hire the right fit. Put in energy up front by taking the time to figure out if the candidate is competent and fits your clinic culture. It consumes so much more energy if you hire fast and they do not fit your culture and cannot do their job well. You think (pray) they will change but they usually do not. And then you have the potential for drama and inefficiencies in your practice.
What questions are essential to ask during the interview?
“Have you ever had acupuncture before?” is a key question. If they show any repulsion to acupuncture or lack of interest in receiving acupuncture then they are not a good fit for an acupuncture clinic. How can they genuinely recommend something they are afraid of receiving themselves? If they love acupuncture then they will communicate to your new and returning patients how amazing it is.
For many acupuncturists, a receptionist is the first employee they hire. The idea is overwhelming. I know I, for one, would be concerned about the legal aspects of hiring an employee: legal documents, setting up taxes, knowing if it’s necessary to offer health care, etc. How did you go about this? Did you need to hire a lawyer to help you draft paperwork?
If this scares you or you have no clue what to do then you just discovered a skill and quality you want in your new hire. So, part of the hiring process would be for them to research what is required and get the documents for you. The information can be found on government websites. But I encourage you to make this part of your hiring process that they research, collect and present to you the paperwork needed to hire them.
I love this idea! It really forces the potential employee to prove that they’re passionate about working for you.
For your first receptionist, how did you decide what to offer for compensation? Salaried vs. hourly, etc.
I start hourly. And there is a three month probation period in our contract. After six months, I usually put them on salary. And as an acupuncturist, you do have medical benefits to offer your admin.
At Acubalance.ca we offer the following medical benefits to our staff.
- Free acupuncture
- Supplements and herbs at cost plus 10%
- Tests at cost
- Free naturopathic consults
- IV nutrient drips at cost of materials plus 10%
Most career receptionist cannot afford our services. So this medical benefit plan is very attractive to many. And if your staff is treated at your clinic and they love being treated then they are going to be an amazing advocate for your practice.
What specifically do you look for in a receptionist?
- Culture fit (That is dependent on your values and clinic culture you have or want to build)
- Skilled and competent
- Good phone voice
- Likes acupuncture
- Wants to make a career as a receptionist
- Avoid entitlement syndrome
Have you ever made any mistakes in hiring a receptionist in the past? Anything we can learn from?
I have made many hiring mistakes so there is no shortage of stories to share.
I only figured this out in 2013 and I have been in practice since 2000. Until 2013 I did not have our hiring process in place. We tried lots of methods and it was out of pure frustration that I sat down and wrote out our hiring process and took responsibility for hiring.
I hired two amazing women about a month apart. One was a teacher and the other a counselor. And for six months we were in heaven. And then one found a job in counseling and the other got a teaching gig a month later. They were both excellent at their jobs and they were lovely to work with but they never intended to stay long term. So when we look at resumes we look at their schooling and job experience and do not interview those who are not likely to make a career out of our reception position.
I never would have thought of the importance of considering a potential hire’s long-term plans. But I can see how it would be essential, to avoid using time, money and energy to repeatedly search for and train quality staff members.
Would you say that attitude is important? What about prior knowledge of Chinese medicine?
Attitude is key. If they have the right attitude, desire to learn and want to contribute to your team, then they can learn. In my book the first chapter is dedicated to attitude because without it there’s little chance of success.
No background in TCM is needed but the desire to learn is necessary. As part of the process for our three finalists we give them a copy of Randine Lewis Book: The Infertility Cure and ask them to read it.
We tell them early in the interview process that they will be trained to be a Doctor of TCM that cannot legally treat. So, they have to have a desire to learn. We have them watch Medigogy.com lectures and take some of the courses on Pro D Seminars.
I know a number of acupuncturists who’ve hired friends or family as receptionists. What are your thoughts on this?
They are not at arm’s length to you, so there’s lots of opportunity to ruin friendships and family relationships.
What should we ask ourselves before taking the plunge and hiring a receptionist?
Did my schooling train me to treat patients or be a receptionist? Does my passion lie in treating patients or doing administrative tasks?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Invest in your business skills. It is not enough to be just great clinically. When Yin and Yang get out of right relationship there is disease and when they separate there is death. Bring your clinical and business skills into right relationship by tonifying your business skills.
Please watch all of the free business lectures available on Medigogy.com (http://www.medigogy.com/archives/practice-enhancement) and I encourage you to read my book, Missing the Point: Why Acupuncturists Fail and What you Need to Know to Succeed. I wrote it for you.
Thank you for sharing your expertise, Lorne! I can’t say how much we all appreciate your advice because it’s based on the years of experience and trial and error that have led to your massive success.
And don’t forget about Lorne’s offer: If you want a copy of Lorne’s hiring process that he uses in his clinic, the interview questions and the advertisement he uses to to find administrative staff, you can email him at email@example.com.
And I’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org –
Do you have administrative staff working for you in your acupuncture office?
What advice would you give for other acupuncturists getting ready to hire a receptionist?
What mistakes did you make, and what would you do differently?
Until next time, acupuncture friends! 🙂