Remember those crazy word problems in math class when you were a kid? “If a train left Los Angeles headed east at 50 miles per hour and another train left New York traveling west at 60 miles per hour, where would they meet?”
My philosophy was always, “If I’m not on either train, why should I care? If I was, I could check the schedule and it would tell me; so why should I spend all of my time working on this crazy problem!” My teachers never appreciated that answer, though.
Luckily for those of us who never liked trying to figure out those word problems in our heads, calculators are readily available in all sizes and shapes, and it’s pretty simple to address most any real-world mathematical problem.
Recently, though, I’ve seen a “new math” that’s growing in popularity within the chiropractic community. It does follow some basic laws of math, but the end results are very strange. I have named this new math “CA Division.” As the name indicates, this type of math deals with the number of chiropractic assistants in an office — and it only works with division. Let’s take a closer look.
Say you start with a doctor who has only one CA in the office. The office starts to prosper and the workload starts to grow for the CA. The doctor decides another CA is needed to handle part of the workload. An additional CA is hired, and the new math kicks in.
The original CA, whom we will call “P,” takes whatever he or she is doing and divides it into two equal portions, giving one of these portions to the new CA, whom we will call “Q.” Now the doctor has two CAs doing the job that was essentially done by only one CA when the office was just a bit less busy. See how it works? We now have two CAs working full-time, but together, they aren’t doing much more than one full-time CA used to do.
Now the complicated part enters the picture. The last step in this new math deals with subtraction. It also refers back to the doctor. We take what the doctor was spending on overhead to get the job done, and now we must add in the salary for the new CA and subtract that total from the profits of the practice.
This can get a little complicated, but is a very important part of this new math. So if the doctor was earning $100,000 represented by “X,” and the overhead (including P’s salary) was $50,000, which is half of “X,” represented by the letter “Y,” that leaves a net of one-half “X,” represented by “Z.” Now we must add this additional salary for “Q” to the overhead, and subtract that from “X” to see what the new net, “Z,” is from the practice.
The formula looks something like this:
Original: X – Y = Z
Now: X – ( Y + Q ) = Z
A closer look at this formula will show that:
D = the doubling of the office staff;
U = the universal philosophy that twice the staff is always better;
M = multiple employees;
B = the bonanza of having twice as many people doing the same job.
You can now see that the formula is: D + U + M + B = DUMB!
In this scenario, one staff member now takes part of his or her work and passes it on to the new staff member. We now have two staff members doing essentially the same job that one was doing before, with double the overhead. This is not a good idea!
If you have reached a point at which you are considering hiring additional staff, it’s a good idea to sit down and spell out what you are hiring the new staff person to do. You should develop a detailed job description for the present staff member(s) and for the new person, too. If you don’t take this step, chances are the new math will kick in, and CA Division will happen by default.
You must decide before you hire a new CA what jobs are not being done that you want done, and how the additional staffing can help you tackle some of those projects. Otherwise, you will end up with two CAs doing the same work that one used to do, which means one for the price of two.
If it’s time for your practice to add additional staff, use that opportunity to decide what you want to do with your practice and how your team members can help you get there. Have you been itching to get out to the community and give more health talks? Then be sure one of the job descriptions you develop includes a goal of setting up “X” number of talks per month. Dying to get out a practice newsletter? Then use some of the time created by increased staffing to take advantage of the writing and desktop publishing skills of a current staff member, or look for those skills when hiring the new employee.
One math that will never change is that an investment in quality employees whose skills are well-utilized will always equal a more prosperous practice. With proper planning, the staffing of your practice can be an asset to your profit margins, not a liability.