Guest Post: Are you Ready for an Assistant

Many of you have had a chance to email or talk with Megan. She has been working as my Executive Assistant for a few months now and has been an absolute game changer. Though she doesn’t work for my clinical practice, one of the things that made her stand out to me was her experience working in large behavioral health systems. She gets therapists! Who better to hire for a business that serves therapists She has taken a ridiculous amount off my plate. Like, things I wasn’t giving over to my previous awesome assistant because I was having unacknowledged control issues. As you get busier in your practice, it may make sense to get some support so you can focus on the two actions that matter most in your business: therapy and keeping those referrals rolling in. Check out Megan’s insider tips on hiring an assistant (I’m resisting a “hands off, she’s mine” comment here.) So your private practice is working out!  With the big things off your plate like networking and finding clients, you start to notice little things are taking up a lot of your time. Emails and phone calls and scheduling and tedious paperwork are piling up and you start wondering if you can clone yourself and you’re not sure you want to do that because you don’t even know what clones eat. Does this mean you’re ready for an assistant? Howdy guys! My name is Megan Patton and I’m Allison’s Executive Assistant. I’ve been in Forward-Facing Care (FFC) since 2008, (which is a fancier and I think more value-based term for medical or clinical administrative staff than “paper pusher”).  While only you can know if you’re financially prepared for bringing on an employee, I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain of Assistantship help you figure out if you’re ready for an assistant. Be sure you WANT an assistant. Before you figure out what type of assistant (virtual or in-person) you need for your practice, check in with yourself to see if you feel ready to hand-off projects and tasks. You built this practice so you’re going to be really protective of it and that’s natural. But you’re not a dragon, so you don’t need to hoard all the stuff. If you’re hesitant to downright reluctant to hand over the boring day-to-day things, put the idea of an assistant in your good idea box and wait. When the boss (that’s you) just isn’t ready to hand over the reins it can start your office relationship off on an emotionally and professionally funky note. Avoid the funk. Who are you looking for? (It’s probably not Lionel Ritchie) This sounds daunting but really this part is kind of fun: Remember those weird coloring books we had as kids that were almost like paper dolls where you layered the drawings to build an outfit until you ended up with a ballerina wearing scuba flippers and a space helmet? That’s exactly what you’re doing.   You’re mixing and matching skills to your needs and trust me, that unicorn exists somewhere. So you have a busy group practice or a high-volume private practice in an office setting and you need somebody to field calls, handle insurance and co-pays, sort the mail, and book clients during the day. You don’t do a lot of work after hours or at home. If this is you, you’re looking for a Practice Assistant or Client Liaison. If you're working in a big group or shared practice, a receptionist or unit secretary that reports to one person but assists in practice admin is a better way to go. If you're in a group private practice and you want an assistant for just you, go virtual. It can be really confusing for the new-hire trying to figure out who's the boss (not Tony Danza) and we're natural helpers anyway so you might short-circuit your new staff member by not being clear on who they report to, what their tasks are, and that's when people can sometimes take advantage. In a group practice, an admin should be the practice admin for ease of communication and smooth sailing. You have a practice where you take a lot of calls after hours, are doing a lot of projects, speaking engagements, are kind of a rock-star business person (like Allison), and don’t really need a lot of client assistance when it comes to booking. But you have a mountain of receipts, travel stuff, and you’re going to be doing some speaking out of town next month and you dread booking your flights. If this is you, you’re looking for an assistant. Virtual or in-person is up to you. How to Hire? If you’re looking to hire someone locally for in-house, keep in mind that we sometimes leave agencies for the same reasons clinicians do. That stellar Admin Assistant that you remember from a few agencies ago might be looking for a new challenge. If you’re looking for a virtual assistant, online agencies like Great Assistant (that’s how Allison got stuck with me) can do all the dirty work for you and match you with a Virtual Assistant. Don't settle. Whether you’re getting someone to greet clients and work with insurance or if you’re getting a virtual assistant, your ideal assistant will need two skills: people skills and computer skills.These are non-negotiable in my book. You can teach HIPAA, train them on your EHR or software, and they’ll learn your practice culture by just being there. Don't waste money and time teaching people skills and computer skills. You’re going to need to train no matter what, but you can’t fill a bucket with holes and those are two big ones. Feeding and care of your new assistant: Most of us like chocolate, so that always works no matter the situation. Therapists are my favorite people to work with because they are almost always fun, chill, and made any workplace a really welcoming place to be. But notice I said almost: clinical boundaries must exist between you and your assistant - they’re not a client and you’re not there to give free therapy during the down time. This is a professional boundary that has to exist so you can help each other grow and provide your clinical and/or business clients with the best service possible. And if you're both in the thick of practice or business building together, odds are you'll have a really supportive relationship anyway.   Are you ready for an assistant? Do you have some good training tips or hiring stories to share?   Tell us in the comments below!     Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.