Lab Owner: Feeling Overworked and Underpaid?

Have you ever sat down and figured out how many hats you wear in your business?  Many lab owners are still running around wearing a dizzying number of the following hats: business owner; telephone answerer; greeter of clients; finance manager; salesperson; lab technician; trouble shooter; janitor; supplies orderer; marketing manager; bookkeeper; gopher, snow shoveler, window washer, hinge oiler, etc.

When you add up all those “hats” you can get pretty tired just thinking about it.  So why not hire some staff members to take some of the load off you?

The pros and cons of adding staff

Would hiring another staff member or two make a difference?  Usually it will make all the difference in the world.  However, lab owners often have a list of reasons why they do not hire staff.  Here are the main ones, followed by some truths.

“There are no good staff out there” The fact is there ARE excellent staff working in many labs around Canada, even in really remote places, awaiting your decision to hire them.  Yes, you do need to know how to find them and be willing to train them to your standards.

“Staff wages takes money out of my own pocket” Good staff do NOT take money out of your pocket, they put money in it!  Staff wages are an investment.  You should expect a return far in excess of their wages.  As with any investment, you must make the correct choice, i.e. select the right staff for the right position that will help your lab deliver more and better service.  As you are freed up to do more marketing, the lab will grow too.

“I barely make enough as it is” If you barely make enough to pay yourself at the moment, you may need sales training if you are under pricing your work.  Also, you may need to promote the lab more aggressively and acquire more dentists and denturists as customers.  In order to do this, perhaps you can find and hire a student to help you at minimum wage for the simple stuff.  You HAVE to free yourself up a bit to do this marketing.  Then, as you acquire more business, you will be able to hire a full time, fully qualified lab tech to help you.  This can be a bit of a juggling act if you are already past the point when you SHOULD have hired someone and are overly busy.  (However, unless you are massively under pricing your lab work, if you are THAT busy you should be making enough to pay a staff member.)

“It is easier to do it myself” While it is true that sometimes it is easier to do it yourself, there is only so much that one pair of hands can do and therefore your profit (pay) is held down to one pair of hands’ worth of income production.  If you want more pay and better hours, the answer is to get another pair of hands producing for you.

“If I want it done right, I have to do it myself” This statement is usually made about the actual lab work, but how about the other 80% of the functions in the business that could be turned over.  See the list at the beginning of my article and work it out.  Not to worry, maintaining the quality control of the actual technical work produced in your lab is usually one of the last functions that you would turn over (if ever).

“I have had staff in the past and it was a bad experience” I know that not one of our 1,300 clients have a perfect hiring record.  Even the best of us have been fooled.  However, if you stay stuck in the past and don’t try again, you will severely limit the profitability of your lab.

The truth is

Lab owners who have acquired and/or trained good staff get to work fewer hours, have more take-home pay, produce more quality, and feel less overworked.

Where to start?

Sit down with yourself and decide where you want to go with your business and how long you want to take getting there.  Write down all the functions that you are already doing; and then prioritize which ones you can unload for maximum speed of growth.

For instance if you do not already have a receptionist, start there.  She (or he) will give you, among other things, uninterrupted lab time which, all by itself, allows your production to increase.  The receptionist’s duties could include:  answering the phone, receiving the couriered deliveries and ordering the couriers when work is ready to be sent (or scheduling your driver if you have one), doing the banking, keeping the books, keep the filing up to date, invoicing, calling the dental office staff to ensure they received the delivery on time, getting letters and promotion sent out, and simple lab work … and much more.

What’s next?

Save your life and preserve your marriage — hire a lab tech.  Once they are fully trained and apprenticed to your standards, this will reduce your hours in the lab itself.   However, you will always be responsible for quality control for every bit of work that leaves your lab.

After this, you may want to have a driver instead of using a courier, but that is up to you.  If you do have one, they could help out in the lab when not delivering and that would free up your lab tech(s).

Profitability

A lab that has a well trained CEO running it (with good skills in marketing, staffing, training, sales, trouble-shooting, and managing) will give a terrific profit to the owner.  If you are not taking home as much money as you feel you should, it usually means that you are not a trained executive and perhaps you should consider hiring a consulting and training company to help you reach your full potential. After all, every top athlete in the world has a coach in these days of extreme competitiveness.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to The Art of Management Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.

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