BUSINESS CONSULT | By Cheryl Whitman

Project Management

A project-based approach can help practices achieve their strategic goals.

Behind every successful medical aesthetic practice is a se- ries of incremental, accomplished goals. Whether a facility is seeking to improve the patient experience, integrate new procedures or launch a new marketing campaign, bringing these goals to fruition requires project management skills.  A project manager must be able to conceptualize an idea, build a team that will make that idea a reality and supervise that team to complete the project on time and on budget.
Any new project requires two key factors: the right con- cept to provide focus to the project and the right person to serve as project manager. While the concept differs from practice-to-practice and project-to-project, there are typi- cally three choices for the right leader:
•    A practice owner who has the time, the skills and the motivation to serve as the hands-on project manager.
•    An office manager or other senior employee in the practice, who has the time, skills, and the delegated authority to oversee the project.
•    A third-party professional who is able to marshal the in-house and external resources needed to create success.

The project leader is responsible for managing the day-to-day and week-to-week progress of her team. The success of the project depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen leader, and on the authority given to that person by the practice owner.
Often, the office manager is selected as the person to tackle a new project. If she has the skills—as well as the free time necessary—to get the job done, this is an ideal solu- tion. After all, the practice manager has an eagle-eye view  of the practice’s operations, including personnel, budgets
and staff time allocations. But there are pros and cons to this option, as we’ll see with the following two case studies.
Because projects vary, one project’s dream team may not be right for other initiatives.
What  if  you  held  an  event  … and  nobody came? A practice in suburban Maryland, close to the District of Columbia, came up with a bold concept: reach out to the staff members at area Embassies and Consulates, with special offers and hours, providing an elite service mix to an elite clientele.
This was a brilliant concept that could have worked. However, an already overworked office manager was given the responsibility for launching this project. She had a good team, all from within the practice, and all of who depended upon her goodwill for their continued employment.
The event was scheduled and held—thousands of dollars were spent—and no one showed up. When the outraged practice owner went searching for a reason for this failure, the answer wasn’t hard to find. In the middle of a stack of “action” documents on the office manager’s desk was a four-week-old purchase order for engraved invitations. The PO was never signed.
The savvy practice owner decided to consider this a “dry run.” She brought in an outside team and pulled off the same event three months later.
A savvy manager leverages her contacts. Another practice, this time in the South Beach area of Miami, came up with a project built around the practice’s care of local public figures, including local TV stars and B-Level celebri- ties who were on the verge of “breaking out.” Once again, the project was assigned to the office manager, but this time, with outstanding results. First, the office manager intimately knew the skills and abilities of her staff, including their workloads, so she effectively assigned and managed her in-house resources. Next, she brought in short-term outside help to fill in the blanks of the in-house team’s skill sets and time limitations.
Because the office manager had, for years, made a point of getting to know the practice’s patients, she was able to use that familiarity to encourage them to attend and partici- pate in the red carpet event, which drew a large crowd and was covered by the local media.
The moral: Before delegating any new project to the office manager, make sure she has the skills, the enthusiasm and the time to pull it off.

Once the leader has been named, her first task is to cre- ate clear strategic goals and measurable objectives for the project. This includes building a realistic timeline, along with a workable budget.
Timeline. Each project should be stand-alone, not competing with any of the practice’s other projects. If the project is an event, make sure that it does not conflict with a pre-existing calendar event or holiday.
Budget and Deadlines. The planning phase includes setting a timeline for the project—an easy-to-follow road map from the very start of the project to its successful completion. Budget elements should be tied into the time- line, indicating when required purchases will be ordered and paid for.
The budget should cover all of the costs, including staffing costs for those re-assigned from other duties to work on
the project. In addition, the budget should reflect a healthy and realistic return-on-investment. While some choose to look at short-term returns, such as how many new patients are booked as a result of the new initiative, more strategic

Building invoice and payment deadlines into your timeline helps to keep your project on a budget.
planners will look at the long-term return, by calculating the potential lifetime value of each new contact.

It is unlikely that one individual will be able to develop and execute an entire project. Therefore, success depends on selecting the right “dream team” for any given project.
Because projects vary, one project’s dream team may not be right for other initiatives. For each project, create a spe- cific team made up of existing staff plus outsiders with the skills needed to aid in the project. For in-house members assigned to the team, make sure they have enough time to handle the added duties while still performing their current responsibilities within the practice.

Once the project has been identified, the leader brought onboard and the team assembled, it’s time to start putting together the project. This is the least glamorous yet most essential part of any project.
The project manager must make sure that team mem- bers understand the goals and objectives, timeline and budget of the project, as well as their own vital-but-narrow roles within it.
Communication is essential. Key members of the team should meet regularly and with increasing frequency as the deadline for the project approaches. These meetings should be factored into the project’s timeline before the team is formed.
Project management skills are essential to the growth and continued success of a medical aesthetic practice. Fortu- nately, these skills can be learned and honed. Taking the time to plan ahead and build a solid team that is motivated to accomplish their objectives will result in practice growth and increased profitability. That makes “doing it right” well worth the effort involved.

Cheryl Whitman is the CEO of Beautiful Forever, a national aesthetic business consulting firm that helps physicians develop new profit centers for practice growth. Contact her at

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