Staff Management

When & Why to Hire a Practice Director

By Adam DePoe, OD

Jan. 10, 2018

There comes a time when a practice owner realizes they aren’t able to keep up with the business of running a practice. In my case, it came after my practice had grown to multiple locations. I realized the practice was running me, rather than the other way around.

Among other things, staff management for multiple locations was more than I could handle, and it was becoming hard to communicate adequately with the vendors that sell to the practice. So, a few years ago I appointed a practice director.

My practice, DePoe Eye Center, is owned by my wife, Laura DePoe, OD, and myself. We have a staff of eight doctors, 48 support staff and seven locations on the south side of Atlanta. We practice full-scope optometry in all of our locations. An additional location in McDonough, Ga., opened in December. Our practice director, Michelle Wright, joined the team five years ago, and has filled the role of practice director for the past three years.

Establish Responsibilities & Pay
responsibilities include hiring and terminating employees, recruiting and interviewing doctors, payroll, promotions, cost of goods negotiating, frame selection and purchases, maintenance on buildings and machinery, EHR, I.T., CAQH, credentialing, managing the insurance team, development of team and training, technology oversight, patient experience, HIPAA, office supplies and serving as project manager. But most importantly, she is delivering the vision that I have for the practice. I know all the things she does will get done, and be done my way.

The rate of pay is relative to the complexities of the job, which usually means a larger practice with more locations and a larger staff will need to pay a practice director more because they will be responsible for more. For example, the salary would be different for a two-location practice with 12 team members versus a seven-location practice with 48 team members.

You can get a sense of what you can expect to pay a practice director by looking at what office managers are paid on average. According to Jobson Optical’s 2017 ECP Compensation Study, when comparing average salary for office managers based on practice revenue, the range goes from $52,167 to $66,590, with compensation rising with practices with gross revenues over $1.5 million.

The staff of DePoe Eye Center. Dr. DePoe says having a practice director gives him peace of mind, knowing he now has someone on staff who is able to implement his vision for the practice. Practice Director Michelle Wright is pictured on the far right, on the end, in the blue shirt.

Identify the Employment Background Needed
Michelle has a sales manager background. She started at our front desk where she excelled at insurance processing. She soon became the billing manager. As the practice grew, I brought in two outside consulting companies. Both companies recommended that I put Michelle in the leadership role of practice director. I provided her with optical training, and she gradually took over optical and clinical management. She now oversees all of these roles. She has an unmatched passion for this industry, so she’s always happy to learn new skills.

Owner Manages Practice Director
I work directly with my practice director. We talk on the phone daily and meet once a week. She provides me with stats concerning sales and productions. Her job is to execute my vision for the company. A person in this type of leadership role has to absolutely be self-driven. It is counterproductive if they require micro-management from the practice owner.

Set Performance Benchmarks
I evaluate our practice director by the end results. Did we increase sales and decrease expenses? Is our team stronger? How are we doing on employee retention? Is my vision for the patient experience being implemented?

The biggest improvement after appointing Michelle practice director is my quality of life. I don’t have to worry about everything. I have the ease of mind knowing that a person I trust is there to take on the burden of the details. We have also seen increased production, sales, higher employee retention and a team with a clearer understanding of what we are trying to achieve.

Evolve the Role as Needed
The practice director role continues to evolve with practice growth. The job is much more challenging with seven locations than it was at five. As DePoe Eye Center continues to grow to serve a large group of people, I would like to see us hire more managers with the same passion and work ethic as those we already employ. We know who we are, and we understand the vision, but it takes a team with a passion for the work to reach our full potential.



Adam DePoe, OD, is co-owner, along with his wife, Laura DePoe, OD, of DePoe Eye Center in Atlanta, Ga.

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