In this episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks about how to hire the right people for your group practice.
In This Podcast
In this podcast takeover, Alison Pidgeon provides tips and advice around how to hire the right people for your group practice. This includes deciding whether or not you are going to hire W-2 employees or 1099 contractors.
“The two key areas to turn a company around are human resources and customer service.”
Hiring Tips & Advice
Don’t hire someone just because you need them, make sure they are a right fit!
Consider whether you want to hire a W-2 employee or 1099 contractor. Run this over with a lawyer.
Once you have ironed out the above details, you can begin promoting your job post. Make use of career websites, put a sign outside your practice, and mention to your own community that you are looking for someone.
Some of the best people I have hired have come through referrals from my own network.
Some examples of questions are as follows:
- Clinical orientation, i.e.: ideal client
- Why they want to work in a group private practice
- Whether they want to open their own private practice
- How are their administrative skills
- Ethical scenario
- Crisis management
- Working independently versus working in a team
- Payment structure / lack of benefits, etc.
Also be sure to ask for references, call them and ask similar questions to the above. Make sure that what the reference says is consistent with what the candidate has said.
You can get a contract from Joe’s Paperwork Packet and then get your own lawyer to slightly adjust it.
- How To Grow a Group Practice E-Book
- The “Nuts and Bolts” of How to Build a Group Practice | PoP 253
- TheraNest: Practice Management Software for Behavioral Health
Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Pennsylvania. In 18 months she went from starting a solo private practice to building a insurance-based group practice. She now employs 3 clinicians and a virtual assistant. In her spare time she is often seen running after her two small children and her therapy is cooking.
Thanks For Listening!
Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the social media links below! Alternatively, leave a review on iTunes and subscribe!
File: PoP-254 How to hire the right people in your group practice
Alison Pidgeon: If you have been thinking about starting a group practice, but have no idea where to start when it comes to the hiring process, download our free e-book at www.practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticebook.[MUSIC]
This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast takeover with Alison Pidgeon.[MUSIC] [INTRODUCTION] Hello and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast takeover. I am Alison Pidgeon, your host. I am a business consultant along with Joe Sanok for Practice of the Practice and for five episodes I am taking over the podcast to tell you all about how to start and grow a group practice. I have my own group practice with five clinicians and two assistants in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and I love helping other people figure out how to build group practices. To give you a little recap in case you missed it, day one, we talked all about the pros and cons of starting a group practice, how to figure out if it’s right for you. Day two, we talked about laying down the foundation for group practice, putting processes in place. And now today, day three, we are going to be talking all about the hiring process, so hiring both clinicians and administrative staff.
Before we dig into our content for today, I wanted to tell you a little story that I learned from somebody a few months ago. I was talking to a person who works as a CEO for hire who goes in and rescues troubled companies. And I was asking him like is there some kind of key to coming in and turning things around, because ultimately he is saving them from failing or going into bankruptcy or what have you, and he told me that the two key pieces that need to be in place to turn a company around are human resources and customer service. He said if you have those two things, then you are golden, and I just thought that was so interesting because he was able to take such a huge problem. Right? Like you are this person that maybe doesn’t have knowledge of this company, coming in to try to save it and turn things around, and he was able to, you know, kind of distill that whole problem down into two key pieces. So for me running a small business, I took that to me. Those are areas obviously I need to pay attention to. So when he said human resources, I assumed that encompasses, you know, the hiring and making sure employees are happy and having good ways to resolve conflicts and all that kind of stuff. And then customer service, which is about the whole client experience which we are going to talk more about in episode four which is all about marketing and branding. But obviously today we are talking about hiring. And so I wanted to tell that story, so you can remember how important it is to hire the right people and to really get an excellent team in place, and you know that’s sort of half the battle to making sure that you are going to have a successful practice.[HIRING TIPS & ADVICE] So here is some of my best advice about hiring. My thought has always been hire the right person, the right fit, and don’t hire somebody just because you are feeling the current shove, making things work financially, or filling office space or whatever it might be. It’s so important that you have the right person in there who you know is going to do an excellent job and resist the urges to hire because of other factors. I have waited as long as several months to hire the right person, not because I didn’t have people interview. I did. But it was more important for me to find the right fit than it was just to have a warm body so to speak in the office. So definitely something to keep in mind as you start the hiring process.
So let’s jump into the content now. When you are thinking about hiring the first thing you need to do is think about if you want to hire W2 employees or independent contractors. And I know Joe has talked about this in the podcast before and I will just really briefly go over it again. So a W2 employee is something you are probably very familiar with if you ever worked in an agency. You know, they paid you by the hour or paid you a salary. They took taxes out of your pay check, maybe they gave you some paid time off or health insurance, but they also then largely dictate how you do your job, what you wear to work, all those kind of things. An independent contractor on the other hand – and sometimes are called 1099s because that’s the form that gets filled up for the IRS, but these are folks who work in places where they may have to provide some of their own tools to do the job, so like think about, you know, if you hire a painter to come paint in your house, he is n0t going to show up and say where is my paint brush and where is my roller. He is going to come with all of those things. So in my business, my therapists are all contractors. They have to provide a computer to use. They have to use their cell phone for our phone system. They have to pay for their own continuing education credits, they have to pay for their own business cards, and these are sort of some of things that indicate that they are contractors and not employees. So this is a really important area to definitely check out with a lawyer. So I understand when you’re first starting out, you may want to try to skimp or save money here and there, but this is one of those areas where you don’t want to kind of skip talking to a professional. You know, like, don’t just go on google or go by what your friend said like actually hire a lawyer and ask him these questions because a lot of these rules really vary by State. So in Pennsylvania, they are very friendly towards having independent contractors [00:06:15.16] other States like in California they sort of frown on independent contractors. So definitely check this out with a professional. And I really like having contractors because I d0n’t like kind of having to micromanage people or overseeing a whole bunch of details. I like being able to hire professionals who have experience, who I know are going to do a great job. Then I don’t feel like I have to necessarily be involved with every decision about how they do their job. I trust them to be able to know how to be an excellent clinician. So once you figure it out that key piece, you can decide how you want to structure the various aspects of the job. So for example if you are going to hire a W2 employee, you are going to have to decide how you are going to pay them. As well as if you are going to hire an contractor, then that maybe a different sort of pay structure. You are going to have to decide what kind of benefits you are going to offer if any. I know in Pennsylvania if you have W2 employees, you also have to have some kind of workmen’s comp insurance. So again, these are all good things to sort of check out with the lawyer and then once you hammer out all these details, you would be able to put it in a job description or a job advertisement so that when potential candidates are looking, they can sort of get an idea of what all is offered for your position.
And now once you have all those details sorted out, you can begin advertising your job. So I have done this a number of different ways. I have posted an advertisement on the job site. For example, indeed.com I’ve used before. I even had one of my clinicians see the sign outside my practice and she just called in and asked if I was hiring. And probably the best way that I found, folks, is just going to my own network of mental health colleagues in my local area and just saying, hey, I am looking to hire. Do you know anybody that’s looking? And I found that usually the really best clinicians aren’t necessarily on job sites. They are finding their jobs through word of mouth. I was somewhat disappointed with advertising on indeed.com. I did end up finding one good person that way, but most of the people that applied were like unlicensed, even though I specifically said I wanted licensed people or they didn’t have any experience or I was advertising for a specific type of therapy or you know clinician that practices [00:08:51.08] therapy and I would just get, you know, all kinds of different people. And it was like, they didn’t even read the ad. They just applied. So it was a lot of wading through inappropriate applications. So after that experience I decided that I would go to my own network and ask about colleagues if there were other people they knew who were looking to go to go into priate practice. And that’s been working out pretty well.[THE INTERVIEW] So hopefully if you have gone down a few of these avenues, you have some potential candidates, you have sent you resumes and cover letters and I find that sometimes it can be sort of hard to weed through and pick out who to interview just looking at resumes and cover letters . So typically I will either email or call them, just to kind of ask some questions or if there is something that sort of stood out in the resume that I had a question about that may sort of make or break whether or not I want them to come for an interview. That’s another way I kind of that done before I take the time to schedule an interview and they take their time to come in and all that kind of stuff. For example, I had gotten the resume from someone who lived about two hours away and I emailed her just to ask her if she was planning to relocate and it turned out that she had no idea where my practice was. She just applied and she had no plans to relocate. So I am really glad that I didn’t go through the whole process of setting up an interview for her because that would have been a waste of both of our time. So if at that point, they seem like they are still a viable candidate and I want them to have an interview, I will schedule them and that brings us to our next segment which is what do you ask in the interview. So obviously, your list may be different from my list and that’s fine. I just wanted to share with you some of the questions that I ask just to get you thinking about what you could potentially ask. And I typically tend to ask about their clinical orientation, who are their favorite clients to work with – so like if they had an ideal client. So I know from a marketing standpoint how I would market them but also see how their particular niche fits in with the practice. I will ask them why they want to work in a group type of practice. I will also ask them if they someday want to open their own private practice. So this helps me to know are they coming to work for me for like a year and then they’ll leave or do they sort of see themselves in practice more long term. And you know depending on how they answer this is not a total deal breaker. It’s just helpful for me to know kind of what they are thinking. I usually ask to about are they equally good at the clinical pieces that are at the administrative organization piece. So what I mean by that is are they good at getting notes done on time. Are they good at managing their schedule? You know that kind of thing. In my work as a director in community mental health, I had a lot of therapist who had great clinical skills, but then they really struggled with like the paperwork part or you know they weren’t getting things done on time. So for me having that clinician that has equal, excellent clinical skills and is organized and doesn’t mean to sort of clean up their mistakes from like an administrative angle, then that’s perfect for me. I also usually ask them some type of ethical question, for example like what would you do if you saw one of your clients in public, just to sort of gauge you know how aware they are of those things and if they have good judgment when it comes to those types of things? I also ask about how are they handling a crises especially because there isn’t a team of people around necessarily who could jump in and help if there is a crises. So they kind of need to know how to manage that, you know, somewhat independently, and then that kind of leave into a question about just, in general, working independently, potentially within being in the office with no coworkers around. We’re large enough now that that typically doesn’t happen, but sometimes it does. I also ask – and this is again something that sort of unique to the way that I have things set up. So in my office there is not an admin present. So they have to do their own scheduling and collect whatever fee the client owes at the time of the session, so just sort of making sure they are okay with picking up some of those pieces. And then the last thing is are they okay with, you know, kind of how things are structured with the payment and the lack of benefits. Do they understand when it means to be a contractor and have to pay your own taxes etc.
So if after the interview you still like the candidate and you’re really considering hiring them, one thing you can do is then ask them for a list of references. So I asked for three references and some kind of either email or phone contact information. And then I called them and I asked somewhat similar questions like what’re your overall impressions of this person as a professional? What do you think their strengths and weaknesses are? If you were in my shoes would you hire this person? So obviously the answer is important because if it sounds like they have some reservation about how they are as a clinician or if, you know, they are really disorganized or something like that, that would be helpful to me. But then, the other thing I am listening for is to see if what the reference person is saying and the candidate said in the interview. I want to hear that those things are consistent. If there is something different between the reference person and the candidate, that sort of raises a red flag for me, like why is this person saying they are not organized and the candidate saying they are organized or whatever the case may be. So I feel like also making sure your calling references are also important piece of the process. Once you have found someone that you want to hire, then obviously you are going to go to the next step of giving them a contractor sign or job description or however you have it structured. I have a contract because my clinicians are contractors. So what I did was I got the contract in Joe’s paperwork packet that he sells and I took it to my lawyer and had him look over it and sort of tweak a few things because obviously his contractor has written for the State of Michigan and I am in Pennsylvania. So a few changes had to be made it was definitely worthwhile to go to the lawyer’s office with something already written out rather than having him write something for scratch which obviously would have caused a lot more money. So it was very affordable to buy Joe’s contract and then turnaround and take it to my lawyer and have him review it. So I don’t know if this is okay with Joe, because I didn’t ask him but I do have a coupon code if you are interested in that paperwork packet. You can always email me. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You could also email Joe, email@example.com. Hope he is cool with me tell you that. He will give you a discount, but what is also great in the paperwork packet is there is a contractor’s welfare and administrative person. Let’s switch gears from it and I will tell you how I ended up hiring my assistant. So I wanted someone who was local to me because part of the job could be virtual like answering the phone at home and then the other part of it was coming to the office and doing some different tasks like faxing or scanning papers in [Tower 00:17:05.29] electronic health record. So I put out a sort of like an informal ad on social media, my own social media, just to say hey, does anybody know anyone, locally who would be interested in a job like this and I was overwhelmed with responses, like I couldn’t even keep up with the amount of inquiries and resumes that I got. So I definitely had my pick of people and instead of going with somebody who was trained or was already a part of like a virtual assistant company, like I said I wanted someone local. So I ended up finding a stay-at-home mom who wanted to kind of get back into work but didn’t want to pay to put her kids in daycare. So it was a perfect situation for her and she has a background in professional writing. So definitely has the education and the knowledge and the past work experience to apply to being an awesome virtual assistant. And only does she answer the phone for me, but she also writes her blog post which is amazing, and does various other things. So this past summer her husband got relocated to Chicago and so she moved to Chicago and kept right on working for me which was awesome. So that’s the reason I have this second person who comes to the office to do those various tasks. And what’s nice is that she is actually a friend of my virtual assistant. So I kind of knew her already through the virtual assistant. So I felt comfortable hiring her. It’s really cool to give mom’s the opportunity to have a little part-time job and be able to kind of have the best of both roles – you know, being at home with the kids, but also being able to bring in some income. So kind of the same process I was talking about before with the contract. So their contractors and I had them sign a contract when I started. So I pay them $15 an hour to do those various tasks and then, you know, they are responsible then to pay their own taxes which is why the price points are little bit higher than what they might get if they went to work for a company as a W-2 employee. So here’s one last piece of advice about hiring. Definitely go with your gut. My gut has never steered me wrong. I find that we as counselors have pretty good intuition about people, we obviously can read people very well. And so really use this to your advantage when you are looking to hire somebody. You know, do you get a good feeling about them in the first few minutes after meeting them or is there something that’s making you hesitate. I have definitely made the mistake of not listening to my gut and I totally regretted it. So listening to my gut is the alternate decision maker and the other thing I ask myself to is would I want this person to be my counselor or would I want this person to be a counselor for my loved one and if the answer is no, I don’t hire them.[CONCLUSION] So now that we have gone through kind of the whole hiring process from start to finish I hope you have a better idea of all the different parts that go into it and if you are interested in learning more and, you know, getting that list of questions that I went over, download the free e-book all about how to start and run a group practice. It’s at the www.practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticebook. I love encouraging people to take action on building their businesses and I wanted to leave you with a quote that says the distance between you dreams and reality is called action. So keep up the great work and take some action on your business today. Talk to you next time. Bye. [MUSIC]
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guest are rendering any legal, accounting, clinical or other information. If you need a professional, you should find one.[MUSIC]