Opinion

How to build a winning culture in your practice


Maria Boulton


14/09/2018 11:57:31 AM

GP and practice owner Dr Maria Boulton discusses some of her suggestions and recommendations for a positive workplace culture.

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‘I soon learned that one of the most important aspects of any business is your staff, the people who create the culture of your business,’ practice owner Dr Maria Boulton said.

As a doctor and a business owner, I started out thinking that I could delegate the non-clinical aspects of the business. After all, I didn’t get taught how to run a business in medical school.
 
However, I quickly found out I was wrong and that I needed to understand the business side of running a practice inside and out. I had to upskill very quickly in financials, budgeting, human resources and marketing.
 
After I opened Family Doctors Plus in 2016 with my friend and colleague, Dr Fiona Raciti, I soon learned that one of the most important aspects of any business is your staff, the people who create the culture of your business.
 
If the culture in your business is not right, as a business owner you will spend most of your time dealing with people problems. And who wants to deal with people problems all day? No one.
 
Your time is best spent working on growing your business or seeing patients. That’s why setting up a winning culture is important.
 
So what is a winning culture?
 
A winning work culture is one in which everyone works together as a team to not only improve the business, but also increase the level of satisfaction among your staff and patients.
 
One of the signs of a healthy and happy work culture is when people put in discretionary effort above the requirements of their contract to benefit the business as a whole, whether it be coming up with innovative ideas or being passionate when they tell others about where they work and what they do, down to keeping the waiting room clean and tidy.
 
To build a good culture, your staff members need to really believe in what your business represents, be proud of their work, be inspired by the work of others, and be given opportunities for self-development.
 
How do you build this type of situation? The culture in your business starts and ends with you, the business owner. What are your values? What point of difference do you bring to healthcare? Who is your target market? With which people do you want to surround yourself?
 
You need to be clear on your answers to these questions in order to build a team that reflects what you want to achieve. Having a clear sense of what you and your clinic stand for is important in allowing your team to know where you are headed. Otherwise, you run the risk that your team will be confused about their objectives and have no clear boundaries. And that, as we have seen with so many of our federal politicians, leads to chaos.
 
Fiona and I had many meetings before we set up Family Doctors Plus. We developed a clear and shared vision as to what we wanted the clinic to stand for and who we wanted to work with.
 
We were disillusioned with five-minute medicine and we wanted to create a clinic where patients spent more time with their doctor and the focus was not just on treating disease, but also on wellness. We wanted to place a greater emphasis on education. We were lucky to have the opportunity to design the clinic as a warm and bright space that was child-friendly.
 
We also designed a large kitchen space where we could have lunch with our staff. We love this, as it allows us to catch up with everyone and see how they are going. We can discuss clinical problems and have a laugh. Even though we are busy, we always make the time to have lunch with everyone.
 
A few months prior to opening, we held meetings with our practice manager, senior receptionist and nurse to share our vision for the clinic with them and give them a chance to present their ideas for our new clinic. We noticed during these meetings that we had not only motivated senior staff members, but that they also shared our vision. Giving them a chance to have input and develop some of our business processes gave them a sense of ownership and pride in their work.
 
This is an excerpt from a presentation Dr Boulton gave at the recent RACGP Practice Owners National Conference. Family Doctors Plus also won the 2017 Telstra Queensland Business of the Year award.



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