By Yoongie Min, OD
Patients make a first impression of your practice when they walk into your office. Awell-maintainedspace influences how much they spend there.
BUDGET FOROFFICE MAINTENANCE. Project based on known costs, leaving leeway for the unforeseen.
FIND REPUTABLE CONTRACTORS. Research contractors and create long-term contracts whenever possible.
INSPECT BEFORE BUYING. The better the officeat the outset, the lower your long-term costs.
Renting or buyingoffice space or an office buildingis one of the biggest investments you’ll make as a practice owner. It is essential to keep the space or building well maintained, including quickly taking care of repairs, making sure everything looks fresh and that the grounds outside are safe and clean. Doing so ensures a good impression is left with the patient, pre-setting them for a positive patient experience and a greater chance to make a purchase in your optical dispensary.
The reception area in Dr. Min’s office.
People form opinions within seconds of seeing any office, store, restaurant or home. A well maintained office and building speak volumes about the professionalism of the doctor.
My patients notice things about the office exterior, commenting on things such as flowers and any inconveniences they experience in our parking lot. Spend the money to keep things well maintained and looking professional. It is not always easy to bite the financial bullet, but is usually worth it in the long run.
There are repercussions for not keeping up office space. We had a leak that we repaired a few times that affected the hair salon that rents space from us. We kept trying to repair it because we did not want to spend the money for a new roof if possible. However, during a major rainstorm, the leak finally gave way and we had water pouring into the salon. Not only did we have to ultimately replace the roof, we also had to do repairs to the walls and floors of the salon, as well, so in the long run, it cost us more money than if we had replaced the roof earlier.
COMPUTE OFFICE MAINTENANCE & CREATE BUDGET
On average, we spend approximately $30,000-$40,000 annually on maintaining our building, which my partner and I own. Our building is over 12,000 square feet. We occupy approximately 3,700 square feet and lease out the other space to two other tenants.
The maintenance falls into the following categories: common area utilities such as gas, water and electric, landscaping and snow removal (very high this year!), insurance, cleaning, maintenance of our fire alarm and security systems, trash removal and other miscellaneous activities.
We have a preliminary budget based on historical costs. However, those costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as major repairs that need to be performed or weather. For example, our last few winters in Ohio were very mild necessitating minimal snow removal.
This winter has been harsh and we have already spent more on snow removal this winter than we did the last several winters combined.
Another example is that in summer 2012 we had severe wind storms that knocked down wooden fencing lining our back parking lot. That had to be replaced at over $5,000. In summer 2013, we had to perform repairs on the asphalt in our parking lot and have the lot sealed, as well, which cost us over $7,000.
FIND REPUTABLE CONTRACTORS
When we need new maintenance, I usually try to find two or three reputable contractors or service providers based on recommendations. It is also a good idea to check their online reviews. We usually try to get a few competitive bids and then make a decision based on cost and comfort level with the business. The cost is not the sole determining factor, but obviously, is an important factor if all other things are equal.
We have many long-term contracts in place with our service providers. This usually helps keep the cost down and also gives us a comfort level with that individual or company as long as they continue to do a good job for us and are responsive.
For example, we have had a long-term service contract with our heating and air conditioning company that maintains several large rooftop units that they service preventively and regularly.
We have been in our building for about seven years now and have also had only one cleaning crew and one landscaping and snow removal company the whole time.
Occasionally, I have not had good results in hiring people who are doing us a “favor” as friends or relatives of my staff. For example, we once needed some concrete work done in our parking lot. We hired the brother of one of our opticians who claimed to do concrete work. The quality of the work did not hold up over time and we ended up doing the same work again a few years later.
Reception Area: Keep as clutter-free as possible limiting brochures, promotional materials and other items.
Optical: Keep well lit and extremely clean. Encourage staff to constantly dust and clean frame displays, shelves and the individual frames themselves.
Bathroom: Keep restrooms clean and hygienic. After spending an hour in a pristine, attractive office, don’t let a messy, unclean bathroom ruin your patients’ impression of you.
CAREFULLY INSPECT BEFORE BUYING
If you’re considering buying a building, have a very careful inspection done of the entire building beforehand because major repairs or renovations are very costly. For example, when we bought our building, we were told that the roof and some of the air conditioning units would eventually need to be replaced, but the inspector really could not give us a definitive time frame. Those issues came up much sooner than we would have preferred.
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