When you find the right employee to help you run your practice it’s like winning the lottery, especially as you come to depend on them and they become a critical cornerstone to your practice.
The problem, all too often, is that in the years of their tenure it becomes all too easy to let boundaries fade from sharp lines to gray areas and eventually to a distant memory as they become enmeshed in and a part of every part of your practice (and often your life).
The following is a real story, of a real practice and practitioner, who found himself amid a bank scheme at the hands of a woman who had worked for him for over 20 years. *
Bank Stamp Betty
Betty was just shy of 40 years old when she started working for the (much younger) Dr. P. Truth be told, she knew more about running a practice then he did by a longshot which was exactly why he had hired her. His salary offer, and benefits package were more than competitive as he knew he needed her expertise to get his fledgling practice off the ground.
The fact that business courses are not part of the curriculum at the Chiropractic College, or for any medical professional for that matter, left Dr. P floundering under the weight of responsibilities that were as foreign and vague to him as subluxations and x-ray listings were to Betty; and so, they made a good team.
Betty went with Dr. P to help him set up his bank account just for his daily over the counter payments, and insurance payments. She was sure he did not have her on the account because believe it or not, Bank Stamp Betty started out with a conscience (most employees do!).
As Betty helped Dr. P with the business side of the practice it did what she knew it would under her tutelage, it prospered. With that growth came increased profitability. To be fair, Dr. P continued to award Betty. But as time marched forward, the systems she used and relied on became obsolete and replaced with technology that went faster and faster as poor Betty found herself slowing down.
It was in the same year as her 18th anniversary working for Dr. P that he reluctantly hired a new Office Manager that was to run the ins and outs of the practice and patient management. Dr. P explained to Betty that he was going to keep her on as his HR Manager and of course keep paying her benefits and current salary, but he showed her that she had hit her ceiling of income and sadly shared he couldn’t afford to give her anymore raises.
It’s unknown when Betty turned, or for how long the stamp had been wrong. Betty had been going into the bank for as many years as she had worked for Dr. P. The bank employees knew her face better than the Doctor for whom she made the deposits every Tuesday and Friday; so, when two police officers showed up with a red-faced Dr. P on a Tuesday afternoon, they didn’t even know him by sight and made him present 2 forms of ID before discussing his account with him.
Somewhere in all those years, and all those deposits, Bank Stamp Betty decided that she deserved a little bit more credit than good Dr. P was giving her. She opened a business account that was just different enough from Dr. P’s practice name, and was given her very own stamp to use for deposits on the back of the check.
Dr. P’s practice was called: Dr. P Family Practice, Betty filed a business named Dr. P as a toy store with the State, acquired a tax-id, took it to the bank and opened an account right alongside of the true Dr. P’s. The insurance checks, and even the patient payments, were accepted with either the full practice name or just made out to Dr. P. The bank accepted all checks Betty brought in twice each week, and deposited them without a second glance to the account number she wrote on each deposit slip.
Bank Stamp Betty was so brazen she even had the stamp for the bank up front with the (now not so new) Office Manager who had taken her place. With a system that no-one but Betty knows to this day, she would switch out the stamps and split the deposits, making some to her account and the rest to Dr. P with all the payments made by check to the office from both insurance and patient.
One day, Dr. P went into his practice to find a sealed envelope with the same cursive handwriting he had come to know:
Dear Dr. P,
I’m sorry for what I have done, but you understand I didn’t have a choice. You see, I built this practice with you as a partner, but you never gave me a partnership. You took me for granted and I knew that you would never see it my way, so I took what I felt I was owed.
I appreciate that you had to pay more overhead and bills than I did, and that your name was on the door and not mine, so I did not take 50%. I thought that a slow payout of 30% was more appropriate. I always made sure to deduct the salary you paid me from the calculation. I am a fair woman.
I wish I could have said good-bye, you were like a son to me. I understand you will be mad, so I have left somewhere far to be sure you never have to see me again. I left you a little present to help you understand how this all came about.
In the envelope with the letter, was Betty’s very own bank stamp payable to Dr. P, the toy store that bore his name. -
To avoid becoming Bank Stamp Betty’s next victim follow these steps in your own practice:
1. Use CBI’s system, The Accountability Triangle© implemented from the first to the last day you own your practice.
2. Never allow your staff access to your banking information, except for the bank stamp which you maintain control of at all times.
3. Never allow your staff to make any types of frequent deposits to the bank, if you can avoid having them make any deposits at all that is even better.
4. Separate your bank accounts, keep one account for insurance deposits and over the counter payments and the rest of your banking from another account to maintain a security perimeter should you encounter a breach.
5. Avoid discussing or even keeping financial documents at the practice anywhere accessible by staff, nosy staff are a common problem shared amongst practitioners.
6. Follow your instincts!
*This story is a combination of a few different situations we have encountered in this past year. Unfortunately, except for a few small embellishments, the facts around the details of this case are all true, names and details have been changed to protect the practitioner.
If you would like more information on how to protect yourself utilizing The Accountability Triangle © contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.