Call it kismet.

Although she was looking for a new opportunity, Cynthia Cranmer wasn’t planning on interviewing for a job on that particular afternoon about 9 years ago. Instead, she was just buying time while waiting on a friend when she saw plastic surgeon Julene Samuels, MD’s name on the tenant directory of the Louisville, Ky, building where they were to meet.

“I walked in wearing a red suit and handed the receptionist my resumé. It was such a fluke,” Cranmer recalls. The receptionist brought the resumé back to Samuels and promptly returned asking Cranmer if she had time to meet the woman who would soon become her employer.

“My receptionist said, ‘You have to meet this woman,’?” Samuels says. “She walked in and was so put together in that red suit, and everything about her was professional, including her handshake.” Her resumé was also solid, as Cranmer was currently employed as an office manager for a busy retina specialist.

We Are Family

The duo clicked instantly, and soon after Cranmer became a big part of the all-female practice—enhancing the “woman’s touch” that Samuels is known for. “We want them to feel welcome and part of a family,” Cranmer says. The waiting area resembles a cozy living room—replete with a fireplace, love seat, and bookshelves. “It’s so different that patients walk in, and often walk out again to call the office to make sure they got the suite number correct.”

There is also an emphasis on patient privacy at the practice. Instead of community “look books” filled with before-and-after’s, patients are given tablets where they can discreetly review the images. The atmosphere is soothing and Zen. There are no excessive wait times or rushing.

“We take our time and make sure that patients have no questions left unanswered after an appointment,” Cranmer says.

Cross Training in Action

Part of the reason that the practice runs so smoothly is Cranmer’s cross training philosophy. She manages a full-time staff of six and is skilled in each of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. If someone calls in sick or takes a vacation, she can easily pick up where they left off. This means that on any given day, Cranmer may be the one answering the phone, negotiating with vendors, providing quotes, getting an exam room ready for a procedure, or holding ice on a patient’s cheeks. On some days, she does all of this and more.

Cranmer expects the same of the other staffers. “The idea is to challenge the employees to come out of their box,” she says. “The receptionist can help out and give a quote if they see that I am busy,” she says. “This keeps the wheel rolling and avoids excessive wait times.”

Such cross training usually starts slowly with shadowing and some role-playing. “She is one of those people who can motivate and get the best out of all of our staff because she sets such a great example,” Samuels says of Cranmer’s ability to lead.

“The ability to pinch hit in the back and front of the office is invaluable,” Samuels adds. “It makes patient care a dream.” Samuels, too, is willing and able to help out with other office duties.

The camaraderie of the crew also fosters creativity. For example, social media is a shared task. “We all pitch in and say, ‘This week, let’s do this,’?” Cranmer says. The team recently built enthusiasm among followers with a “12 Days Before Christmas” open house campaign on social media. Each day, they would share information about the upcoming event, including special deals. The campaign engaged so many fans that they actually extended it for a longer period of time.

“If there were 36 hours in a day, she would work for half of them—and the patients always come first,” Samuels says. So much so that Samuels jokes she is put on hold if Cranmer is helping a patient.

Still, it’s not all work and no play. Cranmer is a devout indoor cycler, and usually takes three of these intense cardio classes per week. She also maintains a perennial garden, just celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary, and dotes on her Jack Russell terrier, Max, and her son when he is home from college.

“She’s part of my family as well,” Samuels says. “My twin daughters absolutely adore her. I am so grateful she walked into my office and stayed.”

Is your practice manager a gem?

Let us know. He or she could be featured in this all-new monthly column. Drop Denise Mann, editor of Plastic Surgery Practice, ?a line at [email protected]. This column is sponsored by CareCredit.