Optometric Management Tip # 208 - Wednesday, January 11, 2006
A recent email from a reader brought up an excellent topic for this tip article. The doctor
was planning a major staff meeting with an agenda to discuss practice goals for 2006 and he
asked if I had any ideas for increasing staff morale and office revenue. Successful practices
depend on leadership by the practice owner, and scheduling a special meeting to involve the
staff in planning and renewing the practice mission will pay big dividends.
To make this meeting stand apart from the usual weekly ones you hold (you do, don’t you?),
consider these ideas.
What to cover
- Schedule the date well in advance and block out patient appointments. Place a sign on
the office entrance several days before the meeting date announcing the special closure for
staff training purposes.
- Pay staff their usual wages, and try to arrange for everyone to attend.
- Make the meeting at least a half day long; it could be a full day if you wish to pursue
- Consider holding the meeting away from your office, such as at a local conference center
or hotel. While this is not necessary, new surroundings stimulate people to think big.
- Plan for topics and speakers in advance and print a simple agenda. The doctors/owners
should clearly have a big role, but consider bringing in others who are knowledgeable in the
areas you want to cover. This could be people on your staff who have special skills (selling
– interpersonal – technical), or it could be a friend, advisor or colleague. Perhaps you
could reciprocate with another local professional. An expert is often anyone who comes from
- Bring in food. It could be breakfast or lunch, but make it first class.
- Have printed handouts, overhead transparencies or PowerPoint slides from your laptop
displayed on a television set.
- Have a marker board or a writing easel so someone can take notes.
You should discuss whatever topics and projects are applicable for your practice, but here are
a few ideas that are universal.
Respect and praise
- Increasing gross revenue. There is no shame in discussing the topic of money openly with
your staff. The stated reason you are in practice is to make a profit. Staff members actually
like being included in the big picture; it elevates their feeling of self-worth and employees
often have great ideas that really can have an impact. It stands to reason that an employee
that helps a company reach its goals will be more valuable, and if the company does better –
the employee can expect to do better. Brainstorm what it takes to increase gross revenue by
asking staff for input. We know it all starts with three main factors: seeing more patients
per day, selling more to each person, and raising fees, but how can you be more specific?
- Increase net revenue. Increasing the gross will increase the net, but more mature practices
can focus on ways to cut costs without cutting service or quality.
- Customer service. This is a broad, far-reaching topic, but it is the most important aspect
of building a successful organization. And it must be continually revisited and refreshed.
Many procedures evolve and change over time, but not always for the better. How is your staff
phone technique? How are patients greeted when they arrive and what forms do they have to deal
with? What does the office look like? What is the patient perception of the practice? What
words are used in the office and are patients addressed by name? What do opticians say to
patients as eyeglasses are being dispensed?
- Role playing. Ask staff to share some of the key phrases they use with patients. Consider
having one staff play their own office role and another person act as a patient with a
hypothetical problem or complaint. Without being too critical and without embarrassing anyone,
ask for suggestions to improve communication.
- Ask for trouble. Ask staff members to come up with things they’ve seen happen that make
patients unhappy or cause complaints. Employees may think they are doing a good job if they
don’t bother the owner/doctor/manager with problems, and it may feel good to be sheltered from
the negative, but practice leaders need to know about the issues and try to prevent them from
becoming ongoing problems.
Doctors who treat employees as equals, as fellow eye care professionals, go a long way toward
building a better office culture. Assistants who feel appreciated and valued have better
attitudes and morale is strengthened. A side benefit of this respect is that patient’s notice
it and like it. It also improves patient acceptance of the work done by staff members, which
is the key to successful delegation. Be sure to keep the meeting positive and focus on the
talents of your staff. Praise them for doing a great job and train them to do more and to grow.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management