Article Date: 6/1/2011

How to Harness the Power of the “People Factor”
o.d. to o.d.

How to Harness the Power of the “People Factor”

When it comes to creating a successful optometric practice, people—that is, your staff—make all the difference.

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

If you were to list your top five rules for achieving practice success, what would they be? Where would the “people factor” rank? The people factor appears in each of my top five tips for developing a successful practice. It's the basis of many practice success stories, and because many optometrists discount it, innumerable failures.

The current thinking in business schools is that all you need for success is a good idea, focus, clarity and a sound business plan. However, it's been my experience that a great staff united by motivation, determination and bravery is much more important. With that in mind, here are five suggestions for how to achieve success.

1. Find good people.

Specifically, look for leaders who have the ability to listen to feedback from both employees and patients. This is crucial to keeping a service or product fresh and innovative. Often, when things start going wrong, you'll notice that the staff members feel they are being ignored, and good ideas are not bubbling to the top.

2. Realize that your staff members are the business.

A successful practice isn't the product or service it sells or its supply chain: It is a group of people bound together by a common purpose and vision. In any practice across the country, the equipment, furniture and fixtures are pretty much the same. It's the people who make the difference.

The best business plan will come to nothing if it is not carried out by an enthusiastic and passionate staff. This is especially true when things go slightly wrong. A friendly and proactive staff can often win people back, averting a potential disaster and even turning it to your benefit.

3. Always look for the best in your staff. Lavish praise. Never criticize.

Rather than focus on mistakes, a leader needs to catch someone doing something right every day. If this culture of fostering employee development through praise and recognition starts at the top, it will go far toward stamping out the staff fear of failure that can stunt a practice, particularly in its early days.

4. Don't take yourself too seriously.

Find the fun in your practice, by which I mean, try to ensure that both your staff and patients feel a true sense of warmth and concern.

To foster employees' sense of warm, personal interest in patients' needs, ensure that everyone who works with you enjoys what he or she is doing, which means that everyone must be proud of the practice.

5. Just get it done.

Finally, to succeed in practice, you need the bravery to give it a try.

When it comes to the overall success of your practice, the most important variable for success is the people factor. Your staff and how they interact with your patients is what makes the difference between a winner of a practice and an “also ran.” OM

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2011