Create Your Own “Dream Team”

Your colleagues provide five tips for the assist.


Create Your Own “Dream Team”

Your colleagues provide five tips for the assist.



The original Dream Team: The USA’s David Robinson and Michael Jordan grab a rebound as Earvin “Magic” Johnson (15) watches during a semifinal game at the XXV Olympics.

The 1992 “Dream Team” has been described as the “greatest sports team ever assembled.” With just the right combination of individual skill and a mastery of teamwork, the Dream Team systematically defeated opponents by an average of almost 44 points until ultimately beating Croatia for the gold medal. Certainly, talent is an important factor, but working together was a key to success—achieved by consistent training and communication. Offensive plays and defensive strategies were executed with ease because the team was on the same page.

Those same principles are important in the success of the optometric staff and, by extension, the practice. Staff members must be on the same page, communicating consistent messages to the patient. While you, the O.D., may be the center of the practice, the staff can truly make or break it:

“A great staff is crucial to the success of a practice because, to many patients, the staff is the practice,” explains Neil Gailmard, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., president of Prima Eye Group and CEO of Gailmard Eye Center in Munster, Ind. “The staff forms the personality of the practice more than the doctor.”

Specifically, patients tend to interact more with the staff vs. the doctor, so they provide the first and last impression, say those interviewed for this article. Also, staff members manage appointments, patient record-keeping and practice finances. Given these facts, building the perfect optometric team should be top priority.

Optometrists who have created their own dream teams provide tips on how you can accomplish this.

1 Pair the hire with a “coach.”

Staff training is paramount to building the ideal staff, for obvious reasons. But successful training depends on the person who provides it, says Dr. Gailmard.

“While it may seem appropriate to pair a new staff member with the most senior-level employee, this person, despite being a highly valued staff member, may not possess teaching skill,” he explains. “Having this skill is crucial to the training process, so you want to pair the new hire with the staff member who does a stellar job and can teach.”

You can determine which staff member is well suited for teaching by a) asking the staffer how he/she feels about training other staff and by b) observing his/her general personality and attitude about the practice and with educating patients, Dr. Gailmard explains.

2 Go over the plays.

To create a stellar staff, you must immediately follow-up on training, and reinforce the importance of new training, says Sheldon H. Kreda, O.D., F.A.A.O., of Kreda Eye Center in Lauderhill, Fla. This ensures the task is performed correctly, according to current standards and in line with your practice philosophy.


JULY 2008
Develop a High-Grossing Staff • page 22

JULY 2012
Staff Position Definitions • page 74

Solving the Top Challenges in Staff Management • page 37

“There seems to be this inertia of staff continuing down an old path even after we’ve introduced a new idea,” he explains. “So, the optometrist must be vigilant about keeping staff on task and not reverting back to old ways or old policies. That can’t be done unless you’re communicating constantly.” (See #5.)

Direct observation allows you to correct any misdirection caused by improper training, Dr. Kreda adds.

“I don’t have to wait for weekly staff meetings to correct issues,” he explains. “This is done with immediacy, which makes it more effective.”

To facilitate training, follow-up and reinforce task accuracy, Barry Tannen, O.D., F.C.O.V.D., F.A.A.O., of EyeCare Professionals, PC, in Hamilton Square, N.J., says he provides “Help Guides” on his practice’s Intranet server.

“These ‘Help Guides’ are short, point-by-point guides on how to do everything within our office,” he explains. “If you do not have your systems properly documented, you will be subject to ‘system decay,’ which is when the systems and procedures in your office slowly begin to change — usually for the worse — from the ideal that you strive for.”

3 Make it interesting.

Focusing a little bit on several topics — instead of a lot on just one topic — has worked well for his staff, says Michael Lange, O.D., C.N.S., of The Lange Eye Institute (one of eight practices) in Florida. He says it keeps the information interesting.

“We invite industry reps to assist in training, product knowledge, selling and more,” Dr. Lange says. “They usually bring some different perspectives into the mix and a little excitement and motivation for the staff as well.”

A caveat: Don’t try to teach too much too soon, adds Dr. Kreda. He says it’s best to master a small number of tasks and then move on once staff can demonstrate proficiency.

4 Practice, Practice, practice

A dream team is never done with training and education, says Brian Spittle, O.D., of The Eye Place Optometry, PC, in Midlothian, Va. He says the focus at his practice is creating a culture of positive change through continuing education.

“Every week, we quiz the staff,” he explains. “We also recycle the quiz concepts to make sure the information isn’t forgotten.”

5 Hold team meetings every day.

Personal interaction prompts greater retention and immediate action vs. e-mails and memos, say those interviewed. Therefore, they meet with their staffs more than the typical once-a-month.

Dr. Tannen says he has 10-minute “morning meetings” every patient care day.

“We go over the schedule and anything that might be out of the ordinary so that we are better prepared for the day ahead,” he says.

Dr. Gailmard says he holds weekly 30-minute to one-hour staff meetings in addition to what he calls the “daily morning huddle,” in which the doctors and managers meet for a few minutes to chat about the day.

“A couple of times a year we even close the office for a full-day to have a retreat training program,” he adds. “We often bring in an outside speaker for this event in addition to our own leaders.”

Dr. Spittle says he holds one-hour training with his full staff on a weekly basis. With a large staff, he says he splits them into teams, each with a team leader, to foster communication.

Remove that one bad employee as soon as possible, as he/she has the power to tear down your entire staff.

6 Make cuts, when necessary.

One bad employee can tear down your entire staff, regardand-less of how hard you try to make it work, says Dr. Kreda.

“Sometimes, all the training in the world is simply not going to work if the employee is not a fit for your practice. So, the best advice is to get him/her out quickly before it starts affecting the rest of your staff.” (See “

Final score

By following the aforementioned six steps, creating your own dream team can be a slam-dunk. OM

Ms. Getz is a Philadelphia-area-based freelance writer and a former editor of Eyecare Business magazine (a sister publication of OM). E-mail her at, or send comments to