Regular and frequent staff meetings are a must to keep your practice functioning at a high level, but I recommend at least once per year that you take the meeting to a much bigger scope. Close the office and hold an all-day retreat meeting to go deeper into the business. I’ve held many of these in my practice and I’ll share the agenda of the retreat we held last week.
Communicating with staff and associate doctors about the business side of the practice is vital to getting the support you need to maximize growth from year to year. Staff get so busy with the day-to-day operations that they forget what drives profitability and efficiency. They need to be reminded and motivated. Teamwork can often suffer and people in different departments of the office can have conflicts. Coming together for a special meeting helps everyone to see the big picture and work together for a common goal. I find we need a full day to brainstorm and cover the small details that are so important to achieving a great patient experience.
Where and When
Retreat meetings can be held in your office with the doors locked and voice mail turned on or it can be held at a local conference center or hotel. Be sure to notify your patient base well in advance by placing a sign on your entrance that the office will be closed for staff training on the selected date. Of course, we blocked the day off for appointments weeks earlier. We also posted about the event on our Facebook page and website so more people would know to not drop in on our retreat day.
We pre-ordered breakfast and lunch to be brought in and we had snacks and refreshments available for the whole day.
What to cover
Give some thought in advance about the topics that you feel are most needed in your practice. Start by analyzing your practice revenue growth and other metrics. Compare them to the previous year and to national norms. You decide how much financial detail to share with your team. If it feels too personal, you can limit it to collected gross revenue trends and revenue per exam and don’t get into net income. If you do want to share practice expenses and show the net, you could lump all payroll into one large expense category and include all staff, associate ODs and owners, so no one will know what others earn.
You may want to invite a guest speaker or consultant for all or part of your program. Or, lead it yourself and ask some staff members to present parts of it. Consider doing it one way now and the other way in about six months.
If you do the presentation, I recommend that you use an LCD projector with a screen (or a large flat screen TV) and a laptop so you can show PowerPoint, PDF documents and reports.
A look back at the history of your practice. Include old photos of early offices, the city and staff events of the past. A bare-bones beginning and how the practice has grown is an inspiring story.
Review your practice vision statement and why you do what you do. Discuss the ways you help people and improve lives.
Have a team building event early to get staff comfortable and open to speaking. This could be a game or simply go around the room and ask each person to say what they do in the practice and also what they do when not at the office. You may think everyone already knows this about each other, but it is surprising and often humorous to hear each person describe it. We had one optician say she loves nose pads: cleaning them, replacing them and adjusting them.
A state of the practice report. This is the revenue and metrics section. Include things like the eyeglass retention rate, average number of exams per day for doctors and the acceptance rate for retinal screening. Showing the write-offs for vision plans can be eye-opening for some staff.
Ask staff to give examples of disruptive innovation outside of eye care and in eye care.
Have a brainstorming session by asking staff to name the strengths and weaknesses of your practice. Write each one with a large marker pen on a paper flip chart on an easel. Especially focus on “what can we do better?” You can track a patient visit by department and function.
Talk about ideas for solving the issues identified for improvement.
Do some training on things like: how to communicate better, what to say in difficult situations and how to sell.
Put all this on an agenda to stay roughly on time throughout the day.
Save some time in your schedule in the days following the retreat so you can meet with key staff members and produce guidelines for implementing new procedures. If you’re booked solid with patients, nothing will happen. The retreat does no good if you don’t implement positive changes in your practice and you should see excellent cooperation from staff if you act quickly.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.