It's Not All About Me: Three Ways I Retain the Best Staff for My Practice's Success

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In optometry school, I thought having a successful practice was all about the doctors—their expertise, their personality, how patients felt about them. Several years into private practice ownership, I’ve learned that as important as those things are, my staff is equally—and sometimes even more—critical to the practice’s success. 

Since I took over the practice of a retiring OD 11 years ago, our revenue has increased 500%. I attribute that success in large part to our staff. Over the years, I’ve had so many patients tell me they really liked their previous OD but didn’t hit it off with the staff, so THEY LEFT. So much for success being all about the doctor!

Highly Trained
In my practice, we start by hiring friendly people who fit well with our practice culture. Then, we spend a lot of time training and cross-training them, using resources like Premier Academy360 from VSP Vision. One of several Premier Program benefits that support the growth of private practices like ours, Premier Academy360 includes modules for every role in a practice, covering topics like optometry basics, patient interactions, and submitting claims, all the way to marketing your practice and treating patients with diabetes. We regularly have staff members complete the Premier Academy360 eLearning courses and share what they’ve learned, and then we role-play different scenarios. It’s easy, informative, and you can even get CE credits and badges to promote the practice and motivate staff.

Personally Motivated
That staff motivation is a critical, yet often overlooked, cornerstone of a successful practice, and one reason most of our staff has been with us for more than 10 years. We learned early on that everyone is motivated differently—some love financial rewards, like gift cards or bonuses, while others prefer a public acknowledgement of their achievement, and yet others are motivated by a handwritten note of thanks or a simple, “Thank you for doing a great job” at the end of the day. The key is learning what drives each staff member to excel and rewarding them in the way that’s most meaningful to them.

Individually Valued
Another way we keep our staff motivated and engaged is by playing to their strengths. Somebody once told me that a leader needs to do two things: find out what their staff is good at doing and what they’re poor at doing; then, maximize what they do well and minimize what they do poorly. We have one staff member who is phenomenal at every aspect of her job except in-person patient interactions. So, we don’t make her do those. We have another staff member who is the exact opposite, so we have her interacting with the patients. They both excel, and the patient has a better experience.

Don’t get me wrong—we as doctors have a vital role in our practices and the lives of our patients. I have countless stories of patients who thought they’d never see well leave my office with perfect vision, thanking me for changing their lives. But, without the opportunity to see those patients, we can’t perform our good work. With the help of the Premier Program and a top-notch staff, we’re able to get patients in the door and keep them in the practice for years to come. “As Eye See It,” it is in fact all about US.

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