Staff Management

The Culture that Built a Practice with 18.5% Year-Over-Year Net Profit Growth for the Last 5 Years

Dr. Bristol with his practice team. He says the practice’s strong culture results in both a high level of patient care and service and happy employees.

By Dan Bristol, OD

Jan. 19, 2022

Your practice’s culture dictates the kind of experience you offer both patients and your team. It gives you a guide to how you define good care and service, and what it means to have a great workplace.

Having clear core values that are lived by team members has a significant impact on the way your team members will care for patients. With a strong set of core values, patient satisfaction will increase leading to improved retention of patients and more friends and family referrals. Patients who return annually provide significant revenue to practices. In our practice, a focus on defining, discussing, and living out our core values helped us achieve 18.5 percent year-over-year net profit growth for the last five years.

Here are the most important principles of our culture and how we live out those principles every day.

Defining & Discussing Core Values
Our core values are: astounding service, conscientiousness, enthusiasm, integrity and teamwork.

Our mission is to “Enrich our patients’ and team members’ lives.”

We discuss our mission and core values at weekly, quarterly and bi-annual meetings. When we catch team members living our core values, we point it out with a business card outlining the core value and have our manager record on the card what the team member did that was such a great example of this core value.

We want our team to understand why they come to work every day. What are we trying to achieve, and what are acceptable ways of meeting our goals? Our core values set norms for behaviors and actions.

Spreading your mission and core values throughout your organization doesn’t require a monetary investment, but does require effort from doctors and practice managers. The mission and core values need to be frequently discussed. When a team member’s actions align, praise should be given, and when they don’t align, education should be provided to them.

We keep each of our core values framed on our wall for both the team and patients to see.

Ask Your Employees What They Think the Practice Is Trying to Achieve
Meet with your team and ask them what objective they feel the practice is working toward and what are important ways to act in achieving this objective. This can help you establish a mission and core values if you don’t have them in place already. Once the mission and core values have been agreed upon it is time for leadership to build a system to keep those values front and center in the practice’s daily operations. A system that praises, recognizes and evaluates the team on living the mission and core values will go a long way toward keeping the team focused on these crucial concepts.

We began to discuss core values regularly a few years after we opened in 2004. One of the biggest changes I noticed after we started emphasizing values was the team became more focused on the needs of the person they are helping as opposed to just providing “standard” eyecare services. We also noticed that employees became better at solving problems and making decisions on their own. One team member told us when he is facing a situation in which he is not sure what to do, he will look at and review our core values framed on the wall to help him find the answer. He has frequently said if you study the core values long enough, you’ll find the answer.

Everyday Actions that Tell You Your Practice Is Living Out the Core Values
Here are specific behaviors and services that show me our team is putting our core values into action everyday:

Astounding service:
Showing a patient how to change blue light settings on their device rather than only focusing on the benefits of blue-light lenses.
Our technician, without being asked, will walk patients to their car with an umbrella when it’s raining.

Looking up every possible type of insurance when a patient does not know their benefits to help them figure them out their coverage.

Checking jobs for lab errors at check-in, taking time to fit glasses at dispense and double-checking that eyewear orders are correct before dispensing to patients.

Staying on top of any back-ordered products, and most importantly, keeping patients updated.

Decorating the office/dressing up for the holidays and making our office a fun place to work.

Surprising the team with in-office chair massages following an especially busy month.

Staff members coming to management when they have made a mistake and asking how to make it right.

Consistently coming to work on time and keeping management in the loop if unexpectedly running late.

Pitching in to help–no matter the task, even if it’s outside of your job description.

Passing out core value cards to each other and supporting one another on the good and tough days.

Additional actions by our staff that exemplify our values:
When a patient needs an adjustment, our opticians will replace nose pads, clean the glasses and tighten screws as an additional service rather than just adjusting the glasses.

We have big celebrations for team member birthdays and anniversaries.

When patients buy glasses for golf, we give them a complimentary bag of golf tees.

When a young boy struggled with inserting his contact lenses, but eventually mastered it and became a contact lens wearer, the team got a book for him about race cars because he had mentioned he liked race cars.

Donating frames to a patient who had broken their glasses and did not have insurance benefits available or the money to purchase a new frame. We keep a supply of frames we are going to donate for instances like this.

The overall sense of support and care within the team enriches our lives because our work family truly cares for and supports one another both in and outside of the practice.

Signs Your Patients Are Reaping the Benefits of Your Culture
A recent review our practice received demonstrates how our team embraces our mission: “This team continues to AMAZE me. I went to get my new glasses a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned that my Daddy had recently passed away. The entire team sent a card, signed by all, with the kindest words. I’m not crying, my eyes are just watering 🙂 They feel like family to me, and I’m so grateful to each of them for the extra care throughout my vision issues, and my personal losses.”

Sending a signed card to a patient is not part of our day-to-day responsibilities, or in any of our employees’ job description, but it does align with our mission of enriching peoples’ lives. When we work with people, we do what we can to make their lives better.

Dan Bristol, OD, is the owner of Bristol Family Eyecare, which has three locations in the Austin, Texas, area. To contact him:

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