Four years after graduating from optometry school, I bought my own practice from a retiring optometrist. The opportunity allowed me to be independent and in charge of my own success.
Over the next 15-20 years. I built a very successful business. Our staff grew from only four employees to 12 employees. With a larger staff, however, I realized that we did not have the management training or skills to run the business as effectively as possible, and we eventually hit a wall. The staff struggled to efficiently handle tasks since specific job assignments were not in place and there was significant overlapping of job duties.
We also had a few problem employees on staff who unfortunately did not have the best interests of the business in mind. Some staff members were doing minimal work to get by, our accounts receivables were out of control due to the improper submission of insurance claims, and instead of correcting those claims, many were simply written off, and consequentially, income was lost for work that was done.
It was around this time that we received mailers from Sterling. Recognizing that we needed help, my wife and I called to find out more about their program. We liked what we heard, and signed up in an effort to save our business.
With Sterling’s help, we improved staff productivity and efficiency, I personally gained improved management skills, and within the first year, our business income increased by 20%. My consultant predicted that once we instituted higher performance standards, those staff members who were not up to par would leave voluntarily. We did dismiss one employee, and sure enough, another three left of their own accord. Using Sterling’s personnel hiring strategies and testing techniques, we were able to attract and hire quality staff.
While initial strides were made with the help of the Sterling program, we eventually hit another wall and realized the business could benefit from obtaining further guidance. Sterling recommended a SPEEDO*. I originally put it off; however, it turned out our consultant was right so we agreed to get one.
Two specialists arrived at our practice to deliver the SPEEDO. They trained the staff on how to perform in a business environment and further instilled the philosophy of the Sterling program. They went over how to use statistics and graphs to set goals and increase individual productivity. The staff was advised to put everything in writing, such as instructions and other key information, rather than simply absorbing the information verbally since they were more likely to forget or alter the information down the road. If an employee observed something that wasn’t considered a best practice, he or she was instructed to proactively complete a “Help Needed” form instead of simply complaining about it. The consultants also stressed the importance of mutual respect in the office and warned against speaking negatively about other staff or management.
By the conclusion of the program, the SPEEDO had solidified my position as an authority figure in the practice. The staff learned they have responsibilities to carry out, production goals to meet, and now have a clearer idea of how to do both. When goals are met, the staff receives the bonuses they deserve. Our weekly meetings are also more productive. Finally, the consultants helped us reinforce our hiring procedures, specifically what to ask and what to look for when interviewing job applicants.
Since our SPEEDO six months ago, our office runs much more smoothly and efficiently, which is evident by the fact that our year-to-date business income has increased an additional 24%. Because our SPEEDO got all our staff on board with the Sterling program, the practice is now able to operate independently of my presence, which allows my wife and me to travel more and enjoy our home on the Connecticut shoreline and our condo in Florida.
Tom Prignano, OD
*SPEEDO = Specialized Program for Expansion and Efficiency Delivered in Office