When I first started practicing here in San Antonio, we had six exam lanes in a really small office space. Now, as the Clinic Director at Parkhurst Nuvision, widely known as the place to have ICL eye surgery in North America, we have expanded to 40,000 square feet, with 12 doctors starting this July, and just north of 100 total employees.
As we’ve expanded over the years, and certainly as we’ve grown to hire more employees, there have been some growing pains. With only one small office for four doctors, we had to put tape on the table where technicians and doctors stood so that everyone knew where their spot was. Not having a fully developed hiring process led us early on to hire people who didn’t fit our culture. We didn’t have the technology to be fully able to provide outstanding service or even fully track our marketing efforts. I even made someone cry . . . like, for the whole day! I tried to coach them and give feedback, but instead I made them cry. Read on to see how I learned to treat other people.
Overall, having experienced all of that, I hope to now be able to help other practice owners avoid some of these headaches and effectively grow their practices.
Learning to G.R.O.W.
When thinking about ways to expand a practice and bring on more employees, I recommend that practitioners think about the acronym GROW.
G = Great culture
R = Right people in the right positions
O = Outstanding Service
W = Willingness to Market and Sale
G = Great Culture
All of our practices are different — just like every business is different. Start with your why. Why do you do what you do? Why do you get out of your pajamas every day and go to work? You could stay at home and watch Netflix all day, but you go to work. Why?
Every time we talk to our team we talk about our why. Knowing why you do what you do is an important part of the growth process. It sets the stage and provides meaning to our employees. It tells everyone what you’re about. What is your story? How do people know your practice?
This even includes the values we’re looking for in our employees. What values do we want in people? I’m always looking for people who want to continue to grow, who go above and beyond, and who are passionate about what we’re doing. I like to talk about this as early as the interview process. I set the expectation right off the bat of what it’s like to work in our office and what’s expected of our employees. This also extends into our company meetings and outings. At any event we have, we’re reinforcing our core values. I want to make sure that all of our employees are having fun and can enjoy each other’s company inside and outside the office, but I never want them to lose sight of why we’re here.
R = Right People in the Right Positions
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the benefits of utilizing personality tests when thinking about hiring new employees. The Enneagram personality test has been helpful for me when hiring anyone from a new tech to a new doctor. If we have someone who is super energetic and enthusiastic, they’ll be great at the front talking to the patients. But if we have someone who’s more introverted and analytical, all of these social interactions may drain their battery, and they’d be better suited to a different role, such as billing.
Knowing employees’ personality types helps us understand how someone is built. If as an organization we understand you, then we can learn how to lead and teach you in different ways. I used to think, “Always treat someone the way you want to be treated.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all built different. When you know how your employees are built, it helps you understand how to treat them and have the best chance to help lead and develop them.
O = Outstanding Service
If you have outstanding service, it’s an easy way to grow. We keep our office fully stocked with different snacks and water bottles, and all of our employees are consistently asking our patients if they want anything. We’ve put cookies in the front of our office, so that when people come in, they smell cookies. During COVID, we had to get rid of the cookies, and this did not work. We had so many requests from patients, so we brought them back recently and you can tell the impact it has made in the patient experience . . . because who doesn’t like cookies?
There are many other little things we can do to make our patients have a better experience. You can write personal information down on patients’ charts, so the next time they come in, you can chat with them about their pets, or where they went to school, or their hobbies. In our system, we call it FORD data — Family, Occupation, Recreational, and Dreams. Our staff is always asking questions — on the phone, in the waiting room, in the exam room — and we record all of that in the patients’ file. We want our patients to walk into the room and have the experience tailored specifically to them and feel a connection to us.
W = Willingness to Market and Sell
One of the biggest reasons we’ve been able to grow so much is because we decided to invest in marketing and sales. We work hard on training and even practicing with everyone in the office on the best ways to answer the most common questions — How much is an eye exam? How much is LASIK? etc.
Marketing has been so effective for us because we’ve been able to track it. This can be very difficult to set up, but when done correctly, it provides so much value. I’ve heard many doctors say that GoogleAds don’t work, Facebook Ads don’t work, or my website does not bring me patients. All of these can provide new patients to your practice. There are many important parts to having a successful practice, but in my opinion, this might be the most important. You could be the best doctor or have the best team, but if no one can find you, how will you be able to make a difference in those patients lives? Setting up these systems can help you track this data so you can see the value in marketing.
While there are certainly growing pains on the road to expanding your practice, the G.R.O.W. model can be effective. Establishing your office’s culture, finding the right employees, providing outstanding service, and prioritizing marketing and sales are important pillars to keep in mind on your journey of growing your practice.