Investments are tricky. I recently listened to a very successful investor being interviewed about the stocks he planned to invest in during 2018. After giving a list of fairly traditional and predictable companies, the host asked him why he had not included some in the tech sector. His answer is a lesson. He said, “I only invest in what I know, and I don’t know anything about the tech sector.” Imagine the simplicity of investing in what you know.

As an optical professional, your best investment is in your business and, more importantly, your people. Your employees are the only assets that can actually be worth more at the end of 2018 than the beginning. Having a team that is knowledgeable and has the interpersonal skills needed to work with the public is the foundation of our success. Here’s how to improve your best investment in 2018:

1. Don’t skimp on training. If you’re a small to medium sized business and wait to hire until you need someone, you’re likely to rush, even if it’s not the best person. You also don’t put time into their initial training because you need them. It usually falls to a more experienced employee while on the job. This is equivalent to having an investment strategy based on lottery tickets.

Instead, put together a thorough initial training plan for new employees. We use a six-month program of 26 weekly modules. The new associate spends an hour a day studying, and a training coordinator administers a test on Fridays. If they don’t pass, they repeat it until they do. This approach has huge payoffs developing employees who are confident working with patients and customers.

2. Create ongoing professional development. Once a new associate is trained, that’s just the beginning. Create an annual professional development plan for each associate. Plan their education for the year. Think local association meetings, vendor training, state associations and national meetings.

Part of our annual evaluation includes what they have done for their professional growth. If they’ve done nothing to increase their value to the business, that’s taken into account in compensation. If they just show up and do what is expected but no more, why a raise? If you have that type of employee, consider a change. You want people who desire continuous learning.

3. Incentivize. The most common form is financial but there are other ways to invest in your employees, like reward programs — points are earned for performance or going above and beyond and redeemable in a variety of ways. People love to travel; rewarding with a cruise or airfare can be a powerful motivator.

If you invest in your employees, you can’t lose. Your business will reap the returns without having to pay attention to the Dow Jones.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 edition of INVISION.   

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