John Marvin: Build a Team of Winners

With your goals in sight, here are 5 ways to inspire (and reward) high performance

BY John D. Marvin

Published in the September-October 2014 issue

To succeed, an eyecare business needs every team member performing at his best every day. Yet unless you’ve staffed your office with robots, this can be a real challenge.

I don’t believe we can motivate anyone (other than ourselves) to do anything. People need to motivate themselves, but self-motivated people share a few attributes: a can-do attitude, strong work ethic and no fear of failure. If these qualities don’t describe your staff members, then it is time to make changes. Otherwise, you’re simply trying to teach a pig how to sing. All you’ll do is frustrate yourself and irritate the pig.

With the right team members in place, here are five key actions you can take to create a high-performance practice that excels in customer service:

1. Be crystal clear about your expectations. Without well-defined expectations, staff members are swinging at a piñata blindfolded. Now and then they’ll hit their mark, but they’re usually focused on making sure they don’t do something wrong. With the practice goals defined, align each job description to its role in reaching the goals. It’s also important for each staff member to have a coach who can observe and evaluate how they are performing. Coaches should be people who know what is expected and capable of bringing out the best in the staff member.

2. Share profits. The use of financial incentives can be as controversial as politics, but your staff work for the same reason you do: financial reward. And while it’s true that people will do for love what they will not do for money, you can’t pay your rent or car payment on love. In addition to providing regular performance reviews and merit increases in base wages or salary, share in the rewards of building a profitable enterprise. This can take many forms: paid time off, cash bonuses, attending national meetings, to name a few. All let people know they are valued.

Self-motivated people share
a few attributes: a can-do
attitude, strong work ethic
and no fear of failure.”

3. Let people make mistakes. One key way people learn is by doing something wrong. In order for your staff to evolve, mature and improve in their abilities, they need the freedom to make mistakes. Now don’t get me wrong: People should not be allowed to repeatedly goof up. But when you let your team know they need not fear failure, it empowers them to take initiative when it comes to providing excellent customer service.

4. Create a culture of continual improvement. Motivated people seek opportunities for self-improvement in all areas of their lives. When you encourage people to grow their skills, it builds loyalty. In addition to helping people advance their on-the-job skills, you might pay for a gym membership or weight-loss program, offer tuition assistance and build a library of articles and audio books they can access for free.

5. Celebrate together. One of the most interesting qualities among high achievers is they love being around other high achievers. As your staff conquers challenges together, they develop stronger bonds — and success should be celebrated together. A family picnic or day at an amusement park or night at a ballgame can forge lifelong relationships. We are people of community. Spending time together helps us learn about each other and build an assurance of belonging that results in even better performance.

So there you have it: With a clear set of goals in hand and a team of motivated people with great attitudes and the desire to achieve, you can lay the foundation of a high-performance practice.

With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, John D. Marvin writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. He is president of Texas State Optical, a member-owned cooperative of 120 independent, professional optometry practices. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..