Base of operations
Wing Eyecare, Cincinnati, OH
Optical managers, we interrupt your regularly-programmed teambuilding efforts with a news flash: While mere mortals hand out lapel pins at dull meetings and wave cash under the noses of exhausted staff, a young Cincinnati-area manager is boldly engaging employees and reinvigorating careers. Her colleagues at Wing Eyecare know her as Support and Innovation Manager Halie Schottelkotte, but in ECP lore she is “Ms. Motivator.”
Like many of the most impressive figures in independent optical retail, our hero started with one of the big guys — Eyemart Express, where she soaked up everything she could for a year. “That’s right,” she says, “Eyemart had a great training system. I worked hard.” After, Schottlekotte was recommended to Montgomery Vision Care, which provided a crash course in the workings of an optometric office. “It was a dream come true. A female-dominated high-end private practice, Dr. Laura Fiorenza is brilliant, and her right hand, Kim Bowling, had over 22 years of experience by the time I was fortunate enough to become her mentee. I learned to read people.” Later, she was hired to open Frameri’s first store. She recalls a male-dominated start-up “full of out-of-the-box thinkers who pushed me to the bounds of what I was capable of. The culture of a start-up is so different. Creativity is a must.”
Of the many capes Schottlekotte wears at Wing, a family-owned optical with 19 stores under two brands, the one she dons most eagerly is overseeing employee engagement. She launched a questionnaire program to rate staff satisfaction and hopes to lower turnover “by ensuring our associates feel appreciated and confident their voice matters. Your employees are your biggest customer. If you take care of them, they will take care of your patients.”
Ms. Motivator urges managers to reach beyond their pockets, into their imaginations. “People yearn to feel appreciated,” but recognition can be shown in many ways. “Some like quality time and benefit from listening and shared projects. Some feel most appreciated when you offer help.” And for some it’s lunch or a bonus. “I help managers learn each staff member’s language of appreciation.” Besides acting on survey feedback, and sending homemade thank you and work-iversary cards, “Education is huge … working with associates one-on-one, be it ABO prep, product knowledge, or people skills. People feel engaged when you engage them! When I schedule a health fair or business showcase, I invite associates to work alongside me. When I talk with a district or office manager, doctor, optician, or optometric assistant, they become the most important person in the world.” Free vision screenings and the like are opportunities not only to reach outward to the community, but inward to employees. “In our industry, it can be easy to ‘lose the magic.’ When you connect with the community… it’s gratifying [for staff].”
It’s hard to see how working with Ms. Motivator could leave one anything less than fully engaged. “I’m obsessed with what I do. I love eyecare. I can’t believe I’ve found an industry that blends fashion and function. Health, math, customer service, beauty. I’m allowed to be an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist!”
This article originally appeared in the November-December 2017 edition of INVISION
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