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Exam Incentive System Keeps This Oklahoma Practice’s Calendar Full

Employee happiness is notoriously elusive.




Exam Incentive System Keeps This Oklahoma Practice’s Calendar Full

Physicians Optical
Oklahoma City, OK

AN INEFFICIENT APPOINTMENT PROCESS can undo your team’s hard work on the sales floor, behind the dispensing table and in the exam lane. Keeping the gatekeepers happy makes sense. According to HR expert Josh Bersin, “Organizations that give regular thanks to their employees far outperform those that don’t.” But employee happiness is notoriously elusive; these days the experts prefer to talk in terms of “engagement.” It’s what you get when you recognize employees’ contributions to company goals. One of the best ways to meet them is to reward staff with a bonus.

In Oklahoma City, OK, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear owners Carter Johnston, OD, and Jay C Johnston, MD, put their money where their appointment book is and conceived a bonus program that keeps doctors and staff (fruitfully) busier and a little richer, while ensuring patients get prompt attention.

Exam Incentive System Keeps This Oklahoma Practice’s Calendar Full

Carter Johnston, OD: “The purpose is to reward staff for keeping me busy.”


Carter Johnston observed a simple correlation at his practice: the busier his staff, the better his bottom line. But how to take control of that dynamic? In time-honored fashion, he pinched a colleague’s idea and ran with it. “The general idea came from a fellow OD, though I’ve changed some aspects.” Unlike many incentive programs, this one isn’t about retaining staff (though it hasn’t hurt). It has a limited goal: “The purpose is to incentivize staff and reward them for keeping me and the opticians busy. Everyone works more, but I reward them over their base for staying busy.”



We wouldn’t dream of suggesting you can put a price on loyalty, but …  “There are many ways to motivate staff, but I’ve found cash bonuses are best. No one really loves your practice as much as you do. You have to constantly find ways to motivate them.” Physicians Optical has two full-time opticians, and four or five technicians/assistants, depending on the day. So that’s at least six front-desk staff and techs who schedule patients. “Above a certain number of exams per day, I put $25 in a pool. Potentially there is $150 per day or $750 a week that staff can split” at the end of the month.

The system is designed to maximize hours, without affecting service. “We have a maximum number of exam slots per day. When all slots are full, we can thoroughly examine everyone without being rushed. The goal is to have a 100 percent full schedule.”

THE reward:

“We do more exams,” says Johnston. “More people are coming through.” And it boosts morale. “I don’t believe having a busy schedule hurts our overall patient care; we still focus on taking care of each person as they need to be taken care of.”



Do It Yourself: Start A Staff Bonus Plan

1. Keep it real. Make sure your incentive plan is sustainable. Be generous, but don’t let a poorly designed scheme knock your business off its solid financial footing.

2. Time is money. A paid day off can be more rewarding than a small cash bonus for a busy, stressed employee, according to practice management consultant Judy Bee.

3. Keep ’em coming. Bonuses are most effective if paid monthly. If you limit payouts to quarterly or annual installments, staff can lose energy and focus.

4. maintain values. A bonus program signals your priorities. Encouraging teamwork, while rewarding lone feats, sends mixed messages, says consultant Chris Cancialosi.

5. Reward results, not loyalty. HR expert Josh Bersin says, “Tenure-based rewards have virtually no impact on performance.” Would you stay an extra year just for a nice watch?


After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at


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