This story originally appeared in our November 2011 issue. Visit the Uptown Eye Care website for the latest information on Dr. Happ, Dr. Gregory and the practice.
Since the time that Elaine Happ, OD, opened a practice cold with three staff members in 1997, it has blossomed. Good demographics, clever marketing and bringing on an energetic practice partner, Mary Gregory, OD, all contributed to the expansion of Uptown Eye Care in Monticello, Minn.
But as the practice grew, so did the management complexities. “Our practice has gotten so big that we felt we needed some direction,” Dr. Happ says. “We want the right hand to know what the left hand is doing. We needed a plan.”
To achieve that, Dr. Happ, Dr. Gregory and their office manager, Melonie Carlson, needed a new perspective. Carlson had been a valued staff member since 2000 and was promoted to office manager in 2006, a move that allowed Dr. Happ to stop trying to manage daily office duties and be the doctor at the same time. The three spent a weekend in late 2010 at Carlson’s lake house, enjoying food and wine as they focused on their goals for 2011 and generated a timeline for achieving them. “When you get back from a meeting, you say, ‘Oh my gosh, where do I get started?’” Dr. Happ says. By setting times and deadlines to work on each item, they crafted a comprehensive plan. Dr. Happ reports that they reached many of the bars they set for 2011 by early fall. Here are a few of the items that were on their 2011 to-do list.
Create pediatric patient gift bags. After their first visit, kids take home a reusable practice-branded bag that includes their first pair of eyeglasses, a baseball cap, a lens cleaning kit and other small prizes. A staff member also takes a photo of each child in his or her new eyeglasses to add to the practice’s bulletin board.
Set a donation limit. “Everyone comes knocking on our door for donations,” Dr. Happ says. She’s happy to help out in the community, but there had to be some criteria. Now there’s a budget of $500 per quarter, so staff and doctors can allocate that budget better.
Expand the staff section of web site. Photos and biographies were added to uptowneyecare.com for
each of the practice’s 18 staff members.
Rewrite the procedure manual. From upgrading software to ordering office supplies, the latest systems are being recorded in this updated manual.
Set plans for staff education. Dr. Happ and Dr. Gregory like to include the staff when they attend local and national optometric meetings, and they empower these individuals to continue their education. They mapped out who will represent the practice at each meeting they planned on attending. This advance notice helps in scheduling enough coverage when key staff members are out of the office and lets everyone know his or her turn is coming.
Break down the office financials. A thorough review of QuickBooks files was essential to understanding the practice’s growth. “We looked at every category and compared revenue to the year before,” Dr. Happ says. “Are the numbers more or less? And why?” Simply identifying and tracking these numbers has helped improve results. “If you have goals and write them down,
you are more likely to reach them,” Dr. Happ says.
Dr. Happ advises her optometric colleagues not to get stuck in routine. “Everyone gets busy, and there’s often a tendency for doctors to put aside the management side of practice,” she says. That’s a short-sighted view when it’s key to look far into the horizon.