For Danny Clarke, who followed his father to optometry school at the University of Houston, the business side of being a doctor is even more interesting than the science. “My dad relied on crisis management,” he says. “I wanted to do things differently.”
In 2010 when he bought Clarke Eyecare, his father’s Wichita Falls, Texas, optometry practice, he decided to overhaul the way the business was run. “The turning point was me changing my attitude about the employees in the practice,” he says. “Instead of thinking of myself as an employer, I started thinking of myself as a developer of people.”
To do that, he introduced open book management, an approach pioneered by Jack Stack, the Springfield, Missouri-based entrepreneur and consultant who wrote the 1992 business bestseller The Great Game of Business. That meant setting aside an hour a week for “great game huddles,” where Clarke shared financial information with everyone on staff and invited employees to suggest ways to improve performance. In 2012 he started opening the office an hour late on Monday mornings to add a second weekly huddle.
As staffers learned about the company’s balance sheet, they felt motivated to improve the bottom line, says Clarke. In one instance, an optician caught a price increase from a vendor and took it upon herself to negotiate a new contract and adjust the retail price for the vendors’ frames. Another staffer made an appointment-scheduling change that boosted the number of patients seen by 20%.
Clarke also developed an approach to hiring staff that prioritizes cultural fit. He puts all candidates through two personality tests, Myers-Briggs and DISC. Then instead of a conventional interview that runs through a list of questions, he engages candidates in conversation. “We let them know that we want them to interview us to make sure that we’ll be a good fit for them,” he says.
The new management approach worked so well that in 2013 he started a side business consulting with other eye care practices, traveling across the U.S. and Canada and running one-day workshops. So far 300 practices have taken part.
Another priority for Clarke is customer satisfaction. As a measure, he uses a net promoter score (NPS), asking each customer whether they would recommend the practice to a friend. Clarke Eyecare’s NPS has never dropped below 90, compared to a 76 benchmark for healthcare practices overall. Company revenue is up from $1.8 million in 2010 to an estimated $3 million in 2018.
Though Danny Clarke, 49, is in charge, his father Calvin, 73, still sees patients one-and-a-half days a week, and his wife Elizabeth, 49, is also an optometrist in the practice, which has a total of five doctors and 25 staffers. “Looking back, by nature I could have been the same kind of manager as my dad,” says Danny. “But I shifted my mindset and turned a diamond in the rough into a system that develops and engages the people who work here.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes