Crisis to Catalyst: Taking Ownership

I first met Dr. Elizabeth Groetken two years ago when she attended a Cleinman Performance Network meeting in consideration of membership.

By Kathleen Avery

Dr. Elizabeth Groetken
Dr. Elizabeth Groetken

I first met Dr. Elizabeth Groetken two years ago when she attended a Cleinman Performance Network meeting in consideration of membership. At the time, her entire staff had mutinied, and she felt betrayed and unsure of what to do next.

Recently, I bumped into Dr. Groetken at a national meeting and was immediately struck by the dramatic change in her confidence! She spoke and carried herself differently, talking about her business and her staff with ease.

As the facilitator for our immersive seminar — helping optometrists take a deeper look at their approach toward business ownership — I meet a lot of our members at a crisis point. The things that keep most entrepreneurs up at night are the things that drive them to seek solutions and ultimately motivate them to become more effective leaders and business owners.

Dr. Groetken was no exception. Her crisis proved to be the catalyst for a whole new approach to management. I couldn’t wait to find out more!

Kathleen: I was so amazed by the transformation in your approach to managing staff. It is such a challenge for so many practice owners. What happened?

Dr. Groetken: It was a combination of a lot of things that all came together at the right time. I was going to Cleinman when I was at the point of feeling like I didn’t know what the heck was going on — my whole staff had left. My first idea was to merge with another practice. I met with Al Cleinman on the phone, and he said, “I think your office sounds too good to be merging with someone else that isn’t as good as you are.” We talked about crunching my schedule and how I could focus on the business.

Kathleen: How does the membership experience help you with the transformation?

Dr. Groetken: You go to your meeting and you set your goals. We talk about the types of people to hire. I utilized EQ (Emotional Intelligence) in hiring my optician. There is luck involved in finding people, but the tools I got from Cleinman helped me recognize who I should want. I am big on putting people where they belong. Every time I go to Cleinman my group talks about it, and I make better decisions now.

Kathleen:How did this help change your approach to managing people?

Dr. Groetken: I set the stage right off the bat. I won’t tolerate drama. I tell them: “Drama won’t be tolerated. You will be fired if you bring negativity to the office.” We can come together for positive solutions to fix anything. The staff can’t talk about how bad something is; they must be organized and solutions-focused. I constantly remind them that their happiness comes from making the patients feel awesome. I say, “I can’t make you happy in this office only you can.”

Kathleen:What is your perspective on compensation?

Dr. Groetken: I don’t give financial incentives right now because I pay them well. We are all looking at growing the practice together. I say to them: “This is your career. You will shine in your career. Make it be that for you and turn it into something.”

Kathleen: How does all of this translate to the office, day-to-day?

Dr. Groetken: The truth is, I don’t know how to run a staff meeting. But, I don’t want them to become whiner sessions. I want them to be constructive.

So, I decided to recreate what we do at Cleinman. When I get back from a meeting, I replicate what happens there. I have them present their challenges to me, and we talk about their goals over the next six months. We look at the numbers and decide what they want to work on. They set mini-goals.

I really do empower them with decision making — even if I don’t like it, I still do. They have become self-starting and identify issues.

They know more about the front desk than I do. I can trust them. I used to know about all of that stuff. I was constantly micromanaging. Now I am out walking the dog for an hour and talking to you!

Dr. Liz Groetken is the OD owner of Groetken Family Eye Care in Le Mars, Iowa. She and her happy staff have grown her practice 14% in collections over two years.

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