Tag Archive for: culture

Take a Stand by Giving Back

It’s becoming more and more common for companies to practice “brand activism,” instigating social change for causes that align with their values. Patagonia’s long-standing fight to preserve natural resources and habitats comes to mind. The company and a growing list of others is proof that customers don’t just care about the products and services you offer; they care about what you stand for as well. 

Customers, employees, and employers want to be a part of something that’s making a difference in the world. But context is king. For a variety of reasons, not every organization is positioned to be an “activist.” 

But we can all give back to our community in a meaningful way. When an organization dedicates its resources to a cause, it’s living out its values. Your business’ support — whether financially, through volunteer hours, or in-kind giving — can make a real difference in the world. Another added bonus? Giving back has a positive ripple effect on your team, your business’ image, and on you personally. 

Service is the bedrock of  leadership.

Robert Greenleaf, the man who coined the term “servant leadership,” had a few key outcome-based questions to identify servant-first leadership: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Regardless of our position in the workplace, we are all leaders in some form or fashion. And there’s no better place to sharpen our leadership skills than by giving back to the community. It helps reorient us outside of ourselves and creates a workplace culture that is more than the sum of the bottom line. In the end, studies show that an organization with that kind of culture is much more likely to be successful.

Intentional giving changes dynamics. 

Giving back can put leaders into service tasks and allow followers to take on leadership roles. Whether it’s a volunteer opportunity or organizing the company’s charitable efforts, giving back can temporarily change office hierarchies in a positive, respect-building way. 

Giving fosters diversity. 

Our careers occupy most, if not all, of our weekdays. (And sometimes, our weekends too.) Add in family responsibilities, exercise and hobbies, and maintenance errands like grocery shopping, and our weeks can take on a rhythm of sameness. Seeking ways to give back forces us out of that cocoon and into a wider, more diverse pool of activists, community members, and business leaders. Charitable giving presents an opportunity to see another’s perspective, learn valuable insight about our communities, and develop true empathy for those who are unlike us. 

Generosity begets generosity. 

People pay attention to those who give. Their selflessness is attractive and sets an example for others to think about how they, too, might share their values by giving back. The cascade of one person’s giving to charities that heal, feed, educate, shelter, minister to, and enlighten every walk of life is limitless both in terms of who it helped and who it inspired to join the cause.

With the holiday season hitting full speed, there’s no better time to consider ways you and your business can give back. At MJM, we designate a portion of our talented staff to support the marketing efforts of selected nonprofit partners. Our support encourages them to keep serving their communities, and their work reminds us that the best way to lead is to be a servant first.

We hope you’ll consider making meaningful gifts to your community before 2021 comes to a close. You won’t regret it.

How To Cultivate Lifelong Learning

Do we really value lifelong learning?

The value of lifelong learning has long been extolled. For those of us that are knowledge workers, it’s essential. But as much as we tout that as a value, our behavior rarely reflects it. It’s easy to become distracted and even complacent with our learning, more so than ever with the barrage of information from an explosion of new sources and media.

I’ve always held that staying curious and learning is a personal value. And yet I often find that even when I’m digging into a large volume of information, it can feel like mindlessly reaching into a bag of snacks. New ideas are fun and addictive. It is a thrill to encounter them, but merely encountering them does not result in knowledge or wisdom gained.

I read a large number of articles and am in the middle of several books. I listen to a variety of podcasts and watch keynote talks and interviews. All with the hope of gaining some valuable insight. But without a strategy for managing the inflow of all that information and putting it into use, a great deal of the potential is lost. For information to become knowledge, it needs personal context. “Knowledge is information in action.”

Lifelong learning in action

Feeling stagnant in my growth, I recently set about building a personal system to manage my learning. After a month or so of tinkering there are some strategies, and tools to enable them, that seem to be working well. In the process, I stumbled into the field of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and learned that this is a journey many have been on long before me.

PKM is about capturing information and ideas that we encounter in our lives and cultivating knowledge out of all of it. There are a few broad movements within: seeking information, making sense of information so it becomes knowledge, and ultimately sharing that knowledge with others. Keep in mind that we’re running with the idea that information and knowledge are distinct things. Knowledge is information that we have personal context for. A personal knowledge management system cultivates knowledge when it facilitates the creation of personal context around information.

A functional knowledge management system enables a set of essential skills related to information. Seven of these skills are identified by Paul Dorsey and his colleagues at Millikin University:

  1. Retrieving information
  2. Evaluating information
  3. Organizing information
  4. Analyzing information
  5. Presenting information
  6. Collaborating around information
  7. Securing information

It’s worth reading their original paper to go deeper into what each of these skills entail. All seven activities contribute to the creation of knowledge. And each skill builds upon or contributes to the others.

It’s important to evaluate the information we retrieve for both quality and intent (what we intend to do with that information). And by organizing the information flowing into our minds (and perhaps a knowledge management system), we help make sense of it, connect it to other ideas, and even analyze it in relation to other information. You can see how the skills start to build.

Learning to share

These seven skills have been helpful as I evaluate the strategies I’ve put in place to manage my lifelong learning. And they’ve opened my eyes to one other observation: that lifelong learning can often be a selfish endeavor when we leave out presentation and collaboration skills from the mix. Maybe this is what stops so many of us from living out our lifelong learning value. We don’t experience the joy of cultivating new ideas in community with others. If value is created in relationships with others, the value of lifelong learning may very well be in sharing what we’ve learned.

Commonplace in Community

A commonplace book is one central location for keeping important, interesting, or useful information. The practice of commonplace was used to keep track of ideas, concepts, facts and any piece of useful information that one might want to return to later. The commonplace book would be a fertile ground for new ideas and insights to form. Sometimes the books were kept as general collections, but were often kept on a specific topic or theme. The curators of these books found immense value in both the practice and the book itself.

These books were recorded by hand, in a journal. Over time, the practice has evolved with technology and now there is a proliferation of ways to keep a commonplace book as well as new kinds of content to keep in them. Digital apps like Evernote are a great way to keep a commonplace book, and are a clear evolution from the traditional pen and paper format.

These books were very personal artifacts for use by an individual. But something interesting has happened with the advent of the internet, blogs, and social media. Our commonplace books have become public, community commonplaces. Tumblr blogs, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest boards all can function as a sort of commonplace book. On Reddit, the community votes the most compelling content to the top.

These are all public, curated collections. And we have the ability to follow the collections of others. Your follower list is a curated collection of notable people. There’s an exponential or fractal quality to it. Or perhaps a kaleidoscope is a better metaphor. Ideas from a variety of sources are brought into friction and collision with one another, in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t if they were strictly private collections.

Commonplace goes digital

But are these collections really in the spirit of keeping a commonplace book? Keeping commonplace is a deliberate practice. It is done with care, and the entries into a book are meaningful — they are recorded for a purpose. If we are to see these public collections of content as commonplace books, they must not be divorced from intention and context. We need to understand why something was shared if we were not the ones to originally share it.

At MJM, we use Slack for internal communication, and have several channels that function as commonplace collections of sorts, curated by our whole team. #inspiration is full of articles, quotes, videos, and websites shared by members of our team who were inspired by them. Members of our team with an interest in motion graphics and animation have a channel named #timeline-chatter (after the timeline interface element common to editing and animation programs). We share tips and tricks that we have found as well as examples of animation that we want to learn from.

Inspiration endorsed with enthusiasm

The entries that inspire and engage others are those that include a brief personal note from the poster about why they found the item so interesting. These entries give context and are endorsed with the enthusiasm of someone who shares similar interests. It’s an invitation to dialogue, and helps establish a foothold for a common, shared vocabulary. The goal is not just to find the coolest thing and be the first to share it. Keeping commonplace is a constructive act. The goal is to build and expand upon each other’s curiosity and knowledge. This creation of context and invitation into dialogue is vital to a community collection that is truly in the spirit of commonplace.

This has implications for those of us who create, collect, and manage content for others as well. We should strive to be intentional and constructive with the content we create and share, and not just another distraction. And we must consider how we facilitate the creative act of curation as a unified group, not just a collection of individuals.

Why Do Your Mission, Vision and Values Matter?

A good leader knows that in order to lead a project, people need to know why they are working, how they are working and who they need to be as part of the team. This is why we must focus on our mission, vision, and core values.

Mission Statement

What is a mission statement? Look around online and you will find many definitions for mission statements. A summary definition would be this: Why do you exist? Why are you in business? Answering these questions is central to writing your mission statement. At MJM, we often speak of “commission” rather than “mission.” A commission not only identifies what you are doing, but why you are doing it. So what is your commission? What have you been commissioned to do with your life and your business?

Vision Statement

Going deeper, your vision statement should paint a picture of where your business will be when it is wildly successful. Your vision should be bold, inspiring and paint a clear image of what will make you successful. It’s okay if, in some way, your vision statement is not actually attainable. But it must be an inspiring and powerful image that helps people see where you are going.

For example, the vision at Vance Thompson Vision is “Best on Earth.” Now, measuring whether they are actually the best on earth can be tricky, and they are not able to be best on earth in everything—only in their areas of specialty. However, regardless of whether “Best on Earth” is measurable and attainable, it definitely allows staff and patients to clearly envision where they are headed as a business and what they aspire to be. That is the power and importance of a vision statement—it paints a picture of success that is motivating and inspiring.

Core Values

Of these three foundational items, your core values may be the most important. They certainly will be the most important for your daily operations as a business. In simple terms, your core values define the way you operate and exist and live as a business. They are the values you make decisions by, the values you hire and fire by and the values that set the culture of your business.

Your core values should be very memorable for all staff. Ideally, you will be able to reduce your core values down to three to five words or short phrases. These core values only have power if you actually live by them, make decisions based on them and champion them within your staff and customer base. Choosing the right core values will make your decision-making easier and bring much clarity to your business.

These core values only have power if you actually live by them, make decisions based on them and champion them within your staff and customer base.

Perhaps the hardest part of finalizing your mission, vision and values is coming to agreement with your leadership team on the final version of these items. There are so many good reasons we exist and so many great values we want to embody! Many groups have a hard time editing down their content and ideas to the most vital and actionable statements. But this editing and simplifying process is vital.

Your mission, vision and values need to be short, inspirational and actionable. Don’t give up on editing and building these vital statements until you finalize them in forms your entire team can live with and execute. Spending time as a team discussing, debating and agreeing upon a clear and powerful mission, vision and values can power your business to new clarity and new success.

8 Things a Jazz Quartet Can Teach Us About Team Culture

My wife and I recently had the privilege of attending an intimate performance by a world-renowned jazz quartet. As we enjoyed the music, the environment, and the experience, I realized how the same factors create a powerful jazz performance and a powerful team business culture. Let’s look at eight ways jazz can teach us about team culture.

1. Purpose

We entered the small jazz club—the lights were low, the tables scattered throughout the small venue, the instruments waiting expectantly on the stage. As I reviewed the program for the evening, I marveled at the clarity of purpose of each of the musicians; their education, their passion, their blood, sweat, and tears all coming together in that moment with the sole purpose of creating beautiful music together. Businesses that discuss and emphasize their team purpose and the purposes of each of their staff create a powerful identity that can power their culture.

2. Preparation

As I reviewed the program, two of the musicians walked on stage and began preparing for the show. One at the piano, the other on upright bass, they began to methodically tune the instruments to create the perfect sound. How many times had they done this simple preparation? What seems like a mundane task is actually essential preparation for their performance that night. Team culture that focuses on proper preparation enables the entire team to produce their best work.

3. Inter-Connectedness

After tuning their instruments, the rest of the musicians came on stage and the group began to play. Slowly at first, the group eventually found their rhythm and worked their way into the first song. The most important part of this first song was the inter-connectedness of the quartet — the piano player intently watching the rhythm of the drummer; the bass player watching the energy and flow of the piano; the saxophone player watching all three instruments to join the pace of the music. Without awareness, without this inter-connectedness, the music cannot reach its pinnacle. Team culture built on inter-connectedness is vital to getting projects and great work off the ground and accomplished.

4. Harmony

As the music quickly ramped up, it became apparent immediately how years of preparation and dedication helped create this harmonious, synergized sound. Each of the instruments blending together with the others created perfectly timed, perfectly matched sound. How does your team culture create harmony between the players? Does your preparation and connectedness create the best possible synergy of work?

5. Space to Shine

The beauty of jazz music is not only its synergy, but also its space for improvisation. The tenor saxophone player sits down, eyes closed, soaking in the music. The drummer brings the rhythm down to a steady, subtle backdrop. The bass player joins him, creating a repeating baseline, which allows the piano player to roam. His fingers fly over the keys, exploring new spaces, taking years of training and the support of his fellow players and finding new music. As he concludes his exploration, the bass player tries a new riff, playing faster, then slower, then with more energy. Finally, the drummer has his chance to shine as a solo player, raising the energy of the audience to new heights. There is space in jazz for individuals to shine and to grow. Does your team culture offer individuals a chance to shine and grow?

6. Communication

Suddenly, with barely a noticeable look of the eyes and nod of the head, the drummer brings the entire quartet back into the original song. Over the course of the entire performance, I was in awe of the way a look, a nod, a turn of the head, or a simple hand gesture could communicate in depth the next move of the performance. How does your team communicate? Does each member of your team understand the cues, the signals that you share to move on and produce the next great work?

7. Trust

Within these levels of inter-connectedness and communication, I was struck by yet another core value of the performance—trust. Every member of the quartet must trust their fellow players to keep the rhythm, to stay within the song, to stay on pitch. If one player loses the rhythm, the entire synergy is lost. Likewise, if your team fails to execute consistently, projects will be incomplete and deadlines missed. Your team culture must be one of trust. If your team members do not trust each other to do their jobs, you will not be successful as a business. So, do you have trust within your team?

8. Energy

Finally, my experience of this jazz performance reminded me of the importance of energy and response in our team cultures. The players feed off of the energy of each other, the audience, and the songs themselves. You can see the players getting lost in the power of the moment and In the emotion of the song. The energy we give each other on our team, along with the energy of the work itself, is vital to doing our best work. Are you responding to the energy of your team? Is the work that you do getting your team the energy it needs to create a powerful, vital culture?

When these team culture conditions exist, jazz shows us that it’s possible to create consistent performance, dynamic improvisation and new innovation. If these are your goals as a company, then take these ideas to heart and invest in your team culture.

One Mistake Losing Brands Make

If someone were to ask 10 of your customers to describe what makes your business or service different, what would they say? Would they all say the same thing? What if the same question was asked of all your staff, leaders, and owners?

Winning brands have a consistent story, a message that staff and customers understand and can explain. The words and the message are always similar, always clear.

“Winning brands have a consistent story—a message that staff and customers understand and can explain.”

Losing brands have no center. They haven’t claimed their story or their space. These brands lose to consistent, clear brands.

So, is your brand winning or losing? What should you do if you’re not sure about your business brand?

Start here:

Step 1: Write down what makes your brand different and better in one clear, specific sentence.

This is not as easy as it seems, but it is vital to your success. This one line should explain the problem you solve and what success looks like, all in simple language. Cut any unnecessary words. Be specific. Ask key staff and customers to help refine this sentence until it’s right.

Step 2: Teach this sentence to every staff member on your team.

Do what it takes to ensure that every staff member knows this sentence by memory. Make it a game or a competition. Reward those who learn it quickly. Recite it every day together. Do something to make it stick.

Step 3: Use this sentence as a guiding thought for all your market messaging.

Brochures, website, social channels, print ads – everything you use to reach and educate your customers should be built from this one sentence. If something you’re currently using is not built on this sentence, get rid of it. Recreate it. Make it consistent. The cost of confusing your customers is much higher than the cost of printing new brochures.

Long ago, Aristotle taught us that excellence is only created when we repeatedly do the right thing. This lesson remains true for modern brands and businesses. We need to do the right thing, create one clear message, and repeat that message in everything we do and say. This is the secret of winning brands.

Be clear. Be consistent. Repeat.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
—Aristotle (as paraphrased by Will Durant)

Your Next Project Is Not Going To Be Easy

Possibilities usually come disguised as hard work. Don’t expect your next project to be easy.

Things fall apart

Anyone who tries to make something or do something finds that there is resistance. It’s an accepted fact of life that things tend toward disorder–cars break down, paint peels, joints begin to ache as we age. We expect that things left to themselves will fall into disorder. But it is also the nature of things to resist being brought into order in the first place. The world around us not only tends toward chaos, it also drags its feet when we try to make something out of that chaos.

There will always be problems–something will break, or blow up, or you’ll have to scrap the whole thing and start over. The problems only reveal themselves as you dig into the work.

Go looking for trouble

The reality is that most projects have inherent obstacles, stubborn sticking points, intractable awkward aspects that only reveal themselves as you dig into the work. If you begin your project expecting to not run into obstacles, you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary discouragement. If on the other hand, you start the work with the expectation that some things will probably go awry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they immediately do. You’ll be able to tell your friends how clever you were to see it coming.

Include extra grit in your budget

It’s normal to build in extra time and money in your estimates on a given project, to cover unforeseen contingencies. The trick is to also mentally set aside a store of patience and perseverance so that when problems do arise, you’ll be resilient enough to follow the work through whatever obstacles come up. Because there will always be problems–something will break, or blow up, or you’ll have to scrap the whole thing and start over. That can sound pessimistic but it’s really not. We’re not looking for problems so that we can be defeated. Without knowing what they will be, we can anticipate that there will be problems and mentally prepare ourselves for the task of figuring out how to solve them.

The Educational Process Empowers the Staff

There are many different approaches to educating your staff. Although various tactics may be effective, be certain to ensure that your staff is involved in designing their own education within the areas that it affects them. We suggest trying some of the following strategies.

Our staff members here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, really enjoy their time with the physicians. We have therefore created many different tactics by which the staff can carry out the doctors’ wishes every single day. Our first strategy is setting aside regularly scheduled time for the doctors to meet with the staff. This is a top priority in staff training and education. Topics of discussion include not only what staff members should say to patients but also how they say it.

The next strategy is to evaluate staff members’ command of medical terminology. We want staff members to have discussions with patients similarly to how we would interact with them. Once a year, each staff member takes a test on 200 to 300 terms related to the care we provide. We create the test throughout the year. Every team member must pass this test with a score of 90% or better. He or she keeps taking the test until that goal is achieved.

Staff members also complete an oral version of the same test. This is for when they field questions at church, family reunions, a bar, or other social settings. Conversations tend to revolve around what we offer at the practice, and as providers, we trust our own answers. It is important that our staff members respond in a similar fashion to the questions they hear.

We also regularly give the staff an opportunity to showcase what they know through co-teaching at educational events, making presentations to our referring doctors, and being shadowed by visitors, referring providers, and their staffs.

As a result of these efforts, our team members’ firm foundation of knowledge enhances our patients’ care and experiences. We believe this educational process also empowers the staff in a way that improves their joy and satisfaction in the workplace.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

Practice Profile: Vance Thompson Vision – Let My People Glow

Every organization has a structure that comprises how it accomplishes its tasks, how it engages its employees, and the type of managerial style used. Many businesses, including ophthalmology practices, use such structures to perform their day-to-day operations. Although it may not be intentional, a style eventually surfaces. There is the Matrix model, the Hierarchical model, the Flat model, and the Militaristic model to name just a few. If I had to choose an organizational model to apply to Vance Thompson Vision, a refractive and cataract center located in the US plains, I might label it the Group Hug model.

As a child, the life’s goal of Vance Thompson, MD, was simply to move to Sioux Falls someday and maybe drive a Chevrolet Suburban. He has handily achieved this and much more. In the past few years, his practice has added two surgeons, two optometrists, and numerous other staff positions. The practice offers world-class education to optometrists, has adopted new measurement devices for its team, and manages all of its own internal and external marketing. The achievement of these milestones has not interrupted a steady volume of refractive surgery or slowed an increase in the number of premium IOLs implanted. At the end of most days, however, Dr. Thompson can be seen fleeing the largest city in South Dakota in his 10-year-old Suburban for more open country, near Gregory (population 4,084), where his dogs can run and pheasants shudder with fear. He views his life in simple terms. Those who meet him quickly learn that his humble style and homeyness are infectious and serve to brighten the mundane.

Main Street Attitude

The small town, Main Street attitude is not only built into who Dr. Thompson is. It is also central to each member of the Vance Thompson Vision team, most of whom come from small, Midwestern farming towns.

Dr. Thompson is no longer the sole surgeon at Vance Thompson Vision, and he certainly believes that he is not the only leader. “We have created the kind of culture here where we really understand what drives each other,” he says. “We have to keep everything in balance. The practice needs to be more than just better for me; it needs to be better for the team and their families, too.”

“That is one of the major reasons I decided to partner with Vance,” says Alison Tendler, MD, a refractive and cataract surgeon with the practice. “We are not just about performing great surgery. That’s the easy part. We create better, more balanced lives for our patients and our team. Simply put, life is better being a part of this practice than it would be if we were not all together.”

Character Traits

One of the most important traits of a good leader is his or her ability to recruit top-notch talent. At Vance Thompson Vision, we have approached this task in unconventional ways. While many centers struggle to find ophthalmic technicians with experience, for example, we focus on the human interactions with candidates. “How [they] treated the front desk staff is far more important than if they can refract,” says John Berdahl, MD, another refractive and cataract surgeon at the center. “The people who work here are the type who sent cookies with their résumé and wrote a thank you note afterward. They are different from people everywhere else.”

The practice’s personnel have diverse backgrounds. Some came from the hotel and hospitality industry, some from the financial sector, and some from the marketing world. Others began in more formal health care settings. All share a common characteristic, however: they are in tune with the customer.

“One of our philosophies is to recruit talented individuals who naturally adhere to these core values, because those characteristics—unlike a knowledge of ophthalmology—are difficult to teach,” Dr. Thompson says. “The key is to provide a working environment that nurtures these core values. The benefit of defining our team’s core values is that it gets everyone moving in the same direction. More importantly, it puts premium patient care where it belongs—at the point of service.”

Continuing Education

In addition to finding talent, Vance Thompson Vision invests heavily in rounding out team members’ abilities, both technical and the so-called soft skills. Continuing education is constantly supported, and regular retreats are held with some of the county’s most accomplished thought leaders from various industries. In addition, daily and weekly spot checks are held in the form of “huddles” and meetings where there is ongoing tweaking of operations and the standards for the customer’s experience. The team shares a simple belief and desire to treat patients in a world-class manner.

The talent and dedication that differentiate the practice’s surgical team are shared by the optometrists, receptionists, coders, managers, technicians, and nurses. Their commitment to patients’ care is communicated by each of these team members in a harmonious fashion.


During the past two decades, several developments have set Vance Thompson Vision apart from other practices. The first is the advancement of technology. Obviously, the excimer laser’s FDA clinical trials and the adoption of laser vision correction were central in defining the future of Vance Thompson Vision. Moreover, it gave the center’s physicians and staff a mindset of being quick to adopt new technology. When femtosecond technology for the creation of the corneal flap became available in 2001, the practice was an early adopter. “Rapid adoption of proven technology has served to keep us out front, while endearing us to the providers who send their patients to us,” says Dr. Thompson. “Referring physicians know that, if there is an advancement of significance, we’ve got it.” Over the years, the center has participated in 30 FDA-monitored clinical trials.

Offering the latest technology to patients has also allowed the center to refrain from pricing wars. By offering what no other center has, pricing becomes a more neutral factor than without that differentiation. Price is and will always remain a barrier to refractive growth, however, so the use of easy payment options, for example, remains central to the success of a growing refractive surgery practice (see Refractive Surgery Financing Options).


What makes a practice successful may not keep it so. For this little center on the plains, however, what has made it successful is the foundation of what will carry it in the future. We remain committed to adopting new technologies in laser and implant surgery that create a real benefit for patients. We will also continue meeting together often, as if a family, to consistently stage experiences for our customers that are worth the price of entry. The future is bright—for the doctors, the team, and our patients.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery today. Click here to download a pdf version.

Establishing Core Values in the Workplace

Core values are patient-centered principles that guide the actual tasks that we do. The goal is that every action taken will optimize the overall experience of the patient. Just as doctors take a Hippocratic oath to “do no harm,” our clinic’s team took an oath to deliver the best refractive surgery care and ensure the best experience for our patients.

The Vance Thompson Vision team agreed to abide by a list of core values that represents the unwritten or traditional rules within us all. It is our standard of behavior and what we expect from one another as a team. Our group has been doing what we do for a long time. We believe we know how to deliver care with the highest level of quality. As we grow, it is vital for us to impart those standards of excellence to our newer members. When every team member commits to a list of core values that they believe is consistent with how they would want to be treated, it maximizes the chance that it is exactly how they will treat our patients, thus making for a very positive patient experience. We did not want the continued growth of our practice to compromise the standards and atmosphere that have made us successful during the last 15 years.

Building the List

Our list of core values was based upon the philosophy of many cutting-edge companies from other consumer driven industries such as The Ritz-Carlton. We felt we had to start with industries that pride themselves on knowing their customers better than anyone. Then, we took our own thoughts and ideas about how we like to be treated and created our own list of basic customer service values.

Five Core Values at Vance Thompson Vision

  • “Our patients are our most important resource. They should be treated like guests and family visiting our home.”
  • “Each team member is empowered to look for ways to exceed the patient’s expectations and enhance their experience at all times.”
  • “Each patient should experience our undivided attention. Their preferred name should be used, they should be escorted at all times, and all attention should focus on them when they are present.”
  • “Each team member should look at each patient they encounter as an opportunity and privilege to affect their life in a positive way. Each patient should leave here feeling better then when they arrived.”
  • “Each team member should participate in a Cadence of Coverage that over-communicates responsibilities and workflow so that we can best meet the needs of each other and our patients.”

Employees’ Adherence

Each of our team members signs the Declaration of Core Values, which gives us all ownership in the aforementioned philosophy. It permeates every patient interaction in our office. Additionally, we feel it positively affects the way our employees treat each other in the workplace.

Rules Do Not Change — They Grow

We believe it is important for surgeons and office managers to realize that, just as the refractive surgery market changes, core values evolve. We review our list on an annual basis during an off-site retreat with our entire staff. Each person voices his opinion on each core value and helps decide on necessary updates, eliminations, etc. We really want to hear from all employees because it will affect the work they do in their job function.

“The process of upholding and devising proper core values never ends for an organization that continues to grow.”

The process of upholding and devising proper core values never ends for an organization that continues to grow. We are passionate about delivering the best service we can while continually learning from other companies.


It is important to recruit people who are willing to embrace our center’s core values and to be up front about what we are trying to achieve. One of Vance Thompson Vision’s philosophies is to recruit talented individuals who naturally adhere to these core values, because those characteristics — unlike a knowledge of ophthalmology — are difficult to teach. The key is to provide a working environment that nurtures these core values. The benefit of defining our team’s core values is that it gets everyone moving in the same direction, but, more importantly, it puts premium patient care where it belongs — at the point of service.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.