Member Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Peter

Staff training and professional development may sound like an ordinary part of every eyecare practice, but Dr. Andrew Peter at Homer Eyecare in Homer, Alaska started taking an unusual approach — last year, he flew his entire optometry staff to Cartagena, Colombia for their weeklong strategic training. And this February, he did it again, taking his office staff to another exotic locale: Marrakesh, Morocco.

His reasoning? Being in a completely different environment can lead to greater results, not only for the business, but also for his employees’ personal growth.

During the weekday, you’re in a whirlwind, it’s just total chaos all the time, and it’s hard to find time to work on the higher-level thinking,” Dr. Peter explains.” You need time away to let those ideas come to fruition.

These trips are about how humans interact,” he says. While the training topics range from interpersonal communications to very specific eyecare training, Dr. Peter says that the bigger goal is to build closer bonds amongst his staff members, which will ultimately result in better teamwork.

We’re always trying to become a more team-centric business,” Dr. Peter explains. “If we strengthen the team and give them the tools they need to be successful, then they can apply those tools to the practice and maybe even their own businesses someday.”

The trip is also a reward to employees for their hard work in meeting annual goals. “We knew we wanted to provide something to the team since they go above and beyond what’s normally called for day-to-day,” Dr. Peter says.

A Bonding and Enriching Experience

Ten staff members, including himself, run the practice: three technicians/scribes, two opticians, two patient coordinators (with plans to hire one more), a director of internal operations, and a billing/coding specialist.

Despite some individuals’ apprehension at going to a new country, Dr. Peter says the staff’s response has been positive. “Clearly, they are excited to be going someplace they’ve never been,” he says. “One of the requirements in selecting the destination is it has to be someplace they wouldn’t go themselves.”

From his perspective, the expense of the trip is relatively small compared to other business costs, and the value the practice receives out of the experience is well-worth it.

The entire team participates in the training meetings, and some of the best ideas generated during the sessions come from those who aren’t managers, he explains. “And the buy-in is better when ideas are self generated, that’s when change really happens,” Dr. Peter explains, “as opposed to a typical top-down structure where the team doesn’t know the ‘why’ behind a change.

Plus, there’s a lot to explore. After our meetings, our staff get to go to the local markets and try new foods, music, dancing, or just be in nature. We try to make the trip a mix of business and personal enjoyment.

The broader viewpoints gained through travel also stems from Dr. Peters’ strong personal beliefs. “The world has some challenges, and for the most part, you have to act locally to address them,” he says.

This mindset is very typical of our community, we’re forward thinking in Homer,” he says. “It’s a unique and eclectic place, and our team and community reflect that.

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