WICHITA FALLS, Texas—Dr. Danny Clarke’s vision for a company with great culture started about 20 years ago when he launched Clarke EyeCare Center. Fast forward to 2017 and one could say the formula has been a success—the company was recently ranked on Entrepreneur’s Top Company Cultures list, a comprehensive ranking of U.S.-based businesses exhibiting high-performance cultures.
Dr. Danny Clarke
Clarke EyeCare Center was listed as 25th in the Small Company category and was recognized for creating an exceptional culture that drives employee engagement, exceeds employee expectations and directly impacts company success.
"Great company cultures don’t happen on their own. They’re the result of great leadership, and a conscious effort to make everyone on a team feel engaged and important,” said Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur. “The honorees on our 2017 list are proof that strong cultures make even stronger companies. Entrepreneurs at all levels can draw inspiration from them.”
Dr. Clarke has always been focused on getting the right people into the right positions in his practice, but he didn’t like seeing himself as an “employer of people,” so he decided to reframe his role.
“I still needed to hire and fire to get the right people in and the wrong people out, but instead of thinking of myself as an employer of people, I started to think about being a developer of people,” Clarke said. “I couldn’t help but think about the positive impact we could make in people’s lives. As soon as I made this mental shift I started having more fun and we started attracting better people.”
Even though things were going well with the company, there was still a missing step that was necessary to take Clarke EyeCare Center to the next level. In 2010, they implemented an open-book management philosophy called the Great Game of Business. The methodology engages the team to think, act and feel like owners of the business.
“Our team plays MiniGames each month that allow them to focus on a pain point in the practice that gets them excited to move toward a goal with a prize,” Clarke said. “Then, we pay a quarterly cash bonus based on practice profitability. This aligns the goals of the practice owner with the goals of the people.
“Of course, patient care and customer service are most important, but the Great Game is our scorecard to let us know how we’re doing in those areas. When people are empowered to help run the business and the goals of the leader and the team are aligned, it’s amazing how this can transform the culture.”
Along with a weekly huddle where the team forecasts financials for the current month as a part of The Great Game, what sets Clarke EyeCare Centers apart is that although Dr. Clarke is the business owner, he’s only in the practice 15 hours per week, so the managers and people run the practice based on his vision.
“Instead of me as the owner telling the people what to do, I have the vision for the practice and the people are allowed to make decisions to bring this vision to fruition. When they are engaged it is amazing what can happen.”
When a company cultivates a great culture for its employees, this atmosphere trickles down into their customer base too.
“No doubt a great culture leads to great customer service. Our people understand the actions they take will positively affect the patients and improve their perception of the service we offer. This leads to our patients being happy and confident in using us as their eyecare provider and referring us to their family and friends.”
In addition to Clarke EyeCare Center, Dr. Clarke also has a consulting company, Modus Practice in Motion which aims to help other optometry practices implement the Great Game of Business. Through Modus Practice in Motion, Dr. Clarke and his practice manager, Joely Anderson, travel around the country conducting 1-day workshops to teach the methodology to others. In the past four years, they have trained over 150 practices.
“We are passionate about helping other practitioners improve their cultures by engaging their teams,” Dr. Clarke said.