Published in Non-Clinical

Hiring a Successful Optometry Office Manager

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13 min read

This guide covers the steps practice owners can take to hire an optometry office manager to improve the practice's efficiency, culture, and profitability.

Hiring a Successful Optometry Office Manager
Whether you already own a successful, multi-doctor practice or are preparing to cold start one, it is crucial that you understand the multifaceted role of an office manager and what you need to look out for in order to hire a top-notch leader.

The role of the optometry office manager

If I were to ask several owners what their office manager does, there would likely be a scatter of responses in their scope of responsibility. Too often, individuals are given the title of office manager but do not fulfill the full responsibilities that they should. Simply put, the office manager needs to be the jack of all trades and be an extension of you, the practice owner.
Here is a short list of general responsibilities of an office manager:
  • Lead, manage, and motivate the staff.
  • Lead process improvement projects to meet performance goals.
  • Human resources tasks.
  • Alternate primary point of contact for external vendors.

Why you need an optometry office manager

At first glance, it may seem like you can handle the responsibilities of an office manager yourself, especially if you own a smaller practice. While it may look like a good strategy to cut down on costs and operate “lean,” in most cases, this may overload you with unnecessary burden, and limit your ability to maximize revenue where your strength lies—in the exam room.
Although investing in an office manager may appear costly to invest, there are several benefits that make it a strong, long-term investment for your practice and yourself.
Firstly, you will have less staff turnover.1 It is impossible for you to have eyes on your staff at all times while also seeing patients. An office manager deeply understands their team and allows you to indirectly monitor how the staff is performing, team morale, and office culture.
Secondly, an innovative office manager will also be motivated to find holes in the business operations and clinic flow. They can work with the team to streamline inefficiencies, creating less chaos and stress for the staff, so you can see happier patients more quickly.
Hopefully I am painting a picture of how an office manager can improve the culture and profitability of the practice, allowing it to grow to its full potential.
So, what should a good candidate look like?

7 qualities to look for in your optometry office manager

I have outlined below, based on my experience, seven of the top qualities you should look for when filtering optometry office manager candidates.

1. Innovative leadership style

You need a leader who drives people forward and is always looking for ways to create positive change. Growth occurs with an active leader who keeps operations dynamic in a practice; this does not happen organically with a passive leader who just keeps operations running in a stagnant manner.
If you observe anecdotally, lots of practices fall into the second category and are simply coasting without having the proper drive or strategic goals to be poised for sustained growth.

2. Integrity

The office manager is an extension of you while you are unavailable. Because they are your eyes and ears, they should be in tune with the financial health of the practice and with staff management. Therefore, you need to be able to trust them to do the right thing when nobody's watching.

3. Respectful attitude

There should be respect for everyone in your practice. One of the responsibilities of the office manager is to identify issues and recommend solutions to you. You should always respect their expertise, but they also need to understand their boundaries and remember that you are the practice owner and make the final call.
It is inevitable that you and the office manager may not see eye to eye on some matters. This is okay; the important point is that while you may disagree behind closed doors, when the doors open to disseminate information to the team, you both must be on the same page. Confidence in leadership is critical for staff to feel comfortable, and you all will look stronger if you present yourself in a cohesive manner.
Besides compensation, people frequently choose to leave a company because they do not feel valued.2 Respect is a two-way street. While the employees need to respect their boss, the office manager also needs to reciprocate and ensure their staff feels respected and valued.
Having a positive, encouraging attitude and praising employees costs nothing but can make an employee feel valued. Recognition shows that leadership is watching and appreciative of their hard work. Always praise loudly in public and critique quietly in private.
On a separate note, remember that while you are the ultimate boss, the office manager should take full responsibility for the staff. This means that you should not overstep unnecessarily and intervene with matters that the office manager can handle unless it is extremely urgent.
The office manager needs to be empowered and respected to have the authority to make many decisions independently. Employees need to respect this relationship and route issues up the organizational hierarchy; they should discuss concerns with the office manager initially rather than coming straight to you.3

4. Well-honed communication skills

Poor communication can cause headaches or, even worse, lead to high staff turnover, poor delivery of care, and potential liability issues.4 A good office manager should constantly be interacting and communicating with people. They should provide regular feedback to employees for improvement when appropriate.
It is a disservice to wait until an employee’s performance review to go over a laundry list of ongoing issues. Ideally, an office manager should set specific benchmarks an employee needs to accomplish by a deadline and continually touch base in-between for adjustments.

5. A goal-driven personality

An office manager should feel the need to develop employees continually, regardless of experience. They need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every employee so they can accentuate their strengths and address their deficits. Also, they should be approachable so that employees feel comfortable admitting when they need help.

Tip: Construct a compensation structure that ties practice metrics with a bonus to motivate the office manager to drive the practice forward.

6. Excellent time management skills

A good office manager is a superhuman. Still, they are human and have limitations. They should be proficient in balancing their schedule and delegating tasks to staff members’ full scope to maximize productivity and prevent early burnout.

7. Superior work ethic

Culture and work ethic should be core values in every practice. If you develop an environment where staff members cut corners and are not aiming for a higher trajectory, then you are not positioning the practice for growth and success.
The culture is set from the top down, so it is your role to set expectations and find those whose views align with yours. While you are the one who defines the culture, the office manager needs to uphold everyone to that standard. Work ethic is a trait that you either have or do not have, so be observant of this when interviewing candidates.

Where to find the perfect office manager candidate

Finding strong candidates is always a challenge. If you want quality candidates, you need to have a quality business first and make sure this is well known. Posting on traditional job boards is not a bad idea, but I recommend leveraging network events.
There are high-quality candidates out there, but they may not be familiar with the optometry industry and may not realize that they are a good fit for the position. Ideally, they check off all the boxes listed above and have experience in the industry; however, strong leaders from other industries bring unique perspectives.
Outside of the medical field, it is common practice to leverage ideas from other industries and apply them to completely unrelated fields.5 Finding a motivated candidate interested in quickly learning optometry knowledge often outweighs the inherent risk of hiring from an external industry.
It is almost always better to double down and cover the role of the office manager than to hastily fill the gap with a mediocre candidate. In certain cases, it is reasonable to hire internally through promotion. Although it is less costly to train within, there is the risk of staff members not accepting the authority shift. Alternatively, hiring externally brings fresh perspective and motivation.

Tip: Include key traits and responsibilities listed in this article in the job posts.

Optometry office manager interview basics

I recommend at least two rounds of interviews to get a more accurate assessment of the candidate. You can use standard questions, but I recommend playing out scenarios to see if their decisions align with your values.
Provided below is a brief, non-exhaustive list of sample questions you can build upon to create unique scenario questions for your practice:
  • What steps would you take to develop an innovative idea or process in an optometry practice?
  • Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a challenging dilemma that involved fairness or ethics. How did you respond?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to provide negative feedback to a sensitive employee.
  • Tell me about a time when you miscommunicated with your boss that resulted in a negative outcome. What steps did you take to adjust and overcome this barrier?
  • Imagine you are starting in this role today, and I asked you to set three goals: one to achieve within a week, one within the first few months, and one within a year. What goals would you set?
  • Tell me about an incident where you had to prioritize several important tasks with limited time.
  • How do you stay motivated at work?
I would also incorporate a personality test. You want an individual that complements you with strengths that fill your weak traits. When interviewing a candidate from a different industry, you need to verify that they are truly excited to learn the technical components of optometry. See if they are open-minded and ask you lots of questions about it.

Keys for onboarding an office manager: The first 100 days

If possible, I recommend incorporating in the contract a new hire probationary period. During this time, closely observe their ability to successfully execute tasks, fit in with the staff, and their leadership attitude.
When onboarding an office manager, have a two-way conversation to discuss your expectations. By being explicit with your goals and boundaries upfront, you can set them up for success. I also recommend meeting regularly with them to stay up to date on current events in the practice.
Discussing matters in the hallway is not a substitution, as a dedicated meeting provides both parties with undivided attention and the opportunity to address issues without distraction.
Their primary goal for the first few months is to understand how the practice functions and quietly identify issues. Their focus should be asking a lot of questions. Even if they have solutions to big issues, they risk alienating themselves by prematurely trying to take control before gaining the trust of the staff.6
On a smaller scale, they should lead daily morning huddles to assign tasks, priorities, and expectations to establish their presence as the staff leader. As they assimilate more into the group, organically increase their responsibilities and independence.
When they first onboard, they should aim to have a one-on-one “meet and greet” with every staff member. This allows them to have a low-stress conversation to get to know each member.
In addition to weekly meetings between the practice owner and the office manager, they should also conduct regular meetings with the staff so they can hear of any new challenges. The meetings should conclude with clear action steps the team needs to take to address any issues.


Being a high-performing office manager is not an easy feat. It requires a lot of dedication and long hours to succeed. However, the outcome is rewarding, and their value should be reflected accordingly.
Use this guide the next time you are looking for a manager.
  1. Kruse K. How leadership development can reverse turnover quickly. Forbes. Published November 2, 2023. Accessed February 7, 2024.
  2. DeSmet A, Dowling B, Mugayar-Baldocchi M, Schaninger B. ‘Great attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours. McKinsey & Company. Published September 8, 2021. Accessed February 7, 2024.
  3. Second Wind Consultants. Teach your employees to respect the chain-of-command. Second Wind Consultants. Published October 1, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2024.
  4. Kraut N. Effects of poor communication patterns between nurses & providers. HealthStream. Published April 1, 2021. Accessed February 7, 2024.
  5. Poetz M, Franke N, Streier M. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside your industry. Harvard Business Review. Published December 6, 2017. Accessed February 7, 2024.
  6. Dierickx C. Why new leaders should make decisions slowly. Harvard Business Review. Published October 15, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2024.
Richard Wan, OD, MS, FAAO
About Richard Wan, OD, MS, FAAO

Richard Wan, OD, MS, FAAO was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studied biomolecular science and business entrepreneurship with a focus in operations management at the University of Michigan. He then pursued his optometry training at the Ohio State University. Dr. Wan currently works at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Eye Clinic, where he serves as the department head, overseeing the operations of multiple clinics as well as the embedded optical fabrication laboratory.

Richard Wan, OD, MS, FAAO
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