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Erik Bergvin, MBA: Bringing Sustainable, World-Class Eye Care to the People

Erik Bergvin | COO
Erik Bergvin | COO

Meet Erik Bergvin, MBA, the visionary COO of Eye Centers of Tennessee, who is changing the game in the eye care industry. With his unwavering commitment to delivering world-class eye care to patients in Upper Cumberland, Erik is on a mission to provide sustainable, compassionate, and empathetic eye care services that transform the lives of patients.

With Erik at the helm, Eye Centers of Tennessee is a beacon of hope for patients seeking reliable eye care services, including cosmetics and allergy services offered at ECOTN. His positive attitude towards work, communication style, and unparalleled leadership skills, combined with a patient-centric mindset, have led to operational excellence and streamlined services, which have translated into the financial success of Eye Centers of Tennessee in the healthcare industry.

Erik is a firm believer in putting patients’ needs first and works tirelessly to ensure that they receive the highest standard of care at every stage of their visit.

Erik’s approach is unique in that he understands the common hurdles that eye care providers face, such as inflation, cost-cutting, and political regulations, and he has developed innovative solutions to overcome these challenges. By fostering a culture of compassion, empathy, and communication, Erik has created an environment that empowers patients and staff alike, providing them with the tools they need to succeed.

I constantly communicate the company’s vision, direction, and goals for each ECOTN office and how we can get there. It is easy to make an office metric-based, but at the end of the day, we are dealing with real people, both patients and staff. It’s about giving people the tools to succeed and getting out of their way,” says Bergvin.

In a world where eye care providers are a dime a dozen, Erik Bergvin stands out as a shining example of excellence. With his unique skill set and dedication to improving healthcare, he is making a significant impact in the lives of patients and healthcare providers alike. His strong leadership skills, innovative approach, and unwavering commitment to putting patients first, coupled with his visionary leadership, have earned him a reputation as an ‘Influential Leader’ in the healthcare industry, creating a legacy that will endure for years to come.

Here’s a glimpse into Bergvin’s leadership for bringing sustainable, world-class eye care to the people at Eye Centers of Tennessee.

Journey So Far

Bergvin’s journey to becoming the COO of Eye Centers of Tennessee (ECOTN) has been one with few stops. “I guess I’m returning to a previous position that I held in my mid 20’s, working as a COO at an early-stage venture capital firm in Trondheim, Norway. Coming back to the states and establishing roots in the Upper Cumberland has been a really rewarding experience,” says Bergvin.

“Looking back at it, it wasn’t until my wife became a pediatrician, that I got my first real dose of the healthcare industry and knew this is where I wanted to be. The opportunity arose to work at ECOTN, and here I am.”

For him, the environment at ECOTN is second to none. No matter what conference he travels to or the office he’d visit, “Our patient experience can’t be matched. The people, both employees and patients, are what inspire me. To know that we can make such a positive change is what gets me out of bed each morning,” he says.

Values, Vision and Mission

At ECOTN, the Executive team and ownership have focused on the company’s core vision, mission, and values. “We are here to transform lives, one eye at a time. To bring sustainable, world-class eye care to the people of the Upper Cumberland, and we focus heavily on our core values of Integrity, Accountability, and Empathy. This entire system is what lays at the bedrock of our success and what we grade ourselves on,” adds Bergvin.

Striving to Improve Operational Efficiency

At ECOTN, Bergvin and the team constantly strives for operational efficiency, just like any organization. The current economic climate has created some hurdles that Bergvin believes is to be overcome, i.e. increased overhead costs due to inflation, political regulations and cost cutting to name a few. “These issues are not just endemic to healthcare, though the industry oftentimes adopts a reactive instead of proactive approach to solving issues,” emphasizes Bergvin. Part of that is due to the nature of healthcare, but it does create hurdles when working in the confines of the structure.

“One specific issue that we have continued to reaffirm at ECOTN is remaining on time for patient appointments. Our CEO always says, “If your appointment is at 10 a.m., I want someone calling your name at 10 a.m.”. It’s respecting the patient’s time that I often see as an issue at other locations.”

Updating Technological Equipment

Bergvin believes that in order to keep with the company’s mission of providing sustainable world-class eye care to the people of the Upper Cumberland, it needs to have the most modern equipment.

Bergvin highlights, “You couldn’t find better technologies in place, than what we have. The equipment you will find at our locations is very similar to what you’ll find in Nashville or Atlanta. On top of the technology, we have some of the best surgeons and Optometrists in the country. Dr. Michael Patterson, D.O. (Owner and Surgeon), has worked incredibly hard to expand our surgery services and products. Some of which, would not normally be available in our part of the country. Because of this, we often don’t have to refer patients out to other practices (except in pediatric cases) which cuts down on patient travel.”

“The technology and surgical ability are only as good as the support staff, and I would put them up against anyone. I am very proud of the people and services we provide,” he says

Delivering Compassion

Bergvin ensures that patients are treated in alignment to the value of compassion and empathy. “Every time I hear the word compassion, I think, “How can we help?” Each person that walks through our doors is seeking help in some form or fashion. From broken glasses, needing an eye exam, to adverting blindness. So yes, compassion and patient care are a big part of what we are about,” explains Bergvin.

Endeavors at Present

What makes ECOTN unique is the trust that patients put in it. Thus, Bergvin wants to service the patients in as many ways as possible. ECOTN at present offers ancillary services at its offices, from Allergy, Hearing and soon Speech Pathology. “We want our patients to know that so many of their needs can be met at our facilities and the quality of care, timeliness, and dedication to them isn’t going to change,” adds Bergvin.

He continues, “One of the greater endeavors we are currently pursuing is expanding two of our offices. As the population in our region keeps growing, we need to be able to meet that demand, that depicts growth for the next 30 years. To know that the ownership is just as committed as we are to the staff and patients is really a blessing.”

Turning Challenges into Opportunities for Growth

ECOTN has witnessed a rapid growth over the past four and half years, growing from four offices to seven and almost doubling the staff. But this has brought forth several challenges. Bergvin explains, “We have had to overhaul our organizational chart to accommodate the growth which has put managers in challenging yet rewarding, growth situations. You are talking about one manager who oversaw an office of 15 going to 3 offices of 30 and having to maintain the goals the company has for them (both in quality metrics and patient outcomes). It takes some learning, patience, and a desire to better oneself.”

In addition to accommodating the company’s growth, Bergvin wants ECOTN to be an employer that offers top level benefits to its employees. With this in mind, changing products and services, has been a challenge lately. “But we often run on the mindset, (No pressure. No diamonds – Thomas Carlyle). Challenges are often met head on and seen as opportunities for growth. You can’t be where we are, without having a successful track record of overcoming challenges,” says Bergvin.

He continues, “Lastly, keeping the family atmosphere has been challenging as we continue to grow. I believe we take great care of our staff; one such example is sending them to Hawaii every 5 years (them and a loved one). Making sure the managers are keeping up with their team members. It was easier when we had 25-50, but having 150+ and growing, it does add some challenges.”

Leadership is a Learning Curve

It has been a learning curve for Bergvin when delivering his leadership skills at ECOTN. “Knowing what you can and cannot delegate has been a learning experience,” emphasizes Bergvin. “We have two specific categories of managers at ECOTN, Operational and Regional Managers. The Operational Managers are heads of specific departments in the company: Billing, Technicians, Opticians, Human Resources, and Scheduling. Daily issues are handled by our Operations Director.”

“Our Regional Managers cover offices/regions in the company. I meet with them twice per month (once individually and second on a conference call). There are varying degrees of experience on the call, and they each learn from each other. It speeds up their education. It’s surprising how much can be resolved on a 30-minute call. We often review industry articles and at least 2 books per year (focusing on soft skills and change).”

Bergvin continues, “We also bring the groups together twice a year for biannual meetings, where we discuss workplace dynamics, customer service standards, current issues, metrics/goals, and our standards in patient care.”

“I constantly communicate the company’s vision, direction, and goals for each office and how we can get there. It is easy to make an office very metric based, but at the end of the day, we are dealing with real people, both patients and staff. It gives people the tools to succeed and then getting out of their way. Managers are in the daily grind and see firsthand how the staff interact with patients. If I can put them in areas to succeed and grow, they will do the same for their teams. When they win, the company wins. It’s very much a family atmosphere.”

Bergvin concludes by appreciating the CEO saying, “I also have a great mentor in our CEO, who gives me plenty of latitude to operate and is always available when issues need further discussion.”

Words of Wisdom

To the budding enthusiasts who desire to venture into the healthcare sector, Bergvin suggests, “It is one of the most rewarding and challenging industries out there. You must be able to work behind the scenes and let others be in the spotlight. It’s more important that a job gets done than who takes the credit. Find a mentor if you can, and someday, be a mentor for someone else.”

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