Exceptional Businesswomen 2013: Patti McDonald, McDonald Eye Care Associates

Business has a vision of what’s important: Patti McDonald has helped people see, reach their full potential

Patti McDonald, McDonald Eye Care Associates
Patti McDonald, McDonald Eye Care Associates

Patti McDonald didn’t realize it at the time, but she was working toward her most important family and business goal while raising her children.

Somewhere amid the homework help sessions, family meetings, vacations and sporting events, McDonald allowed her children to build the skills and interest to enter the family business.

The business administrator for McDonald Eye Care Associates says her most significant accomplishment was raising three “happy, healthy, and well-rounded children.”

That led to the McDonald sisters, Molly and Meg, working at the longtime Lakeville business, which the sisters will someday run if their mother’s long-term goal becomes reality. Call it parenting as job recruiting and a succession plan rolled into one.

“All three of our kids have jumped in with both feet to their respective careers yet all three see the value in being involved in their professions and communities,” Patti McDonald said. “The nut has fallen close to the tree.”

While Molly and Meg grew under the protective shade of their parents’ work in the business for the past 30 years, they have observed how it can be a fun and rewarding career path.

Molly is a doctor of optometry while Meg is working toward her O.D. degree at Salus University. She expects to graduate in 2017 and is working in the business. While their son Matt isn’t working at MEC, he is employed in the health care field with Medtronic Team Spine Minnesota.

Their mother’s career path wasn’t always heading down eye-care road.

After graduating from the University of South Florida, McDonald was an elementary school teacher for seven years in three different states before she started working at McDonald Eye Care.

“As a former elementary education teacher I bring a sense of developing individual strengths to the day-to-day operations at MEC,” McDonald said. “Developing staff to reach their fullest potential while minimizing their stresses is of the utmost importance to me. Our staff are our greatest asset and the face of our business.”

The business has grown due in large part to a plan that developed the retail side of eye care – optical and contact lenses – along with their doctors of optometry meeting the visual demands for patients by remaining current with training in the profession.

McDonald said this philosophy of not putting all of their eggs in one basket has grown the company from a staff of five, including two doctors, when the family purchased it to a staff of 28, including four doctors.

She said expanding the practice to include vision therapy – treating learning-related visual problems – and sports vision has allowed it to make a difference academically and athletically in the lives of hundreds of children and adults.

Today the staff at MEC works with autistic children, people with traumatic brain injuries and concussion patients.

As the practice grew, McDonald said she recognized the importance of “systems.”

She established a schedule that allowed full-time staff members to have a three-day weekend every other weekend.

“That was key,” she said along with setting up job sharing to allow associates to establish a work-life balance.

“You have to find balance,” McDonald said. “Life is too short – love what you’re doing – do what you love. It’s that simple.”

When Patti and husband Tony founded the business 30 years ago, Patti says Lakeville was like paradise, free from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities.

Lakeville still has that “sense of place” where people can make a difference in the community.
“To have a community which really does look to the businesses and residents for direction is awesome,” Patti said. “I have had the honor of sitting on ‘visioning’ committees in the past and am about to begin the process once again. … We believe in giving back to the community both financially and in time.”

The business is a financial supporter of numerous clubs, groups and activities.

McDonald has been involved in many organizations as her children grew up and is a mentor with Lakeville Hope for Tomorrow, which matches women professionals to mentor eighth-grade girls to work on goals, self-image, leadership and self-confidence.

In the last nine years she has been working with the school district, city, and the American Athletic Institute to bring a knowledge of the effects of alcohol on young people as they train for sports through the district’s “Pure Performance” initiative.

She presented the program nationally through the Office of Juvenile Justice and to Northfield schools and the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative after several reports of teen heroin use were publicized.

She said the program is being adopted in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana.

Tad Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or facebook.com/sunthisweek.