Consultants can give you a hand as you navigate business challenges.
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
Maybe you’re just starting out as a business owner, or you want to buy your own practice. Maybe your revenues have plateaued and you need new ideas. Or perhaps you need help dealing with the ever-more competitive and complex world of vision care.
Whatever your situation, a practice management consultant can look at your business with — yep — fresh eyes and help you see past the blind spots (oooops, sorry) that are hindering or even hijacking your business plan. Consultants can be especially valuable when you’re in a time of transition. “There is only one reason to hire a consultant: to make more money than if you were to do it yourself,” says Dr. Tanya Gill of Oakland Vision Center in Oakland, CA, who hired Gary W. Ware of Practice Consultants to help buy and launch her practice in 2007.
How will you know when it’s time to hire help? What’s the best way to find a consultant who will be a good fit for your business? Check out some tips we’ve gathered from several consultants who specialize in optometric practice management and business growth, then ask them some questions of your own. — JULIE FANSELOW
POINTS TO CONSIDER➤ Working with an experienced, quality and knowledgeable consulting company is something every practice can benefit from. It’s like having another business team member working for you. Few doctors do their own taxes. They hire an accountant to do that. Similarly, a consultant shouldn’t be an afterthought. Our most successful clients have a constant and ongoing dialogue with us and can’t imagine practicing any other way. — Dr. Gary Gerber, The Power Practice
➤ Doctors get exposed to an overwhelming number of good ideas. They have information, some of it very good and potentially practice life changing, dispensed to them non-stop. They get the ideas, but they just don’t have time. So the key is that the consultant “co-manage” the actual implementation, rather than just dispensing the information. That requires continuous time set aside to work together on implementation: literally scheduled, not unlike scheduling exams. — Tom Bowen, The Williams Group
➤ I recommend that doctors ask themselves two questions. First, what are my staff and I doing that has brought us to the current level of success? Second, what is hindering us in achieving a greater level of success? If the doctor and staff can’t answer these questions with specific examples, an outside consultant would be a good choice. — Dr. Walt West, Vision Source
➤ Optometrists get about 10 minutes worth of business management experience in school. With the complexities of running a successful clinic today, when and how are they going to learn the nuances of running a retail operation? The time to hire a consultant to focus on the optical is from day one. — Jay Binkowitz, Gateway Professional Network
WHAT ECPs SAY
Dr. Tanya Gill
Oakland Vision Center, Oakland, CA
Whether you’re hiring a consultant to sell your practice, buy your practice or grow your practice, pick your consultant on these three criteria:
➤ “Follow your gut. Do you feel comfortable and more at ease when you talk to them? Or do you feel worried and break out in night sweats over something they said?”
➤ “Have they done their homework? With the Internet, social media, Google and Yelp, there is no reason why a consultant shouldn’t know anything and everything about your practice. This is when Internet stalking is a good thing. If the consultant knows more about my practice, they’re more likely going to provide me a customized solution versus the cookie-cutter approach.”
➤ “A consultant who insists on a site visit is a good one. Please evaluate my staff. Please evaluate the culture of my business. Please evaluate the wear of my carpet! You want a consultant who sees and experiences what your patrons do. ”
Interview for these criteria and you’ll find the right consultant.