John Marvin: Know Who You Are

Business management advice from John Marvin

It’s time to create the practice only you can run

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INVISION.

I recently had a serious discussion with a couple of notable figures in optometry about changes in the profession. One chap told of a visit to an optometry practice during one of his many vacations outside of the U.S. (Evidently, what this person finds relaxing when he is not practicing optometry is to visit optometry practices while on vacation!)

As he spoke of the uniqueness of this OD’s clinic and dispensary, he said, “You can tell he knows who he is.” This simple statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, I thought to myself, it is extremely important that you know who you are.

I have the good fortune to attend many professional and industry meetings — several hundred over the past few years. I often see courses offered by well-intended speakers advocating that others build the practice they built, using the same techniques, ideas and perspectives that they have used to be successful.

Instead, I suggest that you first decide who you are and build your practice from there.

Each of us has life experiences that shape our view of our world and our practice. As Polonius advised his son, to thine own self be true. Don’t try to be someone or something that you are not (nor do you want to be).

"Our mothers said it best: “Don’t worry about what others are saying or doing, just be yourself.”

I’ve seen many examples of doctors watching Lenscrafters to decide what to do. Or they try to be the practitioner they last heard at an optometry conference. Trying to practice like someone else will never be successful. But when you decide who you are and then practice true to those convictions, your current and prospective patients will see you as you are: an authentic, sincere and compassionate provider of care.

So, to start on your road to discovery, let me make a few simple suggestions.

Know thyself. Step back and take an objective look at your practice. Start by asking yourself, “What kind of doctor do I want to be, and what kind of practice do I want to have?”

Align everyone and every procedure to fit who you are as a practitioner. Evaluate every aspect of your practice to see if it aligns with who you are and the type of practice you choose to be. Taking advice and suggestions from colleagues is fine, but don’t try to be someone you are not. When my friend described the practice he visited on vacation, he spoke of the unique designs of the frames, their appropriately upscale pricing and the artistic way they were merchandised. He mentioned that the practice did not accept any insurance or third-party payments and, instead, chose to offer its services and products for cash. Here’s a savvy OD who aligns his inventory of frames, his pricing policies and his payment options with the vision of who he is, so he’s never trying to be someone he is not.

Be consistent and deliver on your promise. In serving the public, nothing is more important than having integrity and doing what you say you will do. If you are going to align your business as one devoted to customer service, then let everything you do reinforce this. Always give customers the benefit of the doubt and always go the extra mile, especially when it is not required.

Our mothers said it best: “Don’t worry about what others are saying or doing, just be yourself.” It really is that simple. When you know who you are and consistently practice with the integrity of keeping your promise, people will trust you, and they will have confidence in referring their friends and family to you for care.

With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, John D. Marvin writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. He is president of Texas State Optical. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..