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John Marvin

Begin Your Business with the End in Mind

Few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell.

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THERE IS AN OFT quoted question from Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” says the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” responds Alice. The cat replies, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Far too many optometrists and optical owners seem to subscribe to this approach to their careers.

I have known many optometrists who spend 40 years owning a private practice who wish to sell and retire. However, they are often faced with the sad reality that they have followed Alice’s approach. Whether it be a vacation, a wedding, or a career, planning is critical to getting where you want to go.

Last month’s issue was about beginnings — starting a new business — something I’m familiar with having helped almost 70 young optometrists build a new practice. Everyone knows you don’t successfully open a new practice without the proper planning … but few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell. A successful ending requires just as much planning as a successful beginning.

Stephen Covey famously said in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, “…begin with the end in mind.” Start with a clear understanding of your destination. If you have not clearly defined what you want to achieve at the end of your career, then likely you won’t like how it ends. To start, ask yourself: “If I were a young optometrist, what kind of practice would I be excited to own?”

Having worked with hundreds of young, entrepreneurial optometrists, I can suggest the following:

A Great Location

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It’s likely that over the forty years you own your practice, your neighborhood and community will change. It’s possible it will improve, but more likely it will change for the worse. Our society is in constant motion, new developments are built and people move. Evaluating whether you should relocate is of utmost importance. A prospective buyer will want growth potential.

An Updated Space

If you’ve been in practice for over 25 years and have not remodeled your office, it will be very hard to appeal to a young optometrist. Retail and clinical space design has changed significantly in the past decade. Visit best in class retail businesses to see how they are designed; note how they merchandise their products and approach customer service. Keep your practice competitive with others that appeal to customers. What do customers and patients experience when in your business?

Modern Equipment

Today’s refractive and diagnostic equipment is light years from what was purchased ten or twenty years ago. Today’s digital phoroptor and digital preliminary testing equipment enables doctors to provide a higher quality of care that patients have come to expect. Advances in digital imaging allow doctors to identify and manage pathology which previously had gone unnoticed. This is what will be expected by anyone interested in buying your practice.

Well Merchandised Inventory

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One of the most overlooked aspects of a 35 or 40-year-old practice is its inventory. It’s a part of the business many doctors ignore and delegate it to someone on staff. The result is an optical that is overstocked and out of date with only about twenty percent of the frames actually selling over and over. The rest just sit and attract dust. When the practice is sold, the thousands of dollars tied up in old inventory drags down the value of the practice.

Put yourself in the shoes of a young optometrist and think of the kind of practice they would want to own. Write down the qualities of this practice, this is the end that you have in mind. Once you know where you are going, it will be much easier to end up where you’ve planned.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at jdmarvin@tso.com.

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John Marvin

Customer Experience Isn’t About Bells and Whistles But Simplicity and Convenience

Espresso bars, large screen TVs and foot massages just distract from what customers really want.

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ATTEND ANY CONFERENCE about retail these days, and you’ll hear the phrase “customer experience.” Well-intentioned speakers talk about creating a differentiating “customer experience.” They say people don’t buy glasses, contact lenses or exams, they buy a “customer experience.” All this talk of “experience” is trendy and meant to convey insight into what it takes to be successful. But what is it? How can we create or improve something we can’t define?

To provide an experience, some ODs add espresso bars, large screen TVs, foot massages or X-Box stations to offer this ubiquitous and ever-elusive “experience.” I submit that emphasizing ancillary activities to create an experience distracts from what customers really want. Yes, I said customers. Part of the problem has been our reluctance to discuss those who purchase our services and products as customers, preferring the term patients.

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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

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Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

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Words matter. They convey a certain perspective to our employees and to ourselves. We associate patients with hospitals, clinics and health care institutions. The practice of optometry does have a significant clinical element, but it’s also a retail business selling prescription glasses and contacts. A full two-thirds of the revenue generated for the vast majority of optometry practices is from the retail side. Understanding the customer is critical to being successful. Taking customers for granted provides an opportunity for disruptors to give them what they want, how they want it. There are three keys to demystifying and creating a successful customer experience:

SIMPLICITY. Everyone is busy and bombarded with too much information. We wake up with digital assistance that tells us the news and weather and what our commute time will be. We are flooded with information. Then customers are overwhelmed with decisions when they schedule appointments: What insurance do you have? What is your group number? Which plan are you on? What is your deductible? What does your insurance cover? Followed by purchasing decisions… Do you want the best lenses, better lenses or good lenses? Do you want anti-glare? Lenses that protect from blue light? What is blue light? Do you want computer lenses? What are they? Do you want a protection plan for your glasses? What does the plan cover? And that is just for the first pair of prescription eyewear … what about multiple pairs? People crave simplicity. How can you provide it?

CONVENIENCE. People make purchase decisions based on convenience; not just of location, but also of experience. Amazon sold over $232 billion worth of goods and services in 2018 due to convenience. Open the browser, type www.amazon.com and voila, the retail world is at your fingertips. In most cases, it arrives the next day and the shipping is free. How convenient is it to shop with you?

PERSONABLE. You may be thinking, “Wow, I don’t know how I can compete,” but we can all be personable. One of the advantages of brick and mortar is social interaction with people. We like interaction that is meaningful and rewarding. We want attention and assistance. We love places that are welcoming and pleasant. This is an advantage optometry practices have that cannot be matched online. This is the game changer if you focus on customer service. Hire enough people to provide personable service; it is a worthwhile investment. Equip employees with the knowledge and confidence to make the experience simple and easy to understand. Make sure your delivery processes of services and products are designed with customer convenience in mind.

Creating loyal customers who refer friends, family, and co-workers isn’t about espresso, movies or massages. It’s about giving customers what they want in a way that is simple, convenient and personable.

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INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

The optical industry is lagging behind but progress is inevitable and solutions are at hand for clinicians who embrace ownership.

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INVISION PODCAST EPISODE 8: JOHN MARVIN OF TEXAS STATE OPTICAL (54:53 MINUTES)


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IN THIS EPISODE of the INVISION Podcast with Dee Carroll, Dee speaks with TSO’s John Marvin, her go-to man on industry happenings, about managing eyecare businesses into the future.

John is president and CEO of Texas State Optical. In addition to heading up TSO, John is also INVISION’s regular management columnist and Dee’s go-to advisor whenever she has a question on industry happenings and trends.

They begin the discussion with the fascinating history of Texas State Optical, its current make up and how it functions today; but 15 minutes in they go right to the heart of it … How far the optical industry is lagging behind other industries, why John thinks that is and how that gap is only growing, especially on the retail side of the business.

At 20:17, they talk about the inevitability of progress, those in the industry who are the “wrong side of history” and John corrects Dee on the assumption that resistance to change is dictated by a practioner’s age. (It isn’t.)

They go deep into teleoptometry 26 minutes into the episode and you really don’t want to miss it. Half way through, Dee asks about motivating reluctant folks who may be dragging their feet when it comes to the advancement of technology and innovation and John provides tips for employees, team members and staff interested in moving a business forward (34 minutes).

At 37 minutes Dee attempts to rapid-fire question John on several topics and how he personally sees them affecting the delivery of eyecare in the future; topics like teleoptometry, e-commerce and the basic digital requirements of a modern business, and “selling stuff” or dispensing from the chair.

(Spoiler alert: It’s not particularly rapid.

Dee and John wrap up the episode (53 minutes) by having him identify some of the biggest obstacles facing eyecare businesses from a management perspective. Hint: They have to do with the disconnect between being a clinician and a business owner.

Get comfy and click play, this is a good one folks!

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John Marvin

Success is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

To navigate your own future, you need to look below the surface.

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THERE’S A POPULAR image of an iceberg that you may have seen. The top of the iceberg, the portion above water, is titled success. This portrays what everyone sees about something successful. Underneath the surface is the much larger portion of the iceberg and it is titled hard work, late nights, persistence, rejections, sacrifices, discipline, criticism, doubts, failure, risks. These are the actions, behaviors and decisions your success is actually built upon that few people realize or acknowledge.

Opening a start-up practice is something our organization specializes in. With the experience of opening what will be 70 new offices by year end, I feel qualified to speak on what it takes for a new practice to succeed. It doesn’t include magic, luck or “secrets.” What it takes is everything under the surface of the iceberg. For a young doctor, there are important reasons to embrace what lies beneath the surface.

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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

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INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Well-known teacher of achievement principles Jim Rohn says, “Success is not something you pursue but rather something you attract by the person you become.” The value of embracing everything that lies beneath the surface is that the process creates experience and experience produces personal growth … that, in turn attracts success.

Without the growth that results from sacrifice, enduring criticism and taking risks, you can’t understand how to produce a successful outcome. Without working Saturdays, late nights, being persistent and experiencing setbacks, you do not know the value of inconvenience nor the pride of accomplishment.

Owning an eyecare business is not for everyone. If you don’t have the passion and deep desire for ownership, to produce your own income, and have control over the patients’ experience, then it is best if you work to help someone else build their practice. To be successful at ownership, you have to have a passion for what you do. If you do not have passion, you’ll quit. Building anything of value and especially building a private practice is hard and requires work. There are constant challenges with staff, managing expenses and dealing with regulations. If you don’t have a love for what you do and understand in your core why you are doing it, you will not be successful.

However, if you do have this passion, know why you work so hard to overcome challenges, and you take full responsibility for the success of your practice, the reward of ownership and the pride of accomplishment is unlike anything experienced by those who work for someone else. That is why they only see the top of the iceberg and not what lies beneath the surface. They attribute your success to luck, to being in the right location at the right time, or something else that demonstrates they do not understand the work that went into the achievement.

I visit often with an optometrist who is interested in opening their own practice and they have become consumed with analyzing demographics, competition in an area, household incomes and other factors they consider critical to their success. While consideration of these items is important, they have failed to consider the most important factor — their own determination and commitment to personal growth.

When you are deciding to start your own practice, you are the captain of the ship. It is your responsibility to navigate your own future, to overcome, endure and grow from what lies beneath the surface.

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