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John Marvin

Do You Know the ‘Main Thing’ You Should Be Focusing On in Your Eyecare Business?

One of the biggest challenges in business is keeping your eye on the ball when there are any number of shiny objects looking to distract you.




“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey

SOUNDS SIMPLE, RIGHT? I wish that were the case. One of the biggest challenges in business is disciplining ourselves to stay focused on the main thing. Fortunately, focus, like any other skill can be learned.

Many years ago, I played Little League Baseball. One of the first things a coach tells you when you play Little League is to keep your eye on the ball. It makes sense, the ball is the main thing. A game can go horribly wrong if your team does not keep their eye on the ball. Little Tommy Wilson learned this the hard way.

While he was at the plate, he was goofing around to entertain his buddies in the dugout … until a pitch thrown by another 9-year-old hit him in the side of the head. Tommy was fine, thanks to his batting helmet and the undeveloped arm of a 9-year-old pitcher, but Tommy learned a valuable lesson. If you don’t keep your eye on the ball, or the main thing, bad things can happen. The main thing for your practice is patients.

For independent optometry, keeping the main thing the main thing has always been a challenge. Today, the ability to focus and keep our eye on the eyecare ball can be more difficult than ever before. There are so many distractions. There are so many “shiny objects.”

Shiny Object #1: What Others Think. When we concern ourselves with what others think of us and what we are doing, we make their opinions the main thing. Hoping to be liked and have the approval of everyone in this profession is impossible, so stop. The only people to be concerned about are your patients. Too many in our profession find this difficult and their “main thing” is to be popular with their colleagues. This will not only rob you of a fulfilling career, but will also rob your patients of the focus needed to meet their requirements. Keeping the main thing the main thing requires confidence in yourself and letting go of the need for the approval of colleagues.


Shiny Object #2: What Others Are Doing. One of the most common questions I am asked by ODs is: “What are other people doing?” Who cares? Others are not caring for your patients, paying your bills or feeding your family. I’m not saying that we can’t learn from one another, but that is not what people are asking. This question comes from being insecure; they seek validation or a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets. Success comes from pouring your attention and energy into caring for those who trust you with their care. As my friend Rod says, “Success is the consistent execution of routine matters in a quality way!”

Shiny Object #3: The Peddler’s Cart. Anyone who owns a practice or optical store knows there is an endless caravan of people wanting to sell you something. Since our industry is not known for its innovation, there are literally hundreds of people selling “me too” products. I have lost count of how many frame, lens, contact lens, equipment and solution companies are trying to get your business. The next time you’re walking a show floor note all the shiny objects in front of you. Not approaching that floor with a written list of what you need to care for your patients is the same as grocery shopping hungry and without a list.

There are any number of shiny objects to take your eye off the ball. Ignore them or, like Tommy, something bad can happen and you may not be wearing a helmet.

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 blog. You can email him at


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