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John Marvin

Follow That Dream: Open Your Own Eyecare Business in 2021

‘The best time to start your optometry practice was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’

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WHEN LIFE ITSELF seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

The 1965 Broadway musical Man Of La Mancha is based on the 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes. It is a beautiful story of idealism, hope and belief in the ideals of chivalry. While written in the early 1600s, the story could be lived out now. What a year this has been. If nine months of living with daily case counts, increasing hospitalization rates, masks, social distancing, and mass amounts of hand sanitizer feels crazy to you, then you can relate to the above quotation about life itself being lunatic.

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But, just like the hero of the story, there is reason to be hopeful, optimistic and determined. 2021 can be your best year ever. It can be the year you venture out and pursue that dream of practice ownership. It is simply a decision you make.

My adaptation of a popular Chinese proverb says: “The best time to start your optometry practice was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

There is never a perfect time to start working towards any goal and starting a new practice is no different. There will always be obstacles to overcome and setbacks from which you will learn. But that’s the beauty of starting your own practice. It is not just the achievement of building a successful practice. It is the person you become through the challenges. So, here is my advice for making 2021 the year you started your practice:

1. Start. Seek out people who have done what you want to do and start. Have the conversation, ask the questions, learn from others. Success leaves clues. The good news is that many have already done it and most will gladly share their experience and advice. My grandfather said, experience is not the best teacher, other people’s experience is the best teacher. You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to start to be great.

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2. Write down your plan. Where do you want the practice to be located? What size space will you need? What kind of practice do you want (i.e., general, specialty practice, etc.) All of these questions need hashing out. I suggest using a journal to write down your plans. It becomes your guide book. When you visit with someone and learn, write it in the journal. When you visit other offices and you see something you like, sketch it in the book.

3. Put together a mastermind group. A group of people you can discuss your ideas and decisions with. This can be one or two successful ODs, an accountant, someone from the optical business, a banker. This group will change over time, people will come and go but maintaining a group of collective expertise is invaluable.

In your quest to follow your dream, you will face setbacks, that’s OK. Develop the attitude that sometimes you are successful and sometimes you learn from the challenge. Remember, that in every adversity, there is the seed of an equal or greater benefit. You just have to look for it. As our friend Don Quixote said, “The wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away.”

Now that you know what you should do, let me tell you what you shouldn’t. Go to invisionmag.com/112002 to download the “Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a New Practice from TSO.”

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 [email protected]

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