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How Hiring an Associate is A Lot Like Dating

It’s a long, hard path to finding the right person.

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I WAS GETTING a snack when my associate leaned back in his breakroom chair and said the words that punched me in the gut, “I got a full-time gig with Big Box Eyes and I’m leaving in three weeks.” I was shocked. How could he dump me right before the holidays?!? After sobbing into my Häagen-Dazs, I updated my profile and let everyone know I was back on the market.

I limped through December with the help of my ex (the previous owner) who was kind enough to pitch in. I started my search with the job boards of the three closest optometry schools which had been successful the last time around. This time, no responses. None.

I posted on my state society’s webpage. A month later, I got an email from a prospective suitor. It read, “Like, hi, is this for full time?” Delete. How hard is it to comprehend the meaning of “part-time associate wanted?”

I let every human I came in contact with know that I was looking. At my yearly visit with my own doctor, in the “are you under any inordinate stress” category, I put “Yes, working six days a week.” I thought he would offer me something fun like Xanax, but instead he had an OD patient who was job hunting. She came to the office and immediately critiqued my daughters abstract oil painting of double vision. Strike one. She then interrogated me and told me why my routing slip was super lame. Strike two. After it was over, she texted me that she wasn’t really looking for a position. Sigh.

I tried ODs on Facebook. I didn’t even get one “Like.”

Then, I hooked up with Covalent Careers, a great platform that I highly recommend, but unfortunately each candidate had a major flaw:

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Suitor No. 1: We had a fantastic first call! I was ready to hire him on the spot. We planned for him to come in, but then poof! I got ghosted. When I texted, he told me he had signed a restrictive covenant with a neighboring practice and I was in the no-fly zone.

Suitor No. 2: We really hit it off. I offered her the job, but then she pushed for a lot more hours.

Suitor No. 3: Repeat of No. 2 but wanted LESS hours.

Suitor No. 4: Came to the office but we did not really connect and then she told me she had already taken another job.

Six months of working six days a week had passed; I was cranky and exhausted. Then one day, a colleague with a specialty practice asked if I was still looking. The prospective candidate was graduating shortly and wouldn’t have her license for months but we met anyway; four months later I had a new associate!

In retrospect, I am not sure I could have done anything differently. Maybe I could have invested a zillion dollars in one of the hiring services that persisted in courting me but I wasn’t financially willing to do that. I was transparent about what I was looking for — salary, hours, days, mode of practice, etc. Why would they lead me on, make me think we had a future, and then dump me? Not cool. Ultimately, I met my associate the old-fashioned way — through a friend. Bottom line: I would recommend the traditional job sites, but don’t underestimate word of mouth. Above all, don’t lose hope — interviewing is like dating — if you kiss enough toads you will find your prince.

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Dr. Chani Miller graduated from SUNY in 1993. In 2015, she bought her practice and has been living the joys and horrors of being a practice owner. She has raised two daughters with her husband of 29 years. You can find her on Instagram @ccspecs or cmiller@parkeyecenter.com.

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Danielle Richardson

Why You Should Include Yoga in Your Wellness Routine

Let go of any preconceived notions; yoga is for everyone.

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I KNOW, I KNOW — yoga is not for you … but let me stop you right there. Yoga is truly for everyone! Yoga is finding its place in the mainstream as 1 in 7 American adults reported practicing yoga according to a 2017 survey.

However, as the number or practitioners continues to rise, so too does the number of people who feel alienated by yoga. Social media has warped the perception of this ancient practice into something that more closely resembles gymnastics or acrobatics. This shift distances many would be practitioners because of feelings of not being “flexible” or “fit” enough. I’m here to tell you that’s BS! This article is to make the case for yoga and its inclusion in your wellness routine.

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The true origin of yoga can be disputed, but the most popular types of yoga in the West are derived from a 5000-year old Indian philosophy system and body of knowledge. Yoga takes a holistic view of the human experience and consists of practices to unite the mind, body, and soul. Yoga extends beyond physical movement to combine meditation, self-discipline, and breathing practices to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Below are a few things to remember about yoga:

Yoga is for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, yoga does not require fancy tights or expensive studio memberships. Additionally, you don’t have to overhaul your life or become a Himalayan monk to practice. The only requirements for yoga are your body and your breath. Yoga is most often practiced on hard wood with a mat or blanket, but carpet is suitable as well. Yoga can also be made accessible to those with disabilities using chairs and props for modifications. There truly is something for everyone.

Beginners are always welcome. There are plenty of resources available for new yogis. You can go the in-person route and sign up for a new student special at a local studio. Local yoga studios often have classes designed for beginners where you can receive in-person guidance and personalized tips to make the practice more comfortable. Additionally, you can use online beginner yoga videos on YouTube via my channel “FierceClarity” or another excellent source like “YogaWithAdrienne.” My recommendation is to begin once per week and gradually increase frequency. There is no right or wrong amount of yoga to do, but the longer you stick with the practice the more benefits you will see.

Yoga has real benefits. According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an NIH affiliate, research shows yoga may help relieve stress and chronic pain, manage chronic disease symptoms, and even aid in smoking cessation. Other studies have found yoga to successfully decrease inflammation, improve heart health, and improve some symptoms related to anxiety and depression. Additionally, yoga aids in weight loss and can help maintain a healthy weight when practiced regularly.

I started practicing yoga at the end of optometry school when I was burned out and sick from an unhealthy lifestyle. This simple practice has changed my life for the better. I became so passionate about it that I now teach yoga to others. I hope you will let go of any preconceived notions and give yoga a try. It is a rich tradition with several different styles and teachers. Be like Goldilocks and experiment a bit until you find the yoga that is just right for you.

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Don’t Do Do-It-Yourself Optometry … Do This Instead

Even the most successful DIYers know when to call in a pro — and doing so can free up their time for bigger and better things.

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I CONSIDER MYSELF A competent Do it Yourselfer, and during a recent house remodel I was determined to handle as many tasks myself as possible. My father is a retired master carpenter, and I spent countless childhood hours watching him craft pristine custom cabinetry.

Clearly, I had no reason to doubt my ability to handle some basic trim work. This was going to be easy, right? Wrong!

Similarly, while a wealth of DIY-style info is available, DIY optometry practice management is no piece of cake. The goal of running an efficient, profitable practice is not as easy as it sounds.

Perhaps the most important sign of a competent DIYer is knowing when to hire a professional. Honestly, I knew I couldn’t manage my own plumbing or wiring.

Hiring specialists to manage certain aspects of your practice can outweigh the self-satisfaction of DIYing. More often than not, the main benefit is prioritization. Here’s why:

Ten years ago, the optical dispensary comprised at least 70 percent of the overall practice revenue, while exams and services made up the remaining 30 percent. Today, with the increase in medical-model eyecare, exams and services can match or exceed dispensary revenue.

Most ODs once dedicated significant time to dispensary operation, but more time is now spent learning new equipment, interpreting test results and filling schedules with more non-optical patients. Managing inventory and lens purchasing now takes a backseat to offering other specialty medical services. Such profitable specialties are where you should be focusing your energy, rather than overseeing day-to-day dispensary management. To compound the problem, optical dispensing is becoming increasingly complicated. Patients have vision plans with specific criteria, lab networks and products, mandating that optometrists be masters in maximizing profitability and understanding plan contracts.

Delegating allows you to focus attention on next-level eyecare and promotes overall practice development. Let’s discuss a few aspects of optometry dispensary operation that benefit from less DIY and more professional management.

  • Staff training. Optical dispensary management services provide staff with professional education sessions. Performance standards are established and regular meetings held to discuss products and technologies. Incentives programs entice staff to meet sales goals.
  • Revenue cycle management. The capture, management, and collection of patient and insurance revenue as well as cash flow, audit risk and ultimately profit can be outsourced to professional firms.
  • Marketing materials and initiatives. Demographic-specific marketing programs tailored to a practice’s patients can boost sales. Collateral may include educational patient information or professional courtesy programs.
  • Third-party billing. Staff are trained to maximize plan benefits, and ODM services process all optical claims on the practice’s behalf.
  • Dispensary inventory management. DMs purchase existing inventory while transitioning to new inventory targeted to a practice’s specific patient demographics. This includes an analysis of the practice’s market showcasing competitive price structures and consumer preferences.

Enlisting professional help isn’t an admission of lack of skill, it’s the practical awareness that not everything can be accomplished on your own. So, while you may choose to keep your home remodeling efforts DIY, let experts take your optical practice to the next level. A little help never hurt anybody.

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John Marvin

Forget Opinions, Measure the Hard Facts and Data to Improve Your Business

In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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THERE’S A BUSINESS axiom that says if you want to improve something, measure it. The sheer act of quantifying an issue and then determining how to improve its outcome incrementally, will itself create improvement.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement, believed that management decisions should be made using facts and data; and that successful managers use that data to best understand customers and their ever-changing expectations of goods and services.

The contrast is making decisions based on opinion. I believe that this is done far too often by optometrists and managers in our industry and these are the reasons why:

It’s easy. What could be more comfortable than offering your opinion about patients’ preferences and behaviors? In some ways, it just makes sense. You spend all day, several days a week observing people in your practice. Naturally, your opinion is enough on which to base your decisions.

It’s popular. Everyone has an opinion. The dilemma is when team members’ views conflict with one another. Whose opinion is correct? Usually, it defaults to the person with the most authority. When this happens, you can diminish the perspective of others.

It’s cheap. Opinions are free. You don’t need to go to the expense of both time and money to gather facts and data. Why go to all of that time, effort and spend money when your opinion will do the job just fine? However, a decision based on belief and not facts can be the most expensive decision you’ve ever made.

Recently, I was working with a young optometrist to open his first practice, and as you can imagine, he was full of enthusiasm and confidence in his opinions. He had classmates that had started new practices. What could be so difficult?

Of course, he had an opinion about his location. He had already determined where he wanted to open his new office. When I pointed out some of the challenges this selection would create, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. It had everything he believed, in his opinion, that was critical to a successful location.

It was close to where he wanted to live. It was half the price of locations in areas with much higher traffic patterns, and there were no other optometrists within a five-mile area. In his opinion, this location was ideal.

I explained to him that selecting the right location is probably the most critical first step in building a successful practice. That he should consider the households in the area, the exposure that a site will provide his new office, and that is all a part of what you pay for in lease payments. Basing this decision on his opinion is an example of how expensive a wrong decision can be.

Another practice data area that is neglected is the retention of patients. We don’t measure the percentage of patients we saw a year ago that return in twelve months. Why would we? We are great at what we do, why wouldn’t they return?

After all, we sent them a postcard telling them it was time to come back for an appointment.

The office most successful at retaining patients that I know measures and reports to the team each week the percentage of recalled patients who booked an appointment. They have learned that success in this area requires a phone call to follow up on those who do not respond to their postcards, emails, and text messages. The OD/owner is proud that 87.3 percent of their recalled patients return for their annual exam and he is still working on improving this percentage.

Managing your business using facts and data is crucial. It takes the emotions, personal perspectives, and biases out of making improvements. In the end, it is the least expensive and most productive business tool in your arsenal.

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