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John Marvin

Too Many Eyecare Practices Skip This Crucial Step — and It Hurts Them in the Long Run

Instead, most just hope for the best.

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In your eyecare business, ask yourself: What kind of optometry do you want to practice? What sort of eyewear do you want to sell?

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of INVISION.

DID YOU KNOW that in growing your business, you can decide what type of practice you want and the kinds of customers you want to serve? It really is up to you. So ask yourself: What kind of optometry do you want to practice? What sort of eyewear do you want to sell? Who is your “ideal customer”?

Most practices never really set these goals. They just open their doors and hope for the best. But this means your practice is left to circumstances and the ups and downs of economic, demographic and regulatory changes. By deciding not to decide, you choose to let others decide what kind of practice you own.

If you do not have a clear picture of the practice you want and the patients that you desire to serve, here’s what you need to do: Take one hour. Shut off the computer and phone. Close the door. Focus on deciding what you want.

Using paper and pen, with words or pictures, create a detailed description of the characteristics of your ideal patient. How old are they? Are they male, female, low income, middle income, high income, do they have families? Are they urban or suburban, millennials or baby boomers? Do they pay for their care with cash or with third-party payments?

The bottom line is this: Who are your high-value customers? Who are the customers or patients that will bring you the most business and cause you the least grief, year after year? You won’t necessarily exclude patients who do not fit your ideal. But this exercise will begin to guide decisions on how you will run and grow your practice. You’ll get insight into your practice’s physical design, its policies and — most importantly — the types of products and services that appeal most to those whom you desire to serve.

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There is not a single best “type” of practice. Your business is yours; you get to decide. Some very successful practices focus on high-end frames, with professional optometry services offered as a convenience. Other optometrists feel a call to serve Medicaid or low-income patients and help them see the best they can. Our field includes practices that cater to children, or to athletes. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages. The important point is that you must decide on what type of practice and patient that you most want to serve. Once you’ve made this decision, your next steps will become logical. You’ll see a clear path of actions to create the type of practice that will appeal most to your target group of customers.

You will look at your business anew, asking, “Is this the kind of place my desired customers will want to visit? Do our customer service policies and conveniences appeal to my high-value customer? What type of inventory will they find most appealing? What type of services best suit their needs?”

You’ll also have new insight on how to best communicate to this group of customers. What are the issues that are most important to them? What community activities will provide you with the greatest exposure to them? What are their favorite social media platforms, radio stations and TV networks? How can I best go about building a relationship with them?

It is a fundamental truth that people associate with those most like themselves. So use this truth, and focus on getting referrals among friends and family of your best customers. The more you appeal to the customers and patients you have decided you value the most, the more referrals you will build from this group.

Building a successful practice is not about finding a magic gimmick or chasing after the latest trendy idea. Building a successful practice comes from making yourself appealing to those you wish to serve. And it beats simply hoping for the best.

 

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For the third year in a row, Safilo has looked to trusted eyecare professionals to star in its American Eyes campaign for its Elasta and Emozioni collections.Their latest testimonials are from Peter Tacia, O.D. and Heidi Dancer, optician, of Alma, MI, talking about two best-selling collections: Elasta and Emozioni.

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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

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

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.

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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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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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John Marvin

All You Have to Do Is Try One More Time

Failure only happens if you give up.

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THOMAS EDISON ONCE SAID, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always trying just one more time.”

It is completely in our control. All we have to do is try one more time. If that doesn’t work, then try one more time. You create your own new beginning.

We often see failure as final, devastating, humiliating and sometimes even a fatal blow to our dreams. Succumbing to this point of view, or dare I say, belief, is an outward demonstration of weakness. Imagine the NBA without

Michael Jordan. Well there would have not been a Michael Jordan if he had believed that failure was devastating and final. In his own words, MJ said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.

Twenty-six times I’ve been asked to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

We see the awards, the recognition and notoriety of successful people like Michael Jordan but don’t realize that for every accomplishment recognized, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of instances of failure.

It is the fear of failure that keeps most people from even trying to accomplish or be successful. Wayne Gretzky, the NHL player nicknamed “The Great One” and considered by many to be the greatest professional hockey player of all time, said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The fear of missing a shot robs us of the success we can have.

What makes this so important is that success in whatever we pursue is not something that might happen, but with understanding that all we have to do is not give up, we can make success a certainty.

So, what holds us back? This little word “fear”.

Fear of some things is good. It protects us. We don’t text and drive for fear of accidents. We don’t put ourselves in harmful circumstances. I live in southeast Texas. When the national hurricane center warns of an impending storm, many who live along the coast evacuate for higher ground due to fear of a dangerous storm. These are all rational fears.

Then there is emotional fear. Fear of speaking in front of a crowd or fear of being rejected when asking the Homecoming Queen on a date. These are less rational and more emotional.

The fear of failure is an emotional fear. We are afraid that we will be embarrassed if we say we are going to do something and are not successful. We are afraid of what others might think and we’ll suffer a loss of self-esteem. Our insecurities take prominence in our imagined world.

Fear of failure is the behavioral reaction we have when we fill our minds with all of the bad things that will happen if we simply try. It’s paralyzing. We think, nothing ventured nothing lost. When in reality, nothing ventured is nothing gained.

This mindset is deceiving and limits our own potential. We live our lives defensively while others, who take risks, enjoy achievement and success. Sure, some fail, but failure is only a reality when one gives up and quits trying. Barry Bonds, the MLB player with the record for home runs at 762, struck out 1,539 times, more than twice his number of home runs. Bonds knew that each time at the plate was a new beginning and the only way to fail is to stop trying.

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