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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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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.

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

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

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

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

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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