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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

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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John Marvin

The 4 Key Elements to Building a High Performance Team

It isn’t experience, skills or talent… it’s all in the mindset.

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MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE that the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team is the greatest team in the history of sports. This means all sports, any team all over the world. They are three time world champions and have a winning percentage of 77 percent over the past 100 years. They have not lost at home in the past 10 years.

What is it that creates a high performance team? It is not merely talent. There are many professional sports teams with a roster full of superstars, but which do not live up to their potential. It is not the money invested in payroll; the New York Yankees have famously spent far more money than other teams but often fall short of even making the playoffs. The 2008 World Series Tampa Bay Rays had the 29th payroll ranking out of 32 teams.

When you break it down, all high-performing teams have certain traits in common:

Shared Leadership

A team that reaches toward its full potential does not rely on one person for leadership. Each member of the team steps up when required to provide leadership. Each member respects the talents and abilities of other team members and follows another when the job requires.

Leadership in difficult situations requires different skills, and a high-performing team recognizes that each member brings their own talents and skills.

An Achievement Mindset

High-performing teams are focused on accomplishment. They are unified toward reaching their goal, be it winning a championship or hitting a sales target. They understand that accomplishment is not a once in a while endeavor, but the result of habits executed consistently each hour of each day. They don’t understand or accept the concept of close enough. Successful teams take the view that either they got the job done or they didn’t. Failure to them is not an option; they figure out a way to make success happen.

Integrity and Respect

High-performing teams believe in the dignity of each team member. They perform their responsibilities with honesty and integrity. They know that cutting corners when offering a service is not good for the customer or the practice. If a mistake has been made, they own it. They don’t make excuses or blame the customer. They truly believe that while the customer isn’t always right, they are always the customer. They do not encourage or tolerate team members who do not live up to the same standards of integrity.

High-performing teams respect each other by listening and considering the views of others. When faced with a challenge, they work together instead of believing that they alone have all the answers. They understand that collaboration among many can produce a better result than the opinion of one individual.

Look for Opportunities

High-performing teams are continually working to improve their skills, their services, their products and their processes for delivery. They foster an environment of continual training, understanding that it is the excellence of consistent execution that delivers to the customer.

They encourage learning of new technology, new products and an ongoing review of how the work flow process can be improved. They don’t believe in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To the contrary, they believe that they must break it to see how they can make it better.

Developing a high-performance team requires selecting team members with the right mindset. This mindset is more important than years of optical experience or years in a particular position. The owner or hiring manager’s job, in many ways, is to select the right people, give them direction and then get out of their way.

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John Marvin

Leading with Honesty and Authenticity Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

It is OK not to know everything, but it is not OK to remain ignorant.

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OWNING AN OPTOMETRY practice with retail is a multi-faceted responsibility. First, you have a full-time job as a clinician and generator of revenue. Second, you have a full-time responsibility to manage the business and lead your employees. It’s easy to avoid any responsibility you don’t enjoy, and most doctors don’t enjoy managing a business. So, what are you supposed to do?

Running a business takes leadership. There’s a myth that leaders know all the answers. In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, Law #2 is The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

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As the owner, people look to you for leadership. They expect you to know what you’re doing. What happens when you don’t? “Fake it until you make it?” Terrible advice. People don’t react well when they believe you are dishonest and inauthentic. If you are dishonest, it tells your staff that dishonesty is okay in your business. Here are some ways to maintain your influence, even when you don’t know what to do or have all the answers:

Relax and Investigate

It’s OK not to know everything. No one does. It’s not OK to remain ignorant. In today’s connected world, you can learn anything you need to know. Think of your practice as a DYI project. There are YouTube channels, chat boards and forums on management and small business ownership, and countless articles on personnel, inventory, sales, accounting, management, and leadership. Write out a development plan using your calendar. Growing business and leadership skills takes constant education. You didn’t learn optometry in your first semester.

Network with Others

I often say others have done some of my best thinking. Seek out people who can teach you the skills to run your business. There are hundreds of networking opportunities for small business owners. There are organizations you can join, like Small Business Administration Community Groups. You can learn about all of the resources the SBA offers through a local office. One of their most valuable resources is SCORE, a completely free, country-wide network of business mentors. Experience is not the best teacher; other peoples’ experience is the best teacher.

Learn from Yourself

Experience is a good teacher if you learn from it. When a decision goes well, think about why it was successful. I strongly suggest keeping a journal of your ideas, experiences and decisions. Sue Forrest has written a great article on Journaling for Small Business Owners. You can read it in her blog at sueforrestagency.com.

Make Time to Learn

The most important step you can take in becoming a successful manager and leader is to plan. You wouldn’t try to see patients without a schedule, why are you running your business without one? Set aside at least eight hours a week dedicated to the business of your business: No patients, just the operational aspects. You can break it into two four-hour sessions or dedicate a full day. This is when you should plan meetings with vendors, interview applicants, review financials, read business articles, network in your community. Eight hours out of a 50-hour week is only about 15 percent of your time. And if you’re not willing to commit at least 50 hours a week to your practice, chances are, you shouldn’t be an owner. That could be a valuable thing to learn.

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