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John Marvin: Inspiration Starts Here

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Practice management advice from John Marvin

Make it your goal to connect, not merely communicate with others

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of INVISION.


Have you ever been in a social setting with someone who does all the talking? After a while, you want to raise your hand and say, “It’s OK, you can stop now.”

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And talking is hardly the only way people can go “on and on” these days. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, texting: Everyone is constantly communicating.

Or are we? As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” There is a difference between communicating and connecting. True connection is less about trying to be interesting and more about being interested in the other person.

As a business owner, your success depends on your ability to connect with other people. Every day, you talk to patients, you talk to your staff, you talk to your family. But ask yourself: “Do I really connect with these people?”

Connecting with others increases your influence with them. When you actually are able to connect, people have a better understanding of you, your values and whether or not you have their best interest at heart.

Here are three areas where you can begin to develop the skill of connecting with your patients, your staff and even your family.
Look for areas in common. People who connect with others establish common ground on which they can agree. To do this, you must get over yourself and focus your attention on the other person. Listen to what is important to them. You can’t find areas of agreement when you are consumed with what you want. Don’t assume you know all about them. Take a real interest and you will find a place to start. You will find common ground.

Let your smile speak for you. People who connect with others are enjoyable to be around. They look for the good in each situation. They take the time to share a sincere compliment. They wear a smile. Many people’s attitude and demeanor build a wall that prevents them from connecting with their co-workers, their staff and even their patients. Everyone has problems; everyone has good days and bad days. People who connect make others feel good about themselves and their circumstances. So make a conscious effort to smile more often.

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Be an inspiration. According to author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell, people who connect (and not just communicate) follow a particular formula:

What they know + What they see + What they feel = Inspiration

People need to know that you are on their side. Your ability to connect will be in proportion to your understanding of their feelings, desires and fears. The people with whom you connect will know that you care about them and they can trust you.

We are funny creatures. We often decide whether or not to pay attention to someone in mere seconds, and this is based on what we see. We read people quickly and determine whether or not they are someone with who we want to connect. Are you pleasant? Do you carry yourself well? Do you look others in the eye when you listen to them? People need to see that you are interested in them in order for them to be interested or influenced by you.

How do you make people feel? Do you make people feel better about themselves? Or do you talk down to them to make sure they know what a dumb move or decision they made? People who connect with others always make people feel important and valuable. When there’s a problem to address, people who connect focus on the error, not on the individual.

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Everyone is attracted to people who actually connect with them. And for independent ECPs, the good news is this: You can offer authentic, face-to-face connection in a way no online eyewear peddler or big-box rival can.

May you have a month of true connection!


With more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry, JOHN D. MARVIN writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. He is president of Texas State Optical, a member-owned cooperative of 120 independent, professional optometry practices. Contact him at jdmarvin@tso.com.

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Historical Data is the Future of Optometry

Eye scans and retinal images going back decades can help predict diagnosis and progression.

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OPTOMETRY IS BEING cast as a declining profession thanks to the advent of procedures like LASIK and “robot optometrists.” In 2017, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD, suggested his healthcare directors get rid of optometry and audiology services. According to him, “LensCrafters on every corner” means the VA does not need to provide this service any longer. Whether it’s true or not, the perception that optometry’s days are numbered is evident in today’s generation of aspiring healthcare professionals; but despite the decline in applications, there is reason to be optimistic in about the future of optometry.

“The eyes are the window to the soul” may be more than a poetic turn of phrase. The eyes truly are windows into humans because, simply put, the eyes provide a non-invasive way to see inside people. This window could allow for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, by measuring the choroid. The identification of amyloid plaques early on offers a window to monitor disease progress.

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The growing awareness of the long-term effects of concussions presents another opportunity for optometry to have a positive impact. CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated head injuries, is a cause for concern in many sports. The eyes may be a window into how bad a concussion is. More importantly, the eyes may be a record of brain injuries that can be decoded and evaluated. There may also be ways to evaluate if individuals are fully recovered from concussions or just becoming functional again while accumulating damage. The parents of young athletes will press hard for certainty on whether their child truly has recovered. Because CTE requires accumulation and time, there is an opportunity to limit the damage by recognizing the signs early on.

This is where historical data will play a part in an optometry renaissance. In practice management systems across the country, there exists an untapped wealth of eye scans and retinal images going back decades. Right now doctors have patients suffering from CTE and Alzheimer’s disease, who had pictures of their eyes taken throughout their lifetimes.

The historical data is a gold mine of information to be sifted through for early indicators of the diseases. With foreknowledge of diagnoses, the historical data can be targeted effectively, and paired with today’s automation, those images can be evaluated in large volumes to identify the early indicators.

The collective historical data of patients represents a lifeline to a profession that the U.S. government is beginning to consider potentially obsolete. The likelihood that additional diseases besides Alzheimer’s and CTE can be detected early through the eye seems strong. Given how much information can be gleaned from the eye, there are probably quite a number of diseases that can benefit from early detection methods. Those methods will in turn be applied to the historical data to detect additional diseases creating standard operating procedures in optometry practices for disease identification. In the 21st century, it seems ironic to consider 20th century history as the path toward the future, but in the case of optometry, it is.

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The Barebones Employee Handbook and Why You Need One

When done right, it can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.

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THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK might seem like an outdated concept, but documenting policies is more important now than ever before. Not only is the handbook a great orientation tool for new employees, it also works as a guidebook for all employees.

Building an employee handbook can feel like a daunting task, but it’s time well-spent and a crucial part of your staff management toolbox. There are lots of templates online to help you build your initial content, but there are a few items you should include in the first draft:

Business Hours

It seems obvious, but an employee handbook is actually an excellent place to list the obvious operating hours details so no one can claim ignorance on the basics. This is also an excellent time to cover timing expectations for employees. For example, are they expected to be on-site and ready for work 10 minutes before their shift starts? If they are closing, how late after close are they expected to stay and tidy up?

Dress Code

Dress codes often leave a lot up for interpretation, which can be a point of contention. You can eliminate some ambiguity by listing what is and is not acceptable work attire.

Employee Expectations

This is a broad topic, but absolutely crucial. The employee expectations section is where you outline what sort of behavior you require from your team. It can be as general or granular as you’d like.

You may wish to outline specifics like how your employees answer the phone. On the other hand, you might find it sufficient to say that employees should be friendly, diligent, positive, and proactive.

Either way, this section of your handbook should outline what happens if an employee does not meet expectations.

Harassment and Bullying

No one plans on needing these sort of policies, but they should be formalized and easy to find. If someone on your team does feel harassed or bullied, they must feel safe enough to address the issue.

Including harassment and bullying policies in your employee handbook isn’t just about discouraging people from treating their co-workers poorly, it’s about reassuring your team that you will not allow them to be treated poorly.

Insurance Coverage

Some insurance providers will give you and your employees a booklet detailing exactly what your insurance plan covers. Keep one of these booklets somewhere specific in your office, and describe the location in your employee handbook. You could also tell employees how to access their benefits information, or simply include their benefits directly in the handbook.

Making the details of your insurance plan easily accessible to your team ensures you don’t have to answer the same questions about filing a claim over and over again.

Holiday and Sick Time

Every workplace is different in terms of vacation day accrual, access to sick days, how time off is approved, and other crucial details. Your employee handbook is the perfect place to list them. Don’t forget to include instructions on how to apply for vacation days, and the appropriate procedure for taking a sick day.

In order to work as a cohesive team, you and your employees all need to be on the same page regarding your expectations of them, their expectations of you, and what constitutes a successful workday. An employee handbook, when done right, can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.

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When You’re Rushed for Time, Don’t Take Shortcuts

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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THE DOCTOR RUNS on a schedule and optical must do everything possible to stick to that schedule. If the doctor is running a 30 minute comprehensive exam, it’s not near as difficult to adhere to the same patient schedule in the optical, but today, most practices run 10, 15, or 20 minute exam schedules and it likely causes a backup in the optical.

In a comprehensive exam, the doctor is typically not disturbed by phone calls, or other interruptions. But in the optical, it is common to answer phone calls inquiring about when glasses will be ready, to service walk-in patients looking for an adjustment, repair or dispense, or for a patient who ran out of time to return to shop for eyewear. These “interruptions” cause us to get behind schedule. Then, we find ourselves hurrying to catch up. What suffers? Sales and attention to detail.

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Consider the following ideas to reduce lost time:

Create an Optical Schedule

An optical schedule provides the control to reserve/schedule optical consumer needs; such as those who want to come back later for glasses, and reduces the many calls from patients requesting glasses updates, etc. It’s easy to get a fax daily from the lab for lens spoilages, and easy enough to reschedule the few of those that won’t make it back from the lab within 10 days.

Pre-Appoint Dispensing

The more patients you pre-appoint for glasses dispensing, the less bottlenecking occurs during ‘prime time’ patient schedules. Reserve this time during the glasses order and carve it out on the optical schedule before they usually head to work. In our office optical experts take turns two days a week dispensing eyewear from 7:30 to 8:45 as optical customers are headed to work; our doctors begin med checks at 8:30 while first comprehensive patients are in pre-exam.

Don’t Explain the “Add-Ons”

Don’t break down the individual lens treatment components. AR, Blue AR, High Index are “essential,” not add-ons. Your optical consumer wants to buy a pair or two of glasses, not a list of all-too-confusing add-ons, which you know leads to “Do I need it?” “Did the doctor say I need it?” “I didn’t hear the doctor say I need it?” “Is it covered?” Make it simple and simply include the “essentials” into the total lens price. You bought the blouse and the buttons came with it!

Don’t Walk Them to “The Boards of Confusion” to Find Their New Frames

When you walk the optical consumer to the frame boards, it almost instantly becomes overwhelming. Sometimes the consumer says: “I don’t see anything I like!” And you wonder how that’s possible. It’s called “Choice Overload,” a real human psychological dilemma. It’s just too much to take in. Simply ask what they want to change about their frames this time and then go pick them out yourself. Likely you’ll be right 99 percent of the time and you won’t disappoint them with the inevitable “That one’s too tight!” “Too loose!” “Too narrow.” “Too wide!” when they are left up to their own devices. Pick seven frames and help them purchase the three the doctor prescribed. You are the expert because you do it many times every day.

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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