What’s your recommendation for when the doc’s away on vacation: Book a temp or close the practice?

Either can work — there are definite benefits to being able to provide unbroken service, and yet there’s unrivalled relaxation that can be achieved when everyone knows that no work is being done. But there is also a third option: Close the medical portion of the practice and get some of those important but neglected tasks done: reorganize patient flow or storage, paint the waiting room, do some training. Your staff probably has a ton of good ideas on projects to fill the time.

What should medical practitioners discuss with each other before forming a partnership?

Start with vision… Aggressive growth excites some but worries others who want a close relationship with their patients and don’t want to share calls with too many other ECPs. Growth in terms of services offered often requires more certification, investing in new equipment and taking on the legal liability for offering such services — professional and capital investments that not all potential partners are willing to make. In the more immediate future, there are the day-to-day cultural issues that are likely to put strains on a partnership long before you get to expanding. Common ground in terms of clinical approach is always good, and is one of the advantages of having practitioners come out of the same program – they will manage patients consistently because they were trained the same way. At the same time diversity in terms of strengths is nearly always a good thing. “Finding each other’s zone of genius or forte and staying out of each other’s zone of genius is crucial,” says Diana Canto-Sims, co-owner of Buena Vista Optical, Chicago, IL. Another area to look out for is age difference. It’s important to discuss views on workload, especially if an older practitioner is bringing in a younger one, say, to eventually take over the practice. Practitioners with 30 years under their belt and those nearly fresh out of school have vastly different ideas of how they want to spend their time. “Nothing will cause a partnership to come apart faster than people who aren’t generating revenue,” says Marc Halley, co-author of The Medical Practice Start-Up Guide and CEO of Halley Consulting Group, a physician practice management and consulting firm. “In any group, as the supply of food gets smaller, the table manners change.” Partnerships are potentially exciting, but amid the enthusiasm to get started, it can be easy to discount what can go wrong. Explore every contingency, from plans for family to a partner becoming incapacitated and no longer being able to work.

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Should I delete old names from my e-mail bulletin list? A younger staff member says I should but I want to keep them; because these are old customers who might come back.  

Your e-mail marketing program will be more effective the cleaner and more up-to-date your subscriber list is, but there are a few things you should do before you start deleting names. First, segment your subscriber list into new and active and inactive customers. “Reach out to the old customers on your list with a different message. Contact them with a special offer, information about something that would be of interest to them, or educational information that would benefit them,” advises Steve Robinson, regional development officer for Constant Contact, which provides e-mail marketing services to more than 300,000 small businesses and organizations in the U.S. “Consider offering a link to an online survey that would allow them to tell you what specifically they are interested in.” If there is no response after two or three more attempts using this approach, Robinson suggests you consider those addresses inactive and either remove them from your list or move these people to a new list to which you e-mail only once or twice a year so as not to lose contact with these old customers completely.

One of our opticians, who really is one of the best we’ve ever worked with, is leaving with plans, we understand, to start his own business. How should we respond?

Pretty much the same way you would to any other new entrant in the market. With a strengthened commitment to focus on your own practice and provide a better service to your customers. Find yourself a great new optician and don’t go the low route of disparaging the guy who left. That just makes you look small. Keep in mind too that the departing ECP faces a tough battle establishing a viable practice. Would-be business owners often assume that having a skill — in this case crafting and fitting lenses — means they’ll be skilled at running a related commercial enterprise. But there’s no necessary connection; indeed, a passionate ECP is likely to find tasks such as book-keeping and dealing with staff so aggravating, because they get in the way of taking care of customers, that he’ll do them especially badly. In short, you probably don’t have to worry about anything … except building your own business.


This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of INVISION.      

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