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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.




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

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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