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John Marvin

Making the Wrong Decision Is Better Than Making No Decision at All

Bad decisions can be painful. But inaction because you’re afraid you’ll make an incorrect choice is worse.

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DECISIONS ARE a mental activity every one of us engages in daily. Whether it’s deciding when to wake up, what to eat, how to spend our day, where to spend our money, or whom to spend our time with, decisions are part of our daily life.

In one of my earliest jobs, I had a colleague who was several years older and much wiser than me. I was fortunate that he decided to mentor me. I am not sure why, maybe he felt like I needed the help.

This was a sales position and each day for the first couple of months, I would ride with him and watch him work. One of the things I will always remember about “Red” Statum is when it was time to get out of the sales office, he’d say, “Let’s go; we’ve gotta do something, even if it’s wrong.” Red knew how to make a decision and do something.

While we make multiple decisions throughout the day, when it comes to making big decisions, most of us make bad ones on a daily basis. Only a few of us make good decisions consistently. Why? 

What keeps us from improving our office, making a staff change, switching to a different EMR system or hiring an associate doctor? It’s the fear of making a bad decision. I’m a believer in the idea that there is power in making a bad decision. It is unreasonable to think that we can’t afford a bad decision. Bad decisions have real value.

Bad decisions help us accomplish more when they cause us to course correct. If you do something, that action propels you forward. If that something is wrong, then you learn, correct, and move forward. If you think about it, there’s very little that can be decided that is fatal to your practice.

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If you decide to put in a new frame line and it doesn’t sell well, then simply sell it off and replace it with another. If you hire someone that doesn’t work out, you terminate them and hire another. It’s indecision that is paralyzing and can be dangerous to your business.

Indecisiveness is a decision to not make a decision. It’s typically fueled by fear of failure. Low self-esteem and succumbing to circumstances is why so many people make poor decisions. Indecision causes your practice to stagnate, robbing you and your practice of opportunities.

Optometry is experiencing several areas of disruption right now and, I suggest, this is the best time to be practicing. With disruption comes opportunities. However, to be successful, you must be able to make a decision to take advantage of those opportunities.

Tele-optometry will create massive opportunities. Take advantage of this and learn more to determine whether it will help your practice. If you think it will, then make a decision and adopt this new technology.

The retail side of our business is also experiencing disruption. From online retailing to 3D printing, the consumer is demanding convenience. Think about how you can change what you are doing and make a decision to put it into action. If it doesn’t work out, then stop. It won’t hurt your business and it may be a great new service or item to make your practice more convenient for patients.

If you have an idea, a desire, a wish, a worthy ideal, make a decision to achieve whatever it is you want. Once you make this decision, the people, resources, and ideas will be attracted to you because your belief in achievement will supersede your fears and circumstances.  Your belief will be the catalyst that changes your behaviors, your actions, and ultimately your results.

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There is power in making a decision, even if it is a bad one.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at jdmarvin@tso.com.

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John Marvin

Why Do So Many ECPs Ignore the Power of Personal Touch?

Remember: your convenience is never as important as investing personally in relationships.

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IN THIS TIME OF digital communication it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important aspects of interaction — the personal touch.

In a month when stores are filled with expressions of affection, would those of us in a serious relationship send a digital Valentine’s Day card? (If you don’t understand the problem with this, let me save you some heartache, don’t do it.) There are occasions when only something personal will connect in a way that matters.

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For years there has been a push to move practice owners into the digital age with websites, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts. Practices have discarded traditional recall cards and embraced digital patient communication platforms. Now with preprogramed software, thousands of emails and text messages can be sent to communicate with patients.

I love this new digital age and all it gives us the ability to do. However, now and again, I am reminded of the power of the personal touch. I’ve recently had two experiences that emphasized this.

The first occurred with my wife. We decided to plan a long weekend to celebrate her birthday where we could enjoy some sun and sand. While by the resort pool, her phone rang. She didn’t recognize the number, but decided to answer it anyway. I watched as her curiosity turned into a smile. She said, “Thank you, thank you very much, that means a lot to me,” then hung up. She told me it was her eye doctor just calling to wish her a happy birthday.

You should know that my wife is two, maybe three, years past due in her annual eye exam, but that didn’t matter. Calling his patients on their birthday is important to him. He could have his digital communication program automatically send out a birthday email, but it just isn’t the same. It’s the time and commitment that lets his patients know he cares. It tells his patients that they have a relationship to him, not just a file or a spot on his schedule.

The second is when I recently purchased some eyewear from one of our network doctors. I was told they would be ready for pick up in about a week and they would notify me when it was ready. About five days later, they left a voicemail letting me know I could pick them up when it was convenient. Up to this point, the experience was pretty conventional. However, what happened next is impressive.

A couple of days after picking up the glasses, I received a handwritten thank you from the young lady who dispensed them. It was personal and even contained a comment regarding a topic we had casually discussed. Wow! I was impressed. Then a few days later, the doctor called to make sure I was pleased with the product and service. A phone call from the doctor after a handwritten thank you note from the optician, after a personal call to let me know my eyewear was ready? That is impressive.

All of that could have been automated — it would have been far more convenient for them and, arguably for me — but, in this instance, convenience is not as important as investing personally in the relationship. There is power in the personal touch.

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John Marvin

Sometimes Pulling the Goalie is the Best Decision to Make

Three examples of when and how you should go on the offensive.

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MALCOLM GLADWELL IS ONE of my favorite authors. You may be familiar with his best-selling books David and Goliath, The Outliers, Blink and The Tipping Point.

In a recent episode of his podcast Revisionist History, Gladwell discusses his only rule for living: Pull the Goalie.

Hockey fans will know the meaning of this term. In some instances, a hockey coach may “pull the goalie” during a game to provide a sixth attacker and create an offensive advantage. However, when a coach chooses to do this, and under what circumstances, is controversial since it can make them defensively vulnerable.

It’s an allegory for the science of decision making. Deciding when to act or not act is something ECPs do all the time. And, as in hockey, those decisions can be second guessed and criticized by others.

I want to highlight three examples of when a business owner should decide to “pull the goalie” to create an advantage.

Hiring staff. If you are like most, you are constantly trying to determine if you have enough staff, should hire more, or let someone go. There are countless opinions about this. Most owners, like hockey coaches, are conservative in their decisions. If we think five staff members is the right number, we may try to operate with four. It is, after all, less expensive. We tell ourselves, “I would rather have four excellent people and pay them well than five who are mediocre.” But then one of our four all-stars leaves. Now we have three all-stars having a difficult time delivering the quality of service and care we expect. Everyone is frustrated, so we decide to hire someone. The first person with any optical or optometry background is hired whether or not they are the best fit. Now if we had pulled the goalie early and hired a fifth person, we could still have delivered the high level of service and taken the time to interview and hire an additional person. It is a dangerous cycle. The staff is shorthanded, which frustrates everyone and the result is a greater risk of additional turnover.

Correcting a problem. Reluctance to do so is the result of three stages:

1) Denial, where we attempt to convince ourselves we don’t have a problem. We rationalize, justify and procrastinate. Like in hockey, we tell ourselves, “We are only down one goal, we can still win.” The longer we stay in this state the worse our problems become.

2) Attempting to minimize the effect of the problem, since it is less disruptive than doing what is necessary to solve it. We move a difficult person into another position, we attempt to work out the delivery issues with the supplier to avoid changing vendors. We spend a lot of energy trying to avoid making a decision.

3) Accepting reality and recognizing we should have pulled the goalie early and avoided the problem all together.

Embracing innovation. Too many ECPs are waiting out the clock and hoping for the best. They believe that somehow, someway, all of the competition, innovation, changes in reimbursement, and demanding consumers will just go away. It will go back to the way “it used to be.” This is a dangerous place to find yourself. The competition just gets stronger. What used to be a secure and predictable practice begins to lose ground. Other services and providers are offering more and charging less. The industry itself is fighting to stay relevant. The best advice when you find yourself in this situation is to pull the goalie early and go on the offensive. Attend meetings, conferences, visit innovators, learn about the consumer. Fight to grow, build and win.

The good news is that many won’t and that gives you the advantage.

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John Marvin

This Simple Addition to Your Daily Routine Can Make You a Better Manager

Keeping a journal is easier today than ever before.

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EVERY DAY of your practice you create a health record of the patients you examine and prescribe for. You meticulously make note of not only refraction results but also pathology or potential pathology that might be indicated by the patient’s family history.

Can you imagine if you did not keep these records? Besides not being eligible for third-party payments, each time you examined the patient, you’d be starting over. What quality of care would you be providing if your attitude was, “I really don’t need to write anything down. I can keep it in my head.” Sounds ridiculous, right?

The reality is: This is an important part of building a practice that provides quality care — keeping meticulous records of each patient visit. Here is my question: Then how do we think we can manage our practice without the same attention to note-taking or using the same approach to building our practice?

As an owner/operator optometrist, you wear two hats, one as a qualified health care practitioner and the other as the business owner and manager. Currently you are probably keeping very good records and taking excellent notes as the OD but my guess is that you are trying to perform the other responsibility by just keeping everything memorized. I don’t know about you, but I learned long ago that you can’t trust your success to your memory. We learned that in high school. Then why do we not think this is a bad idea for ensuring our success as owners and managers of our business?

Keeping a journal is easier today than ever before. There are countless smartphone applications that enable you to dictate your thoughts and interactions with employees and vendors. I use an application called Evernote. I find it easy to use and keep an ongoing record of daily notes related to my professional responsibilities. I have also set up a separate personal journal, which I use to record thoughts, ideas, notes from books I read, etc. I consider this my personal health record.

There are a number of different approaches: Some like pen and paper, others prefer a combination of digital and analog. The method matters less than the consistency of writing down the notes and building the record. If you commit to doing this for 90 days, you’ll see how it can help you be more productive and provide you with a base of information on which to make good decisions. In my case, it’s helped me be a better professional, husband and father.

This is a perfect time of year to start creating your personal health record. To start, simply decide before you go home each evening (or better, throughout the day whenever you have a few minutes), to jot down your thoughts as the business owner and manager. Plan time each week to reflect back on your notes, and plan the upcoming week building on the record you’ve created. You will be amazed at what you’ve learned and recorded in one year’s time.

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