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John Marvin

Measure Success Against Yourself, Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s better to compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

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RULE #4 IN JORDAN B. PETERSON’s best-selling book 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote To Chaos is “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”

I have just returned from a conference at which there were many lectures on how to be a successful optometrist. I have attended many such lectures and while I have found them interesting, I have questioned their effectiveness.

The most popular are offered by other optometrists. They all seem to be saying, if you operate your practice like I do mine, you will be successful. Now I think there are several problems with this approach.

The first is that you are not them — practices are more likely to be personality-driven than process-driven. They each have their own culture which is largely defined by the personality of the doctor/owner. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it is why many successful doctors have devout staff members. You’ll often hear people talk about how they love working for the doctor versus talking about how they enjoy the job or position they hold. Patients are loyal to a doctor, not a practice. When they refer friends and family members, they refer them to a doctor. We recognize that a successful practice is about building relationships. And frankly, some are better at this than others.

The second problem with this approach is that it is more likely than not based on a series of what I call “novelty tactics” versus an understanding of a strategic approach. The truth is that patients are retail consumers and consumers have expectations. We are in a profession that depends heavily on the success of our dispensaries. The expectations that consumers have of our retail business are based on their retail experiences, not on experiences with other optometry practices. As the retail industry responds to a series of significant disruptions in delivery, consumers’ experiences are being shaped by these same disruptions.

It is important to understand these changed expectations and adjust our delivery. If we don’t, someone else will. It doesn’t even need to be another eye doctor or optical. Amazon is fully engaged along with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase in creating a new healthcare delivery system. This past summer they named their new CEO, Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon. Telemedicine and tele-optometry are here.

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The most critical problem with a traditional approach to building success is that it is based on comparing you to someone else. That is why Rule #4 is so important.

Success is not an upward escalator. It is more a meandering path, along which progress is made as you learn from mistakes. It is about the team you build and the relationships you establish. Not in comparing yourself or your practice to someone else who lectures at a conference.

But I will leave you with some great advice from another doctor. “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” — Dr. Seuss.

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

Introducing Amazon Eyecare and Eyewear

Relax, it’s not happening … yet. But there is a lot we could learn from the company’s use of behavioral data.

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IN MY EXPERIENCE, the most frequent Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that eye doctors use are: 1) How much is today’s deposit? And 2) How many appointments are on the books for tomorrow?

It may seem simplistic, but many people reading this article will agree, it’s a ritual many eye doctors go through at the end of every work day. It’s a good start, but far from enough to perform with a competitive edge.

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We live in a marketplace driven by data. In our industry, there are courses at major conferences to teach ECPs the KPIs they should measure and manage and how often. Our practice management software can produce countless reports. It can be overwhelming, not to mention time consuming, to keep up with all of the information being produced.

But in eyecare and eyewear’s ever-changing environment, the effective use of data will be the difference between success and irrelevance. We must move from transactional data to behavioral data.

For decades, we’ve used transactional data —measuring what happened in the past — instead of using that data to tell us what we need to do to increase sales and service delivery tomorrow. But with a profession populated in large measure with small independent business people, it is difficult to build, much less afford the type of data systems needed to compete in today’s marketplace.

At a conference I recently attended, the question was posed, “What if you woke this morning to read that Amazon had announced they are going to invest big in the delivery of eyecare services and eyewear before the end of 2019, what would you do?” It is a very good, and not wholly unreasonable, question.

I think the reason people fear Amazon’s entry into our profession is that we know how good they are at competing. We know how much we like using them and how intimidating they are to anyone who has to compete with them … just ask Walmart.

Amazon’s real power is their use of both transactional and behavioral data. Have you ever purchased something from Amazon and for the next two weeks, everywhere you go on the web there are ads associated with what you just purchased? They studied purchasing behaviors and know that a majority of people who buy X will also buy Y if given the opportunity. They are using historical data to predict future purchasing.

With an online analytic program for the independent ECP, we could begin to understand what happened in the past and think about how to use that to impact the future. For example, if you knew a significant percentage of patients who purchased two or four boxes of contact lenses at exam purchased additional boxes within six months, then you could communicate with those patients right when they are most likely to repurchase.

However, this requires new capabilities in data collection, new tools and software for analyzing this information, and most importantly, a new way of thinking about the information being created in our businesses.

The future is not coming, it is here and those who are willing to think differently today will be the ones who will be relevant tomorrow.

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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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