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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.

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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 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

Leading with Honesty and Authenticity Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

It is okay not to know everything, but it is not okay to remain ignorant.

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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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Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

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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 sueforrestagency.com.

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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John Marvin

Customer Experience Isn’t About Bells and Whistles But Simplicity and Convenience

Espresso bars, large screen TVs and foot massages just distract from what customers really want.

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ATTEND ANY CONFERENCE about retail these days, and you’ll hear the phrase “customer experience.” Well-intentioned speakers talk about creating a differentiating “customer experience.” They say people don’t buy glasses, contact lenses or exams, they buy a “customer experience.” All this talk of “experience” is trendy and meant to convey insight into what it takes to be successful. But what is it? How can we create or improve something we can’t define?

To provide an experience, some ODs add espresso bars, large screen TVs, foot massages or X-Box stations to offer this ubiquitous and ever-elusive “experience.” I submit that emphasizing ancillary activities to create an experience distracts from what customers really want. Yes, I said customers. Part of the problem has been our reluctance to discuss those who purchase our services and products as customers, preferring the term patients.

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Words matter. They convey a certain perspective to our employees and to ourselves. We associate patients with hospitals, clinics and health care institutions. The practice of optometry does have a significant clinical element, but it’s also a retail business selling prescription glasses and contacts. A full two-thirds of the revenue generated for the vast majority of optometry practices is from the retail side. Understanding the customer is critical to being successful. Taking customers for granted provides an opportunity for disruptors to give them what they want, how they want it. There are three keys to demystifying and creating a successful customer experience:

SIMPLICITY. Everyone is busy and bombarded with too much information. We wake up with digital assistance that tells us the news and weather and what our commute time will be. We are flooded with information. Then customers are overwhelmed with decisions when they schedule appointments: What insurance do you have? What is your group number? Which plan are you on? What is your deductible? What does your insurance cover? Followed by purchasing decisions… Do you want the best lenses, better lenses or good lenses? Do you want anti-glare? Lenses that protect from blue light? What is blue light? Do you want computer lenses? What are they? Do you want a protection plan for your glasses? What does the plan cover? And that is just for the first pair of prescription eyewear … what about multiple pairs? People crave simplicity. How can you provide it?

CONVENIENCE. People make purchase decisions based on convenience; not just of location, but also of experience. Amazon sold over $232 billion worth of goods and services in 2018 due to convenience. Open the browser, type www.amazon.com and voila, the retail world is at your fingertips. In most cases, it arrives the next day and the shipping is free. How convenient is it to shop with you?

PERSONABLE. You may be thinking, “Wow, I don’t know how I can compete,” but we can all be personable. One of the advantages of brick and mortar is social interaction with people. We like interaction that is meaningful and rewarding. We want attention and assistance. We love places that are welcoming and pleasant. This is an advantage optometry practices have that cannot be matched online. This is the game changer if you focus on customer service. Hire enough people to provide personable service; it is a worthwhile investment. Equip employees with the knowledge and confidence to make the experience simple and easy to understand. Make sure your delivery processes of services and products are designed with customer convenience in mind.

Creating loyal customers who refer friends, family, and co-workers isn’t about espresso, movies or massages. It’s about giving customers what they want in a way that is simple, convenient and personable.

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INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

The optical industry is lagging behind but progress is inevitable and solutions are at hand for clinicians who embrace ownership.

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INVISION PODCAST EPISODE 8: JOHN MARVIN OF TEXAS STATE OPTICAL (54:53 MINUTES)


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IN THIS EPISODE of the INVISION Podcast with Dee Carroll, Dee speaks with TSO’s John Marvin, her go-to man on industry happenings, about managing eyecare businesses into the future.

John is president and CEO of Texas State Optical. In addition to heading up TSO, John is also INVISION’s regular management columnist and Dee’s go-to advisor whenever she has a question on industry happenings and trends.

They begin the discussion with the fascinating history of Texas State Optical, its current make up and how it functions today; but 15 minutes in they go right to the heart of it … How far the optical industry is lagging behind other industries, why John thinks that is and how that gap is only growing, especially on the retail side of the business.

At 20:17, they talk about the inevitability of progress, those in the industry who are the “wrong side of history” and John corrects Dee on the assumption that resistance to change is dictated by a practioner’s age. (It isn’t.)

They go deep into teleoptometry 26 minutes into the episode and you really don’t want to miss it. Half way through, Dee asks about motivating reluctant folks who may be dragging their feet when it comes to the advancement of technology and innovation and John provides tips for employees, team members and staff interested in moving a business forward (34 minutes).

At 37 minutes Dee attempts to rapid-fire question John on several topics and how he personally sees them affecting the delivery of eyecare in the future; topics like teleoptometry, e-commerce and the basic digital requirements of a modern business, and “selling stuff” or dispensing from the chair.

(Spoiler alert: It’s not particularly rapid.

Dee and John wrap up the episode (53 minutes) by having him identify some of the biggest obstacles facing eyecare businesses from a management perspective. Hint: They have to do with the disconnect between being a clinician and a business owner.

Get comfy and click play, this is a good one folks!

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