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Dr. Steve Vargo | 6/6/2019

Several years ago, I met with a financial advisor. I had been out of school a few years, and a friend suggested I speak with his father over lunch about debt management and financial planning. I thought I already had this under control, but why turn down a free lunch?

After some brief pleasantries, we got down to business. For the next 20 minutes, my friend’s father peppered me with questions. Many of these questions were about things I had never considered. What do you do with money that’s “left over”? How many years do you want to practice? How much money do you need to retire?

He didn’t answer these questions for me, he allowed “knowledge gaps” to form. These gaps were not formed by him telling me what I need to do, they were formed by him bringing awareness to what I didn’t know. I walked away from that meeting with my head filled with all the things I needed to do differently regarding finances. The questions, not the information, was what motivated me to change.

 In our occupation there is a lot of emphasis on educating patients. We jump in with all the answers before fully understanding the patient’s logical AND emotional reasons for seeking our help. One study found that physicians interrupt the majority of patients within the first 15 seconds the patient speaks, often preventing them from describing what brought them in.

As I looked back on that initial lunch meeting, I realized that my friend’s father never once suggested what I needed, he got me to say it in my own words. Instead of leaning away from his input, as we often do when we feel we are being “sold” to, I found myself leaning in and asking for more information. What should I be doing now? How do I avoid that scenario in the future? Ultimately, I found myself saying, “Yes, I need to do this.”

This meeting served as a bit of an “a-ha” moment for me, as I realized two things I value as a consumer that we often overlook when educating patients – 1) I like to be in control of my decisions, 2) I want someone to guide me to the best decisions.

Establishing value is not a process of dictating to someone else what they need, but rather guiding them to come to the right conclusion themselves. Questions are a great tool for moving people from “I’ll think about it” to “Yes, I need to do this!”

Dr. Steve Vargo
Practice Management Consultant
Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in a clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant and advises members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations. Steve and his wife Melanie have two sons, Lucas and Ryan. In his spare time, he enjoys running, cycling, sports and music. A native Chicagoan, he is an avid fan of the Cubs, live music and deep-dish pizza.
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