Doctor, I see floaters in my vision. I think I have a retinal detachment!
I don’t need an exam because I did a screening online.
I put a moist teabag on my eye so it would heal faster.
I know I can’t have glaucoma because I smoke pot every day.
Did I get your attention with that last one? The truth is, these are all statements I’ve personally heard from patients. Welcome to the world of the Internet and self-diagnosis.
According to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, more than one-third of U.S. adults use the Internet to diagnose medical conditions. This includes people who look up information for someone else, but this probably accounts for the patient who thinks they have worms in their corneas because that’s what their Aunt Marge found on a Google search. The patient disagrees with Aunt Marge, certain that the problem is a contact lens that floated behind his eye.
Joking aside, problems from self-diagnosis are no laughing matter (although I must admit the pot comment caused me to audibly laugh). We do live in a world where information is extremely accessible. The problem with this reality is that much of this information, especially medical information, is often inaccurate, misleading, or simply does not provide enough context to come close to replacing a diagnosis from a trained professional. How many patients presenting for an exam with recent floaters expressed concern about losing their vision because they read something online? How many of those floater patients actually lost their vision? Information gleaned from the Internet causes many people to jump to the worse case scenario. Unfortunately, fear can be paralyzing and cause some people to avoid going to a doctor altogether.
The good news: According to the above referenced study, out of the people who go online for medical information, 46 percent said what they found online led them to believe they needed help from a medical professional. The bad news: Of the same group, 38 percent said they thought they could treat it at home. And while not every condition is an emergency, consider that less than half of the patients in the study said that a doctor confirmed their self-diagnosis. Only 1% claimed talking to a medical professional was “inconclusive.”
Enter social media, where suddenly anyone with a smartphone and a Facebook account can pretend to be a doctor. Why didn’t you come in sooner? Because a guy I’m Facebook friends with told me I was fine. I haven’t seen him since high school, but I recall him being smart at the time.
It’s time to get in front of this issue docs! Below are a few suggestions.
Often times, better communication goes a long way to divert patients from an overreliance on self-diagnosis. And while I poked a little fun at some of my previous patients, let me now turn the table on myself. In my 2nd year of optometry school we leaned about brain tumors and how one of the symptoms was “the worst headache of your life.” Guess who got the worst headache of his life 2 weeks later? Guess who spent the next couple weeks at Barnes & Noble Bookstore (early Internet days) pouring through medical references?
I’ve been there, and there’s a good chance you’ve been there too. Be empathetic. Be understanding. But don’t miss an opportunity to educate.
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I was on the couch with my wife during our daily “be present and reset” routine which includes reminiscing about our day, watching our favorite shows, and just being present with one another. Out of nowhere, she asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting- “Oh wait, what happened with the paid... Read more
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FFCRA... Read more
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During a phone call with my favorite sister (now, let's not share this with anyone else), she shared the following sentiment with me, "I was just as excited for my kids to go back to school this year, until I realized that I have one kid staying home and doing virtual learning and the... Read more
Let’s say one day after an exam and a visit in your optical, a patient reviews their experience on your Google business listing and Yelp.
The review includes many details which makes it clear to anyone reading that they visited the practice, had an exam, and worked with an optician.... Read more
Take a step back and think about your business. Are you in tune with the performance of your optical? Are you achieving your desired results? If not from you, where are your patient’s purchasing their eyewear? Why? How do your offerings compare to your competition? Investigate, by... Read more
“I’m shockingly flush with cash. My checking account balance is fantastic.”
This isn’t what I expected to hear on the tail end of the most prolonged economic catastrophe of our lifetime. But many practices, after leaning out all their expenses during the... Read more
“I’m thinking of selling my practice.”
“Should I sell my practice now while prices are at all-time highs? How long does the private equity phenomenon last?”
Practice owners often focus on market trends in the pricing of practices when deciding when and whether to sell. Let me... Read more
Careful frame and lens purchasing habits are needed in an unpredictable time.
Many optometric practices are experiencing a surge in eyewear purchases due to pent-up demand and the ability to... Read more
Capture rate is a key performance indicator; possibly the most significant component in measuring and increasing revenue per patient. Capture rate can be influenced by several factors. The good news is that you can have an impact on all of them.
Multiple Pairs:... Read more
If your optometry practice is currently closed due to COVID-19, there are certain updates you should make on the listing to communicate to your community the temporary change in your practice operations. Google has prioritized the “
You may have closed or partially closed your practice temporarily. There is tremendous uncertainty around when we can resume anything that resembles a normal business or personal life. You may be in the office alone or with only one or two staff members. There are always ways to keep a... Read more
If you’ve temporarily closed or truncated the hours of operation at your optometry practice after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people delay routine eye care exams, please update your community by communicating the short-term changes through these... Read more
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Continuing Education is so important to your practice – your team can learn something new, you can expand the experience in your practice and it’s a great way to keep your team engaged. However, how do you determine payment for your employees during this time?
Let’s first look at the... Read more
Does your staff truly believe in the value you provide?
It is demonstrably true that if you have a passion for a product, your enthusiasm is actually very difficult to contain. Getting behind a product is almost inevitable if you are a satisfied customer yourself.
Are you... Read more
Picture it: You have just gotten back to your practice after The Connection, energized from the lectures and workshops, conversations with strategic partners and connecting with your peers. How do you apply your new perspective to your practice?
First – What can you do before... Read more
It all started when I was about 8, I was going to be a lawyer. This was my dream even though I was surrounded by what others may consider nothing. To me, it was motivation. I wanted more than to become a product of my environment. I wanted more than the promise of becoming another statistic. I... Read more
The longer I study what makes some doctors more influential with patients than others, the more I appreciate the ability of some to build strong connections with the patients they serve.
In a fast-paced healthcare environment where some doctors and their staff are seeing patients at... Read more
On a chilly January Sunday in Atlanta (where I live), my sister texted me this picture of a line going out the door of what looked like an old warehouse. She and many others were eagerly awaiting to enter the building for an anniversary sale to be held from 11am – 4pm, one day only.... Read more
It’s a new year, which means new hopes, new opportunities, and new goals and plans to achieve your goals. Since the good goals lead to good planning, let’s think about why we set goals and how we achieve them.
Keep the Main Thing the Main... Read more
A new year is an ideal time to establish a rational, cost-effective Buying Plan for the optical dispensary.
First, establish who is responsible to execute your buying plan. There needs to be one primary and one secondary person, to pick up at times of absence and for accountability.... Read more
As their eye doctor, your patients rely on you to keep them informed about products that improve their vision, preserve the health of their eyes, and may save them time and money. While some of this information can be provided by the optician, this can leave the patient with the impression... Read more
I have a plant named Albert that I love dearly. I do not consider myself a “plant person,” but I inherited him from a co-worker 3 years ago because he was on the brink of death and they didn’t have the desire to care for him. I did a bunch of research to uncover Albert’s species... Read more
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Instagram can have a real impact on growing awareness for your independently owned optometry practice in your community.
It’s primarily a visual medium where you can tell your independent brand story through images and videos, and it’s a very popular daily... Read more
Why do I have to do what you’re asking me to do?
If an employee of yours asked that, your response would likely be harsh.
What do you mean why do you have to do it? You’re an employee here. I sign your paycheck. You have to do it because I told you to do it!
In... Read more
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Social media, online reviews and a well-performing website are all great tools in a good marketing plan for an optometrist in private practice, but the most successful practices understand that delivering remarkable service to their patients is the cornerstone of their marketing... Read more
If you are or have been responsible for managing people, you have been there. An employee whom you like and has done great work in the past is struggling in their role. Maybe they are more combative than usual with their peers or aren’t getting their work done effectively. Perhaps you have... Read more
A well-trained staff is the hallmark of a high producing office that consistently exceeds patient expectations. A highly trained staff makes fewer mistakes, operates more efficiently, and relies less on you for constant management.
The most common excuse I hear for an undertrained... Read more
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Back to school season is a busy time for families, but we know an eye exam for their children should be a priority on the list of things to do. As a marketing consultant for optometrists in private practice, the topic of back to school marketing and promotions comes up in conversations with... Read more
Whether I am advising a client or writing this blog, my primary objective is to give business owners actionable items that, if taken will positively impact them personally or improve their business in some tangible way.
The advice you receive, the articles you read, the software you... Read more
I have to admit something – I have been falling into Busy-ness Syndrome, where I feel like I am too busy with my responsibilities to do anything I perceive to be “extra”. That could be anything from an uncomfortable conversation to tending to obligations. Busy-ness Syndrome is not... Read more
This article assumes you’ve done your part in establishing value for the products and services you offer. If you fail to do this, then price inevitably becomes a factor as people will wonder if they can get what they need less expensively from another source. But let’s assume you’ve made a... Read more
How many private pay opportunities do you have each day?
With so many of your patients now covered by vision care plans, you would probably say, not many. I could ask you to look at the percentage of patients you see in each plan, I could ask you what percentage of patients are... Read more
A good marketing plan for your optometry practice should include opportunities to meet people in your community, face to face. Time spent engaging in the right kind of community involvement for the practice is a valuable investment in building your brand.
While promoting your... Read more
The last time unemployment was lower than it is now was 50 years ago, when there was only .1% less! Job growth continues month over month, mostly in the healthcare and service industry, and large companies are pulling out all the stops to hire. Let’s be honest, if you are hiring... Read more
If you have not already done so, embrace package pricing. It brings simplicity and potential for additional revenues.
Consumers today demand that they know prices up front. This transparency is the bait that the big-box, discount and online retailers use to lure in customers.... Read more
Facebook maintains its top spot amongst social media channels in 2019, particularly among people ages mid-thirties to early sixties in the United States. Facebook is designed to encourage people to connect with the people they know in their “real” lives – friends, classmates, neighbors, family... Read more
All practices will hit a point where there just isn’t enough time and headspace for a single owner to see all the patients, manage the team, and run the business. In order to grow, the owner has to delegate something. The first thing most owners will do is hire or promote a manager... Read more
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... Read more
Cost of Goods is the highest expense category for many – if not most – independent practices. And most owners feel like they’re spending too much or just don’t know – how does my Cost of Goods (COGS) compare to other practices?
I’ve heard practice management lecturers say that... Read more
Why am I the best option for my patients’ eyewear purchase?
Selection? Value? Convenience? Quality? Price? Expertise?
What messages am I sending in my marketing and interactions with them that makes the case that I am their best option?
There are three critical... Read more
Can you complete that sentence?
In one of my presentations titled “The Science of Selling: The Psychology Behind Why People Buy” I ask the audience this very question. This usually gets a mixed reaction of affirmative heads nods and looks of uncertainty.
My... Read more
From time to time, I’ll have a call that goes something like this: “Help! My revenues are down, and I don’t know why!”
If this happens to you, it’s useful to remember that your collected gross revenue is a function of three variables, which we could express in a formula that... Read more
Smaller practices that have fewer employees have always cross-trained out of necessity. These practices may have only one person to perform the duties of receptionist, technician, biller and optician. As practices grow, they tend to look for people to “take over certain functions” and begin to... Read more
Sometimes, creating a policy for your practice can present more challenges than you expect. Meal Periods tends to be one of them. There are benefits and drawbacks to both style of meal period – Paid and Unpaid.
Unpaid Meal... Read more
Before you read this article, take three seconds and Google the name of your practice.
If you’re on a desktop computer, don’t click on your website in the search results; instead, look at the image and name of your practice on the right-hand side of the screen. That’s your free... Read more
As business people, we are constantly inundated with advertising and offers for programs, software, products and advice that promise to improve our bottom line. Some will catch our attention; some we simply click past. Some we purchase and own; some we have access to through subscriptions we... Read more
As a marketing consultant for optometrists in private practice at IDOC, I am often asked about the different social media channels and whether it makes sense to participate in all of them. Much like social gatherings in the physical world, each social media platform has distinct... Read more
In HR, documentation makes the world go ‘round. I talk about it in every consultation I have with our members. However, it isn’t because I like to hoard documents on my computer or pieces of paper on my desk (Although, my desk and computer might tell a different story). It... Read more
Establish guardrails. Employees should be permitted to make some of their own decisions, but there needs to be clarity on the boundaries. Micromanagement restricts employees. Boundaries empower them. A good example would be allowing your employees to use up to $200 to resolve... Read more
As an Optical Management Consultant, I often hear:
“I know what the numbers are, I need to know how to make them better.”
It is frustrating to have a vision for your practice and feel that you are alone on the journey to attain that vision. Spend some time thinking about what... Read more
My least favorite phrase to hear was “Michelle called out today”. It almost sucked the air out of the room. I had already planned out the whole day, for myself and the team. Before hearing that, I probably had a project in place, hopeful to progress in some way. Adjusting and... Read more
I recently recorded a podcast titled “5 Things Successful Practice Owners Do Differently.” I won’t go into all five here, but for this article I will focus on one of the key differentiators – Execution.
Most practice owners have given thought to business strategies and how these... Read more
It’s that time of year – practices are evaluating what went right – and wrong – in 2018 and setting goals for 2019. And with goals comes the age-old question: what should you do about a bonus plan next year?
First the theory of bonuses: people respond to incentives, and if you... Read more
Partnerships can be powerful drivers of growth, combining the energy, expertise and capital of multiple doctor owners to create a bigger practice than the sum of its owners individual abilities and contributions.
For all the benefits, partnerships come with their own sets of... Read more
“I have never had to hire like this before!”
“I’m embarrassed to say, my longest-term employee has only been with me 9 months.”
“I never used to have this... Read more
They closed the gym in my office building for renovations and it won’t reopen until January. That has no relevance here except for me to tell you that it has me really annoyed. I had a plan! I was going to be proactive! I was going to start my New Years... Read more
Change is scary, risky and very necessary. Changing anything from small policies to major remodels can be very tense. But it is worth some degree of discomfort to give a jolt of energy to a business that may need just that. Take some time to... Read more
How do you create efficiencies in a high-cost, low-margin retail environment? That was the question I was going to answer.
First, I think you have to remind yourself why you are in a high-cost, low-margin retail environment. The answer, because Susan blabbered at me until I brought... Read more
We have all been there. You spent what felt like 1,000 hours recruiting – posting the job online, reviewing resumes, speaking to candidates, getting feedback from interviewers, making a job offer. Your new employee comes in and within 48 hours they are completely different than you... Read more
An independently owned optometry practice in the United States is a small business, and most marketing experts agree that your marketing budget as a small business should be anywhere from 1% to as much as 10% of your gross revenue, depending on where the practice is located and how much local... Read more
Many practice owners will struggle for to grow their revenues and profits – and therefore their incomes – from a cold start. Others may buy a healthy, existing practice or see fast growth. Whatever the case, achieving even a modicum of success can bring its own set of questions and... Read more
If you’ve ever sweated making payroll or wondered how you could possibly scrounge up enough cash to pay your distributor bill on time or just found it hard to pay yourself, you know the... Read more
The new reality is that many of our patients are shopping online for everything before they make a purchase. A second reality that you may not be aware of is that for some people online ordering is not as easy as the advocates for this model would have you... Read more
A handbook could be the most important document you create for your business. Here are the top 3 reasons why:
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I can’t afford to hire is a common refrain in consulting with the independent optometrist. And, it’s true! If you don’t have any expectation that your employees will produce for you, and by extension, pay their own salaries. It’s all in how you frame your fear, and structure pay incentives and... Read more
Warby Parker, big box, shopping malls, oh my! While some private practice ODs respond to local commercial competitors with (typically irrational) fears of a mass exodus of patients leaving their practice for the cheap prices and convenience of a low-cost retailer, other respond with a... Read more
If you own or manage an optometric practice, you’ve probably observed that online reviews have become ubiquitous in American consumer marketing. An independent optometric practice is now likely to manage its reputation across several online profiles, including the Google listing for the... Read more
Here’s a not-too-controversial observation: everyone would like to earn more income. As practice owners, your income is a function of the revenues your businesses bring in and the expenses you have to pay.
So, if you want to increase your income, should you be going over your... Read more
Good marketing for an independently owned optometric practice isn’t one size fits all, especially now when there are multiple generations with unique mindsets, characteristics, values and eye care needs in the United States.
Let’s say that as an independent Optometrist, you’ve decided to add new eyewear products into the mix at your practice, and now you’d like to market these products to existing and prospective patients.
I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.
I was dissatisfied with the protein drink I had been using, since it had a slightly chalky taste and a higher sugar content than I wanted. I spoke with a friend of mine who suggested that I try a new protein... Read more
During his TedxTalk, Scott Hess recalled his first job out of college and a reaction from his boss. He said, “I was told that my performance was strong but that my appearance was a problem. I was upset… I thought I looked awesome. I couldn’t understand why this older boss of mine was making a... Read more
The Inevitable Plateau - “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress”
I spoke with an OD yesterday who was struggling to make a shift in the way they dispense contact lenses in their practice. The... Read more
I once suggested to a doctor struggling with employee motivation that he give his staff more positive feedback about the things they were doing well. Not his exact words, but his response was along the lines of, “I’m paying them to do a job, why should I have to stroke their... Read more
Picking up a new pair of glasses is exciting for the patient, the anticipation of new, clear lenses and updated beautiful frames. Celebrate with them, make a special event out of it. Prepare... Read more
A practice owner with a cash crunch recently pushed back on the advice I was giving – to defer some compensation for a quarterly distribution – with this statement: “I thought I was supposed to pay myself first!”
When I started working as a department manager in a large retail company, I joined a high traffic location in a mall and it was the highest volume store in the district. Despite that, I walked into a manager’s nightmare. The departments I was responsible for were experiencing double digit... Read more
Numbers don’t lie. A fact I am reminded of every time I step on the scale. Those ten little digits twixt naught and nine are our friends. And, like any good friend, we may not always like what they say, but they always tell us the truth.
I haven’t always been... Read more
I was named in a lawsuit once. Fortunately, I was the doctor who found the problem – not the one who misdiagnosed it. Nothing really came of this on my end, but I still recall the moments of terror that gripped my body every time a letter showed up from the legal firm handling the case.... Read more
Starting a solo optometry practice can be a daunting task, especially considering most optometrists do not graduate optometry school with a strong grasp of the business aspects of running a private practice. There are many things you need to do prior to your grand opening, but the work doesn’t... Read more
Office Managers are responsible for setting the expectations for all office employees. The optical staff is a unique situation because the patient experience is easily measured. Good communication and clear goals will go a long way to improve patient satisfaction in this very... Read more
Google and social media have changed the ways we look for information, discover area service providers and research options for health care, and as a result, many Optometrists who own a practice now question which tactics are the most effective to increase brand awareness, number of... Read more
The Science of Selling
Have you ever made what you considered an iron clad case for why a patient should purchase a certain product or service from you, only to have them walk out without ever making the purchase? As clinical professionals, we can be very logical in our approach with... Read more
Your optometry practice is incredibly valuable to you. “Well, Nathan” – you may say – “of course it is!” But have you ever thought of why it’s valuable?
You spend most days pouring your blood sweat and tears into it: hours and hours of patient care, planning,... Read more
The internet isn’t usually a popular topic in conversations I have with owners and staff members of optometric practices. Dealing with reviews and competition from web-based retailers along with the challenge of creating and maintaining a website and good social media marketing may have many... Read more
Optometrists in private practice sometimes fail to offer a clear reason why someone should choose them for their vision care over competitors - on their websites or in other marketing collateral – sometimes when you try to market to everyone, you fail to capture anyone.
What... Read more
When working with small business owners to create marketing plans and strategies, I run across the following scenario far too often: “Hey, I’m not sure how to log in to my Google listing. My office manager used to handle that for me, and she’s not on the team anymore... Read more
“You might as well ask me to describe the essence of music, or the color of starlight.”
Did you make any New Year Resolutions? Well, I did. I do every year, and in keeping with my obsession with goals and metrics that I have professed here repeatedly, I write them down and check in... Read more
For starters, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I just play one as a practice management consultant. It’s been my observation that whenever human beings come together in an environment where they are required to work together and interact, inevitably some tension and conflict will arise.... Read more
Your schedule has gotten busier and you’ve hired an associate OD. While you would like to keep the associate’s schedule filled most of the time, it’s not uncommon for an associate to have some gaps in his or her schedule – at least in the beginning. This often leads to some resentment by the... Read more
Before anyone panics, I am not suggesting that most practices go out and spend $80,000 or $100,000 on a COO tomorrow, or that your manager is due a large raise for 2018. I typically only recommend that type of role for multi-location practices grossing over $2M-$3M per year: practices... Read more
Sometimes it’s not the inventory you choose to carry or the reps you choose to indulge. It’s not the pricing or the shipping or the cadence of your reorders. As we head into the tail end of the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the process of opening presents.
Everyone has... Read more
Texting is an incredibly tempting mode of communication for marketing-minded businesses competing for the attention of consumers, primarily because the open rates on a text from businesses to consumers are incredibly high (98%) compared to other forms of communication (email is around 20%,... Read more
“How many frames do I need?” “How many frames should I carry?” “How much stock should I have in inventory?” It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, at least 1/3 of my consultations start the same way. I’m going to make this all very, very easy for you. Consider it my holiday gift! To determine... Read more
If you are in a competitive area, you’ve already learned that marketing is a necessity to attract brand new patients to your practice. It’s easy to confuse marketing tactics – sending email, creating Facebook posts and advertising in a community magazine, for instance –... Read more
A practice owner pulled me aside at our most recent conference in Denver to start thinking of an exit plan. I always ask two questions when these discussions come up:
“How long do you see yourself continuing to own your practice?”
“How is your retirement savings coming... Read more
A consumer-centric culture with a focus on customer service is becoming increasingly important for brick & mortar businesses. While I do believe most practice owners strive to deliver on great service, it requires a team effort. I often hear owners tell me they want to be known in their... Read more
Most businesses have polices that employees are required to follow. In general, office policies are a good idea. Policies provide structure for how to conduct business and create consistency around processes and operations. But in a service-based industry, well intended but rigidly executed... Read more
With all the talk of private equity roll-ups and regional alliances, many practice owners are concerned that if they aren’t a large, multi-office, multi-doctor practice, they don’t have a future in independent optometry.
Is that... Read more
One of the interesting mysteries that I get to unravel in many practices is the mystery of tight cash flow. Sometimes it’s obvious – a small practice with low profitability, for instance. But other times it’s not.
First off, what is tight cash flow? Here’s my simple definition:... Read more
Doctor: Would you like to order your contacts today, Mrs. Smith?
Mrs. Smith: That’s OK. I’ll just take the prescription and get them online.
What happened here? You just did a thorough, high-tech eye... Read more
For practices looking to grow, there are basically two paths: see more patients or generate more revenue per patient. Ideally, a practice will do both. One thing I consistently hear from ODs is that it’s hard to generate high revenue from contact lens patients. Even when selling annual... Read more
Can you find 20 or 30 minutes a week to hold a staff meeting? You might be surprised at the impact that it has on your optometry practice.
Your staff is your most valuable business asset. Your investment in optometry marketing, technology, office design, etc. will fail to deliver an... Read more
The very phrase can cause irritation, anxiety and bewilderment in the minds of owners who understand that they should somehow be participating in the conversations across the various social media platforms – but which ones are the best for optometry practice... Read more
While there is more than one way to achieve success, there are a few common traits that successful independent optometry practice owners have in common.
They refuse to accept the status quo. While others remain stagnant, ignore trends, and complain about the... Read more