IDOC actively shares industry-focused articles, blog posts, podcasts, videos and other thought leadership with our members and other optometric practitioners. Below, you will find links to our growing library of educational materials and multi-media assets written and created by IDOC's team of seasoned industry experts.
Susan Daly | 6/1/2018

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 potential result of the change was obvious and easily calculable. A few small tweaks would mean being able to pluck low hanging revenue increases from the proverbial Optometric fruit tree. He had already made the change, but he needed to get his three Associate ODs on board. Large and 30-years established, change was proving to be difficult. Because this kind of change requires a mind shift, which could not be driven by data and numbers, but by a leap of faith alone. He had reached the inevitable plateau.

When I owned a small café, which was technically “only” a coffee shop because we didn’t sell food, only pastries, I got to a point where top-line revenue growth was coming at an organic 3-5% year over year. After seven years, I had accessed the sales I would be able to extract from the local demographic, providing the product I already had, the same way I always had. I had also reduced expenses to a minimum to maximize the margins from what I was already selling. I was not going to be able to outpace inflation unless I made a change in the product I provided, or where and how I was providing it. I knew the paths to create a step change in my P&L. I could start selling beer and wine, add sandwiches and ice cream, or expand to a second location. Taking one, or all, of those paths was the only way to access more customers, and more revenue from each customer. But knowing that and understanding the financial implications of making those changes did not remove the barriers to creating change. The change would require a leap of faith. It was an emotional decision, not a mathematical one, held at arm’s length by fear and not data.

It is the same in independent Optometry. The first plateau we see is the point at which we need to hire more staff.* After 3-5 years, the optical often gets too busy for one person to handle, and we find we need a second Optician. After 5-7 years, the billing becomes too complicated or the volume too overwhelming and we need to consider an outside biller. After 7-10 years, and approaching $750,000 to $1.3 million in revenue, the need for an Associate is very real. After 10-15 years, and with an Associate OD fully booked, it is common to outgrow your square footage and a renovation or relocation becomes necessary. After 15 years, it becomes more and more likely, that we will open a second location. From there, the plateaus recur regularly. But hopefully, after facing these challenges once, we, as business owners, have become more and more comfortable with change.

In life and in consulting, I am incredibly metrics driven. I like to review the data and fully understand what the facts bear out. But facts and figures don’t make decisions easier, they only make them easier to understand. Action then, is the final barrier to change, and ultimately outsized growth.

I’ve spoken in the past about the MVP, or the minimum viable audience. It is the concept of deciding how much is enough. How many patients are we willing to chase, or accept, and how much revenue do we want, or need from each patient?

The MVP is the plateau. You can be successful on the plateau. You can spend time with people who have found the same altitude. You can build a lovely house and make a life on the plateau. And occasionally, when the clouds clear, you can step out your front door with a cup of coffee and see the next plateau at a higher elevation with clarity. Facing the emotional barriers to change, is the only way to keep those clouds at bay, and ultimately clearly see the path to outsized growth.


*Plateau points are rough estimations and meant to serve as examples and may not hold true for every practice.

Susan Daly
Associate Director, Optical Strategy & Development
After attending Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences, Susan studied branding abroad at the University of Westminster and earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She spent the first part of her career working with large retailers before shifting her focus to eyewear, serving as the Regional Trainer for Solstice Sunglasses and Buyer for Cohen’s Fashion Optical. Susan started her own business in 2009 and sold it in 2016 to return to Connecticut and begin serving IDOC members as the Optical Management Consultant then Manager of Strategic Partnerships. Susan works closely with the industry’s largest and most influential frame manufacturers to provide value and service to the independent where they need it most.
Trending Blogs

5/19/2022 | Author: Steve Vargo

As research for launching a new service called IDOC Specialty Services, I interviewed several industry experts of various specialties. At the end of each call, I asked everyone the same question: “What prevents more ODs from succeeding with a specialty?”

Their answers were insightful.... Read more

5/3/2022 | Author: Amy Alvarez

The pandemic has caused many changes in private practice, affecting everything from the way we see our patients to what we expect from our employees. Although some of these changes serve us well, others may feel like a barrier. While attendance issues are not new... Read more

4/15/2022 | Author: Lana Greene

Do you ever wonder if the same amount of effort goes into selling eyeglass frames vs. selling lenses and treatment options? I certainly do. Speaking from experience as an optician, I remember always being so excited when new lens technology was released. I couldn’t wait to fit our... Read more

4/8/2022 | Author: Steven Festa

Alright, I will come clean on something very few people knew about outside my family.  I’m OK with sharing this with the world now as it helps prove a point about the importance of being present in local searches.

Ever since COVID started, my wonderful wife had started... Read more

4/4/2022 | Author: Jelissa Brooks

Expanding your staff is an exciting step in independent practice growth. If you’ve recently added a new OD to your practice, get the word out to your audience through social media!

Promoting a new associate OD through your social media channels is an effective strategy in... Read more

3/15/2022 | Author: Nathan Hayes

In case you haven’t noticed, the Consumer Price Index was up 7.5% in January, as compared to 2021. In short, this means that a basket of goods like food, energy, and other consumer goods cost 7.5% more in 2022 than the year before.

Practice owners feel the squeeze in multiple... Read more

2/28/2022 | Author: Steve Vargo

Are you experiencing burnout in your professional career? It’s okay, you can admit it. You’re not alone. In fact, studies have found that approximately 50 percent of physicians are suffering from burnout.

Twelve billion dollars. That’s a conservative estimate of the cost incurred to... Read more

2/17/2022 | Author: Amy Alvarez

The last few months have been filled with rising wages, steep job competition, and continued uncertainty. Practice owners are being approached by staff about pay increases and are receiving higher wage requirements from job candidates. Many businesses are advertising their starting pay,... Read more

2/7/2022 | Author: Lana Greene

I often hear from ODs and opticians that their patients are taking their prescriptions and purchasing eyewear at Costco, Warby Parker, or other online retailers. Rarely do I hear the reason why. Finally, the opportunity was in front of me so I could ask questions to a consumer regarding the... Read more

1/24/2022 | Author: Steven Festa

Does hearing SEO make your eyes glaze over a bit and cause your mind to wander? If you answered yes, then you are not alone. While tough to grasp initially, SEO is important for your practice, and as providers of Read more

© 2022 IDOC. All Rights Reserved