Optometric Management Tip # 235   -   Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Jump-start Your Practice: Part 1

There are many practices that need a jump-start. They may be relatively new start-ups, which obviously don’t have enough patients yet, or they could be average, established practices that are growing much too slowly. Some practices have been around a long time and they’ve reached a plateau or have begun to decline in earnings. Most offices simply are not busy enough.

By the term jump-start, I’m referring to something the owner can do to make things happen, rather than waiting for things to happen. I’m a big fan of being proactive and controlling one’s destiny and I’ve found that there are often unexpected consequences (good ones) to our actions. A jump-start might involve a financial investment, but it should have a very quick return.

I’ve identified some major management decisions that can jump-start an underperforming practice and I’ll put them together in a series of tips over the next several weeks. I hope you will find these management concepts a refreshing departure from the conventional practice building ideas. They are aggressive.

Jump-start #1: Hire one new staff member.

That’s right; consider hiring a new, additional, full-time employee. Here is where some of my colleagues may be questioning my sanity. Why on earth would a struggling practice hire an additional person? Many ODs won’t hire an additional staff member even when times are good! My reasoning is sound; stay with me.

The entire essence of this jump-start strategy is to do something before it is clearly necessary and in doing so, the practice begins to behave as if it were more successful!

Many good things happen when you simply hire a new staff member, but most of us only see the payroll cost and the management hassle. There are many not-so-visible benefits: The cumulative effect of all of the above is a better practice, due to better staff attitudes and better service. Patients are more enthusiastic and they refer more friends and relatives – immediately. They also buy more and they return more often. The referrals and repeat business drives greater productivity.

It doesn’t really matter what job title you hire for. It could be a receptionist, an optician or an optometric technician. You probably know what skills your practice needs most.

Can you afford it?

The cost of a new employee is the ultimate time payment plan: a staff member is a valuable asset to any business, but you get to pay for this asset over time – paycheck by paycheck. Really, a single paycheck is not going to break many practices – nor will six or seven paychecks. In taking my practice from a single part-timer to a staff of 26, I’ve never had a new employee not increase productivity more than the cost of his or her salary.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management