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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor January 5, 2005 - Tip #155 
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What are Your Practice Resolutions for the New Year?

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2005. It's hard to believe we're at the start of another new year. With the holidays behind us, it's a great time to reflect on your practice goals and direction. Time is flying by; is your practice on track to be everything you want it to be? Instead of making personal New Year resolutions, why not focus on practice resolutions? Set aside a few hours of uninterrupted solitude, get a pad of paper and a pen and use this tip as a guide to get you started.

Only you know the areas in your practice that need improvement the most. Start by being brutally objective and think about the following major categories of practice management. Begin with a clean slate, be open-minded, think big and think positive. Write down the category heading and just jot down ideas as they pop into your head. Make an outline of priorities and visualize the desired end result. How should your practice look and act? What resources would you need to make things happen? What time frame is needed? What will have the greatest impact? Can you accomplish several things at the same time? How will your staff respond to new challenges?

5 top categories for success

I consider the following 5 topics to be the management issues that need the most attention in optometric practice today. There are others, but these will give the most bang for the buck to improve production, revenue, profitability and efficiency. In the weeks ahead, starting with this issue, I'll present some ideas for each of the following categories.
  1. Practice investment
  2. The year of customer service
  3. Delegation
  4. Fees, collections and managed care
  5. Staff training
This week, I'll cover point number 1.

Practice investment

Spending money on your practice is one of the fastest ways to stimulate growth and profitability. Analyze your capital spending and see if you're putting enough resources back into your practice. You should invest in something every year - but only you can tell how much and how fast. It may make sense to borrow or lease if necessary. Success in business always involves some risk and you must spend money to make money; just do it responsibly and carefully. Speak to a CPA and a banker about your plan. Here are some investment categories to consider:
  • Equipment. New instrumentation improves services, and enhances patient and staff perception of the practice. It can set you apart from the others. Your exam is what you do and advanced instrumentation provides a competitive advantage. It gets people talking. A few of the biggies include a pachymeter, digital retinal camera, digital acuity chart, corneal topographer, nerve fiber analyzer and digital refracting system. What's on your list and in what order? Put a star next to any instrument that will earn additional revenue.
  • People. Most practices I've seen are understaffed. The owner thinks he or she is managing smartly to keep payroll costs down, but the lean approach often stifles growth because customer service suffers and there is no way to increase delegation. Both of those things are hallmarks of successful practices. Many doctors think they will hire more staff when demand increases, but the irony is that hiring more staff increases demand. How? Services improve and people begin to talk about it. The doctor gains the time necessary to be a leader instead of a technician.
  • Information technology. There is a host of practice building opportunities with new software and hardware designed for eye care. From networked PCs in all exam rooms to better practice management systems to patient education videos to virtual optical dispensing to website design and online commerce. Go to a major eye care convention soon and spend hours in the exhibit hall researching what's new in this field. Set up an appointment with a local computer consultant in your office to review the possibilities.
  • Optical displays. The display furniture your frame inventory rests on can have a huge effect on sales. A beautiful dispensary keeps Rxs in your office in the first place and makes patients want to buy. Old and tired displays, tables and chairs are hurting you - even if it's subliminally. Throw the old stuff in the trash and call an optical design specialist. This investment seems hard but it pays for itself.
  • Optical lab. To me, it's all about control. Successful companies control their own destiny by limiting how much they depend on others for key activities. Let's face it, optical dispensing is a big part of our practices (or if it's not - it should be) and optical products have a huge effect on our reputation. This area is too important to trust to an outside lab. Today's lab equipment makes it incredibly easy to make lenses yourself and your lab staff can provide flexibility to cover for other office departments when needed. Side benefits of owning your own lab are speed of Rx delivery and reduced lab bills, but the main thing is control.

Best wishes for continued success,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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