Article Date: 8/1/2007

Learning to Let Go
business advisor

Learning to Let Go

Are you holding on to something that's hurting you?

JERRY HAYES, O.D.

Ages ago, people in Southeast Asia learned they could trap monkeys by placing a hard nut in the bottom of a small jar. They tied the jar to a tree so the monkey couldn't turn it over or run away with it. The jar had an opening just large enough for the monkey to slide its hand in, but once the monkey closed its fist around even one nut, it couldn't get its fist out of the narrow neck of the jar.

The monkey's dilemma

Now imagine this picture: a monkey is sitting there with a fist full of what it thinks is going to be its next meal. But the only way to get its hand out of the jar is to let go those nuts go. This is known as the "monkey's dilemma." What the natives soon realized is that the monkeys would generally holler and scream about their predicament, but the vast majority would stay trapped rather than let loose of what they thought was a sure thing.

Do you need to let go?

Let me be very clear. I am not comparing O.D.s to monkeys, but I do see many practice owners who get caught-up in some nutty situations. And just like the monkeys, optometrists sometimes have to let-go of certain things to free themselves up for greater success. Here are three areas I want you to look at in your practice.

Bad managed-care plans. If a large percentage of your revenues come from managed-care plans, you no doubt have some bad plans that either pay poorly or are very difficult with which to work. My advice is to sit down with your staff once or twice a year to evaluate all your plans and steadily prune the worst ones. The ultimate goal, over time, is for your practice to only work with the very few plans that you actually like and are good for your practice.

Bad patients. How do you know when you have a really bad patient? When you come home to your significant other and say, "Guess who came in today?" And, he or she guesses right.

You can't expect every patient who walks in to be a joy to work with, but when a patient starts to sap the energy and productivity out of you and your staff, it's well past time to let them go somewhere else for eye care.

Bad staff. Speaking of things that sap energy and productivity out of your practice, nothing will do that faster than a bad apple on your staff. Bad employees are doubly disruptive because not only do they under perform, they divert your attention from helping your good staff become better.

You don't need me to tell you when you've got a bad staff member. Put that person on notice, and if he doesn't quickly come up to your practice's standards, cut him loose.

Why is it so hard?

Letting go is difficult because it requires change and undertaking something new. If you think it might be time to change something or someone, in your practice, just ask yourself one simple question: Would you enter into that relationship again if you had the chance to do it over? If the answer is clearly no, then you have to let go. It may be the only way to avoid becoming trapped. OM


THE FOUNDER OF THE HAYES CENTER FOR PRACTICE EXCELLENCE AT SOUTHERN COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY IN MEMPHIS, DR. HAYES IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO OM. E-MAIL HIM AT JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.COM.



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2007