Article Date: 3/1/2008

Do You Have to be a True Entrepreneur to Succeed?
o.d. to o.d.

Do You Have to be a True Entrepreneur to Succeed?

In order for you to manage a successful practice, you must balance three very different roles.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

When I think about the roles we, as well as any other small-business owners play, three come to mind: the entrepreneur, the technician and the manager. Success in the business of optometry requires that we balance all three roles and give each of them the appropriate amount of attention. This is to ensure growth, stability and fulfillment, or self-satisfaction. Therefore, it's most critical you recognize and prioritize these roles.

The entrepreneur label

First, I want to make a few comments about entrepreneurs. In my opinion, the term entrepreneur is often used in many confusing and misleading ways. In many cases, the term "entrepreneur" describes anyone who owns his own business, which is misleading. Look around at the next state, regional or national meeting you attend. How many practice-owning optometrists would you consider entrepreneurial? In fact, I'll go so far as to say very few true entrepreneurs exist. More often than not, many business owners have the occasional entrepreneurial seizure or flash of entrepreneurial inspiration, which is OK. The problem is when young graduates or practitioners become confused by the terminology and think they must possess the attributes of a true entrepreneur to even consider owning their own practice. This misuse of the term acts as a deterrent for those considering private practice.

I consider entrepreneurs as innovative, creative, willing to accept some financial risk, problem solvers and strategic planners. They accept responsibility and have a vision of what they can accomplish. Many individuals who possess a few — but not all — of these attributes own successful practices, though they've never thought of themselves as an entrepreneur.

Our educators taught us that the best technicians would be the most successful.

Dial spinners and knob twisters

The technical role is perhaps the one that we collectively view the same. I believe this is largely a result of our training. Our optometry schools largely focused our education on how to employ technology in gathering clinical data. Our professors trained us to spin the dials and twist the knobs. Not only that, these educators led us to believe that those who could dial spinners and twist knobs the best would be the more successful practitioners. While most optometrists have recognized that this lesson is inaccurate, many have still not seen the light.

O.D. as manager

The management skills we need to be successful in practice differ from entrepreneurial attributes in that management technique and skills aren't innate or part of our genetic code. Instead, we learn them. Once learned, we can use these management skills to enhance the success of our practice. Therefore, in thinking about how to rank the three roles (entrepreneur, technician and manager) in order of importance, the role of entrepreneur appears to have the least to do with the overall success of a practice.

In addition, technical skill (not that this can be lacking) is the next least likely to determine your practice's success, as you must first have management skills to successfully use technology.

The bottom line: You can learn everything you need to be successful in practice, but then you must have the managerial skills to successfully implement what you've learned. OM



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2008