Article Date: 12/1/2008

Are You Waiting For The Fed's Bailout Plan to Help You?
o.d. to o.d.

Are You Waiting For The Fed's Bailout Plan to Help You?

Rather than watch the federal government, prices and interests rates, you should watch how you manage your practice.

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

The dust is beginning to settle after the presidential election; a solution to the housing crisis remains to be seen; no one knows how receivers of the $700 billion bailout will spend it (including the feds); the stock market continues to react negatively to absolutely everything; and President-elect Obama is beginning to get that "deer in the headlights look." Don't even get me started on the potential to attempt bailing the auto industry out of the hole it dug itself into, or the value of anyone's retirement portfolio.

Where's the relief package for optometry? I'm sure I've heard more than a few of you say, "You're kidding, right?" After all, you have a career, earn an income, provide for you and your family as well as provide jobs in your community. So where's your stimulus package? It's coming, probably in the form of a reimbursement reduction from Medicare. It will no doubt stimulate you to work harder and longer than you have in the past in order to make the same amount of money you've been making so you can pay higher taxes, and on it goes.

Any good news?

Isn't it funny that with only two paragraphs I can depress you and make you think of at least another four or five things that aren't fair and wish were different? The only good thing I can tell you is: We've been here before.

In the late ’70s during the Carter administration, interest on my equipment notes, along with everyone else's, went as high as 24% per annum. We saw gasoline shortages, power outages, inflation, and if you allow for the decreased value of the dollar from the early ’70s to 2008, the price increases of the ’70s were relatively greater … plus all the cars were huge and consumed more gas than their counterparts today.

In the ’80s, the oil business in the United States tanked. The ripple effect caused many to leave the industry; businesses in the southwest went under; and office buildings and spec houses stood vacant and uncompleted. Still more depression, more stuff that's unfair, where's the good news?

Where practices grow

Believe it or not, in the economic crises of the ’70s and ’80s, as well as our current quagmire, some optometric practices are growing rather than holding their own or shrinking away. What's their secret? They're continuing to do the things that create value for their patients and recommending the best level of care rather than running their practice as though the downturn in the economy started in — and is limited to — their practice. They're not using the state of the economy as a crutch or an excuse to reduce their efforts, lower their standards, goals or expectations.

Will practices struggle in spite of their best efforts? Certainly. Will the current state of the economy negatively affect every practice in some way? Absolutely. But downturn in the economy typically doesn't create weaknesses and shortfalls in an organization. Rather it manifests existing weaknesses and shortfalls in the management of practice cash-flow and resource management.

Pushing through this economic downturn will be difficult, but pushing through it is better than being dragged through it and feeling as though you're a victim. OM



Optometric Management, Issue: December 2008