Article Date: 6/1/2009

When Life Looks Like Easy Street, There is Danger …
o.d. to o.d.

When Life Looks Like Easy Street, There is Danger …

Whether in business or in driving, cruise control is an accessory best used when there are no obstacles to face.

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

Your patients are satisfied, your employees are happy. You're enjoying some success; the economy doesn't seem to as bad for practice as you thought. It's time to relax, right? Wrong. There is another danger stalking your practice, lurking within — complacency.

Complacency creeps in when you start to feel like everything in your practice is good enough as opposed to good. You are no longer fighting for the survival of your practice so you drop your guard, and the processes you've put into place for managing the different aspects of your practice are humming along nicely. It's at this point many practitioners are tempted to take their hands off the wheel and opt for cruise control, not to take direct control again until a crisis presents itself.

Just cruising along?

But if you are this kind of businessperson, where is your practice heading? Chances are, it's not to a higher level of success. I mentioned cruise control, so I'll stay with the driving analogy. Cruise control in automobile's great accessory. Some never use it, and there are those who use it often. However, no one uses cruise control without constantly monitoring traffic and road conditions, at least not without a bad result. If you think about an inexperienced driver (if you've ever taught a child to drive you know exactly what I'm talking about), you'll notice they have a tendency to steer as though the car will go straight down the road without any corrections.

Consequently, the novice tends to not make any corrections until the last minute, and when he does, it's typically exaggerated and creates the need for yet another exaggerated correction to counteract the first. This is not a comfortable ride, as you're always headed for one ditch or another. As a more seasoned driver with a lot of experience, you learn that small, almost unperceivable adjustments with the steering wheel all along result in the safest, smoothest and most direct route from point A to point B.

Staying out of ditches

If you were able to watch a novice driver who has limited experience from above, you'd see their course of travel would be in the general direction of point B but likely look as though they are going from "almost in the ditch" to the left to "almost in the ditch" to the right over the entire way. The appearance of the more experienced driver from above is centered in their lane, and from above there's almost no perception of movement to the left and right but rather a steady course from point A to point B.

In any practice, just as in driving, last minute, overly exaggerated changes in an effort to narrowly avoid disaster are never safe and are also not a comfortable ride for you and those with you.

Moving up the ladder of success takes purposeful action in small amounts all along to reach your ultimate goals. This is not done just at the start-up of your practice but throughout its life. You never get to spike the ball and do a touchdown dance in practice.

When you are complacent, you not only fail to achieve new goals but also fail to see shifts in our industry. So, focus on fixing the small problems all along, making small corrections to stay on course that no one will even notice, rather than merely trying to "keep in between the ditches." OM



Optometric Management, Issue: June 2009