Article Date: 2/1/2012

You Can't Afford Not to Do It
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You Can't Afford Not to Do It

Consider these six tested and proven investments for your practice.

Gary Gerber, O.D.

“Great idea, Gary, but I can't afford to do that.” I often hear this lament when I consult with doctors. My response: Based on my experience, I can say with a high degree of certitude, “You really can't afford not to do it.” So, with this preamble, I give you my personal list of the top six things you can't afford not to invest in for your practice.

1. A new facility. I can't recall any of our clients moving to a newer, bigger and better location — or building their own building — and regretting doing so. Of course, while they're going through this process, they certainly have sleepless nights and much doubt. But when the construction dust settles, their P&Ls come out stronger than before for their efforts.

2. An upgrade to your current facility. If moving isn't viable for your current situation, then upgrading a tired-looking office is the next best thing. Changing worn carpeting, refinishing scuffed walls and getting rid of outdated fixtures always pay a handsome dividend. Patients immediately notice the change and are more comfortable in the “new” surroundings.

3. Hiring a better staff. Sometimes, it's best to take a global approach and commit to hiring “better” staff people — that is, staff who can buy into your practice's mission and excel in its culture. As with most things, better usually means more expensive. However, when done carefully, systematically and logically, better staff people readily support their increased wages and add to the bottom line. So, your absolute dollars in labor costs will increase, but the percentage of labor spent will not. Even if it does, the slope of the increase in labor compared with profits will be negligible.

4. Better and more consistent staff training. I'm still amazed at how many doctors don't conduct regular effective staff meetings and ongoing training. You take CE to stay up to date, shouldn't your staff?

One argument that often comes up is, “We're so busy, we can't close and give up appointment slots.” If you're also saying, “We're so busy but we're not maximally profitable,” there's a good chance that taking time to catch your breath once a week and focusing on office systems with your staff is a great idea. This is clearly a case of you can't afford not to close for about an hour each week.

If your practice is slow, the same thought still applies: You need to devote time to keeping your staff top notch, no matter what your patient volume.

5. A professional marketing plan. In an era of growing third-party reimbursements, some practices have grown their marketing budgets “fat and happy” since they claim, “Patients will only come to my office if I'm on their plan, so why do any marketing?” Even if that's true, why should they come to your office vs. another that's on the same plan? Well-crafted, professionally produced and consistently executed branding, positioning and messaging addresses this point. Well thought-out marketing efforts are worth the investment.

6. A consultant. While this may be construed as self serving, the facts support that experienced, reliable and trustworthy consulting companies are a great investment for practices that are willing to commit the time and mental energy toward making a consulting relationship profitable. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: February 2012, page(s): 20