Lessons From the “Sort of Newbie”
How to plot your course and take control of your practice
LEAH COLBY, O.D.
It’s hard to believe that we were crazy enough to open the doors of our private practice a little more than 10 years ago. We opened with one doctor and two staff, and today we are blessed to have revolving doors for three doctors and more than 20 support staff in two locations. This month, I share the three most profound lessons I’ve learned since opening my practice.
LESSON #1: Get direction. In the early days when we listened to crickets while waiting for patients to discover us, I had time to focus on the direction my practice was taking and the details of our patient experience. As our business grew faster than we expected, I lost sight of where we were heading. I likened those years to being a water-skier behind a boat with no driver. I had no idea where we were going, I was working a bazillion hours a week, and I had no balance.
I am admittedly a Type A person with a capital A, and the A is cubed — I’m that bad. I was prone to micro-managing every detail of our business, which was leading me down the path of burn out. About that time, a wise friend shared the book The E-Myth Physician: Why Most Medical Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It (HarperBusiness, 2004). It was a good reminder of why I went to school … and it wasn’t to become a human resources administrator, payroll specialist, patient coordinator, technician or optician. I needed systems and processes in place that everyone could follow, so I wasn’t the only one who knew what I wanted. I implemented systems and processes, hired good people to learn them and then got out of their way and let them do their job, so I could focus on being a doctor.
We hired good people and then got out of their way.
LESSON #2: Join a practice management group, or create your own. It is so critical to meet with other doctors and learn information about how they do what they do, how they’ve grown their practice and more importantly, learn from their mistakes. I also learned a lot about managing my finances, how to look at our numbers and use them to guide and direct our practice growth.
Most importantly, I learned the importance of taking the time to look at your practice from the outside in — not be a physical part of its being.
LESSON #3: Spend time to develop a mission statement, and set goals for your practice and build everything around them. Do NOT compromise. We chose to build our practice on high quality products with over-the-top customer service. One of my hardest lessons was learning that everyone’s definition of a “people person who delivers great customer service” differs incredibly, and we spent too much time and energy on people who didn’t fit our mission or meet our standards of customer service. If an employee is not a good fit, let him/her go without delay. For the sake of your business and growth, do it.
Having a mission statement also allows you to make better decisions in marketing. I recently had a discussion about whether we should have coupons for our optical. It just doesn’t align with our business model, so our decision was easy.
Whatever mode of eye care you practice, run your business, and don’t let it run you. Step back every once in a while, and make sure you don’t lose focus of where you want to be. Make sure you are in the driver’s seat! OM
DR. COLBY OPERATES EYEWEST VISION CLINIC IN ROGERS AND ST. MICHAEL, MINN. SHE WAS NAMED THE “YOUNG OPTOMETRIST OF THE YEAR” BY THE MINNESOTA OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION. TO COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE, E-MAIL OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.
Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: May 2013, page(s): 48