Article Date: 1/1/2002

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Practicing on the Fringes
How highly successful O.D.s approach practice differently than you do.
GARY GERBER, O.D.

You're a solo doctor with three full-time staff members. Your office is 1,000 square feet. You derive 30% of your income from professional fees and 70% from materials. You participate in about five managed care plans and derive about 50% of your gross revenue from these plans. Your practice nets about 30% of gross sales. In 2001 you spent about $5,000 on new technology for your practice. At the end of last year, your gross income was $400,000 and you wondered why you worked so hard but had so little to show for it.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It might, because those statistics represent a typical middle-of-the-bell-curve optometry practice.

ILLUSTRATION BY NANCY HARRISON

Good advice

Milton Hershey's father told him, "Whatever you do, do it in a big way." Hershey's debut into the candy business was a small shop in Philadelphia, which failed after 6 years. After heeding his father's advice and thinking not like a small candy shop, but like a global food manufacturer, his world-famous chocolate empire was born.

My words of advice to you are similar to what Hershey heard from his father: "Whatever you do, do it in a different way."

Don't think like an optometrist

Many U.S. practices are thriving on the positive side of the bell curve. They accept little managed care, have large physical plants, large staffs and principals who work only a few days per week. Yet these practices often net 10 times the national average! How do they work so little and make so much? What do they know that you don't? Nothing.

They graduated from the same schools as you, and they see the same kinds of patients. Their secret is simple and not encased in technological bells and whistles or in ultra-modern furnishings. Their "secret" is that they don't think like middle-of-the-bell-curve O.D.s -- or like optometrists at all. They think on the fringes, they practice on the fringes -- they ARE on the fringes.

Individuality is key

The most successful practices I've consulted for have all had that same element in common -- be it a unique service or product mix, or technology that's not available elsewhere. It's their view of the possibilities of the profession that put them on the positive edge of the financial fringes.

Not afraid to take risks, they do so after calculating what happens if they don't take them. They don't just push the optometric envelope -- they continually burst it open and redefine it for the rest of us. These forward-thinking doctors learn from other businesspeople -- not just from O.D.s.

What you can look forward to

What I hope to do in this column is not only bring you the tips, techniques and strategies that made these doctors successful, but also help you see their vision (no pun intended). There's nothing wrong with being a middle-of-the-bell-curve doctor -- unless that's not where you want to be. Prepare to be challenged about how you think about our profession and to have some of your core business beliefs shaken. That's how we learn -- by testing and challenging the norms instead of blindly accepting them.

Make more money with fewer patients? Work less and make more? Accept fewer managed care plans and net more? Stay tuned -- this and more like it to come!

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE. HIS COMPANY'S MISSION IS TO MAKE OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. YOU CAN LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2002