Article Date: 12/1/2002

fix this practice
Boost Your Profits

Are you stuck in a rut? Compliment your clinical skills with business savvy and watch your practice flourish.
Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q Dr. Kattouf, I'm so frustrated and negative about optometry. I have great clinical skills and have completed a residency, yet the practice I started is doing poorly. Any suggestions or comments?

Dr. N.L. Elias, via e-mail

A: It's not uncommon for new doctors to get caught up in their own credentials or skills. Like it or not, clinical skills play only a small part in the success of a practice. In today's market, you must also exhibit sales ability and business acumen. Here are my suggestions and how they applied in a similar case that I consulted.

ILLUSTRATION BY BOB KAYGANICH

Developing your business skills

It's critical that you develop the ability to convince or sell a patient on your approach to solving his visual or medical condition. You have an obligation to develop such skills, which includes strong intraoffice communication between you and your staff.

Not only do you have to modify your behavior, but you must also teach similar techniques to ancillary personnel. If you and your staff fail to sell a patient on the proper method of care, then you're placing that patient in jeopardy.

As a business person, you must develop policies that are fair and equitable to your patients, your staff and yourself. Once you've established these policies, everyone must adhere to them.

Doctors are notorious for breaking their own policies, but this behavior will only lead to lowered staff morale. Take, for example, Dr. List's dilemma.

Assessing Dr. List's scenario

Dr. List called my company with complaints about her four-year-old practice. She'd completed a residency and had participated in research studies. Needless to say, her clinical skills were impeccable.

However, her gross income was flat and her net was low. Cash flow was a never-ending problem. The stress of meeting payroll and paying laboratories on time was wearing on Dr. List and her financial stress gave her a negative attitude toward optometry.

Uncovering the problems

In analyzing Dr. List's practice, I uncovered a lack of sales and business skills. In addition, internal marketing was non-existent. My company developed proper inter-office communication skills and policies for staff and patients. I taught Dr. List and her staff how to sell patients and we added one more optometric specialty and explained to her how to market it.

I encouraged Dr. List to push out and make things happen. She joined the speaker bureau for psychologists, teachers, nurses and P.T.A.s and we made speaking engagements with all service organizations in the community. I also had Dr. List develop screening programs with all of the daycare centers in the area.

Before the consulting, Dr. List grossed $175,000 and netted $50,000. One year after the consulting, her gross was $250,000 and her net was $95,000. Two years out and she was grossing $340,000 and netting $132,000.

Hone your business skills

The lesson here is simple: Clinical skills are only a part of the equation for financial success. If you get caught up in the problems that face our great profession, you'll never see your way to financial security. We now have more opportunities available to us than ever before.

DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2002