Article Date: 5/1/2003

business advisor
The Four Keys of "Referability"
Following these principles will have more patients doing business with you.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.

Have you ever wondered how some optometrists can build million-dollar private practices while others struggle for years just to gross the national average of around $400,000? Many elements go into being successful.

Successful starters

Make sure your practice is located in a good economic area. You have to be willing to invest in the proper facilities and equipment. You also have to be reasonably good at managing your staff as your practice grows.

All those things are important, but at the end of the day, private practice optometry is still a personal services business -- one doctor serving one patient at a time. And how you relate to people one on one is probably the single most important thing you do in terms of creating loyal patients and getting their referrals.




1 Show up on time. You can differentiate yourself from other optometrists by working hard to be a doctor who stays on schedule.

2 Do what you say. Teach your staff to under promise and over deliver and do so yourself.

3 Always say "please" and "thank you." People do business at places where they feel wanted and appreciated.

4 Finish what you start. Follow through is the key to providing good service.

Increase your referability

I attend a seminar four times each year presented by Dan Sullivan, the founder and CEO of Strategic Coach, which is a national firm that specializes in providing business and personal development training to entrepreneurs. I've learned many pearls at Coach, but the best are Mr. Sullivan's four simple rules for increasing your referability. Mr. Sullivan didn't develop these pearls for optometry, but they sure do apply. As you look them over, ask yourself which areas you're good at and which you need to work on.

If you asked me which was the most important, I'd say it's the one you don't do well. They're all service related, and in the minds of today's consumers, service starts with the two C's: Courtesy and convenience. The very reason people go to the mall and pay more for glasses is because they think they're getting better service.

It's a matter of convenience

Few patients wake up in the morning looking forward to a visit with their eye doctor. They're not afraid that we're going to do anything painful or unpleasant, but the typical American consumer is busy working and trying to run a household. For 99% of our patients, taking the time to come to our office is an inconvenience and an interruption in their daily schedule.

Think about your own trips to the doctor or dentist. You have to take time off, drive to the office, deal with paperwork hassles at the front desk, wait for the doctor and then hope your checkup doesn't result in bad news. Even when the news is good, you have to pay for the privilege of hearing it.

Remember the rules

Eyecare visits for vision problems are usually discretionary and consumers have many choices in terms of where to purchase their eyewear. If you want to enhance your status as their eye doctor of choice, be the kind of person that people want to do business with by remembering to show up on time, do what you say, say "please" and "thank you" and always finish what you start.

A frequent writer and speaker on practice management issues, Dr. Hayes is the founder and director of Hayes Consulting.  You can reach him at (800) 588-9636 or JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.NET.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2003