Article Date: 1/1/2005

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Resolution Reality
Everyone's had a practice goal in mind, but here's a way to achieve it.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

What were your resolutions last year? Lose a few pounds and gain a few patients? Did you succeed at either?

We all know how tough it is to shed those pounds and to live up to that particular and popular resolution. But what about your business -- did you grow it since last year? If so, great! If not, why? (And, more importantly, as we start 2005, what are you going to do about it this year?)

Successful mindsets

As with losing weight, those most likely to succeed are those who have a firm plan of action. Sure, many issues relate to why people trying to lose weight often fail, but one sure way you're guaranteed to fail is to not have a firm and reasonable plan. Stating, "This year I want to lose weight" will fail more often than, "This year I will lose four pounds each month. First I'll . . . ."

Similarly, saying, "This year I want to make more money" will probably fail. Instead, saying "This year I want to take home 11% more than last year. First I'll . . ." has a greater chance at success.

Learning from last year

So this year, take a different plan of attack. Start by reflecting on last year. Look at key metrics from last year. (Not just your overall gross practice income [because again, that's like saying, "I want to lose weight"], but check other important specific profitable measures that have an effect on income such as percentage of income from various categories [e.g., medical eye care, specialty contact lenses, premium eyeglass lenses, special diagnostic testing].) Then, for each category, see what percentage they contributed to last year's gross.

From here, see how each category has been growing (or shrinking) in previous years. This becomes your baseline for growth. For example, if specialty contact lens fits have grown about 4% each year for the last three years, then if you institute nothing new, it's reasonable to assume that you'll have about the same growth this year. Now you're ready to set the bar a bit higher. Be reasonable, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself and stretch a bit. Do this and you're ready for the next step, which is typically the easiest: determining exactly how you'll meet your goals.

Get a plan together

Using our example above, let's say we set a goal of an 8% increase from 2004. From here, do what we recommend to our clients: Take out your calendar and start planning. Be creative and involve your staff. The task at hand is to meet the stated goal and to do it with a pre-determined budget, which of course, you should also plan the same way as you plan your goals.

For example, you could say at a staff meeting, "We'd like to increase our specialty contact lens fits by 8% and we have 12 months and $3,000 to do it. Give me some ideas. At this point, all ideas are welcome and anything counts!"

Take the best ideas and determine what each will cost. Then record them on your calendar. As you go through each of your goals and assign it to your calendar, you'll start to see a marketing-and-business-building calendar materialize before your eyes.

Go for the goal

If you spend time up front going through the above steps with each goal, then it's likely that you'll achieve nearly all of your goals. As with a diet, reward yourself (and your staff) when you hit certain predetermined metrics. But build some flexibility into your plan in case you attain the goals more easily than you expected or other non-planned circumstances prevent you from achieving them.

Set your goals, have fun planning for them, execute and succeed. This is a simple formula that works for most waistlines and most optometric offices.


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2005