Article Date: 5/1/2005

o.d. to o.d.
Should You Concentrate on Strengths or Weaknesses?
How you spend your time and where you focus your efforts can tell you a lot about the health of your practice.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Could you imagine a world where optometrists focused on their strengths more than on their weaknesses? How about an optometrist who improves the performance of her practice by focusing on the strengths of individuals or on the staff as a whole?

It sounds odd, doesn't it? Perhaps because most practice management programs tend to concentrate on weaknesses, not on strengths. After reading a newly published book on leadership, my attention turned to an assessment of our strengths and weaknesses -- both as individuals and as a profession.

The two paths

Certainly, we all recognize that there are basically two steps to improving performance. First, we must recognize our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Second, we must enhance our strengths while reducing our weaknesses.

The interesting thing is that, as in the case of the practice management program, we often spend most of our time and effort reducing our weaknesses. Maybe it's human nature, maybe it's the way we're raised or even the way we're educated, but the fact remains: We channel the bulk of our efforts on trying to improve in the areas that challenge us most.

We also use this approach with others. For example, how often do well-meaning parents point out their children's faults more than they acknowledge, praise and encourage their children's strengths?

Now about our strength

Regarding the focus on weakness, let's talk about optometry. Perhaps the single most important strength that optometrists have, in all 50 states, is the privilege to provide medically related primary eye care. This provision of eye care is a strength that involves the sale of our individual intellectual property, the branding of each of us as a source of patient care not shopped on "800" numbers or in discount stores.

Likewise, practice profitability as a function of material sales could be the greatest weakness of the individual optometric practice. This weakness involves selling items not perceived as unique in quality, price or performance by those who consume them. They offer your practice no distinction.

So why do we get caught up in this weakness? Many will argue that we focus on material sales because that's where the profits lie. Others will offer that it's where the profit used to be. Perhaps not all, but most optometrists will acknowledge that for there to be a future for optometry, things must change.

The change I would propose is that we shift away from our weakness and instead leverage our strengths.

Where are you headed?

So where are we spending our time now? How do we change? How do we monitor change? Here's how you can monitor whether you are spending more time on your strengths or weaknesses. At the end of the day, simply count. Have you written more prescriptions for allergy medications, glaucoma, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical agents, or have you written more prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses?

The totals will tell the story of where you are. Your change in totals will tell you where you're going.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2005