Article Date: 8/1/2005

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Take Time Off to Profit The Practice
Business experts are at your disposal. In fact, they're in your exam chair!
GARY GERBER, O.D.

If you've been practicing in the same location for more than a few years, you've probably already experienced "office automobile auto-pilot" syndrome. You get in your car, you don't really think about where you're going — and somehow, you always wind up at your office. Even on your days off, you find yourself driving to the office. Here's a way to jumpstart your practice-building, creativity juices and gather lots of great ideas. Tomorrow, don't drive to your office. Take a day off and drive somewhere else.


ILLUSTRATION BY SIMON SHAW

We've all had patients who share stories about their interesting — or sometimes not so interesting — occupations. And while one of the parts we play is doctor, we are also part educator. Our patients can educate us as well, and they can do it while they are at work. We can learn a lot from our non-optometrist patients about how to run our practices.

Hospitality counts

If you have patients who are in the restaurant or hotel industry, they can offer a wealth of valuable ideas. Take note of how phones calls are answered and handled, how guests are greeted, treated and followed-up on. You can also learn a lot about inventory management. Better restaurants only use fresh ingredients. Their margins can be destroyed if they don't manage their inventories carefully. Eyeglasses don't go stale, but frames go in an out of fashion very quickly.

Also be alert to the systems that drive these businesses. How does the housekeeping service know to make up every room, exactly the same way, every time? Are you frustrated when your contact lens training area isn't fully stocked with the right solutions? Ask the hotel staff how they know exactly where to put the shampoo, soap, etc. Watch, listen and learn.

Retail keeps it real

Retailers can fill our idea reservoir with selling techniques and meticulous inventory control. Any successful retail enterprise knows: how much of an item to stock; how to analyze sales trends, locate and display merchandise; how often to change displays and how to ensure someone oversees all these tasks. If your opticians don't consistently talk to patients about prescription sunglasses, ask how retail cashiers are trained to ask every customer, "Would you like sign up for our mailing list, apply for our credit card, etc.?" Take advantage of this exercise. You're getting a "back-stage" pass to observe what you'll never see, or learn, as a shopper.

Company store

You might not immediately see the parallel between your medical eye care practice and a manufacturing plant. But consider: You both have employees and challenges managing them. How do other industries ensure compliance with policies and procedures? Do their employees get paid for the July 4th holiday if it falls on a Sunday? Do employees get paid for snow days? In your practice, you usually figure it out as you go along. What does the factory down the street do?

Your patients in other businesses might not have all the answers, but spending some time observing them can show you a side of business management you might not have considered. Make it a point to visit three or four different businesses every year. And don't forget, your patient will probably introduce you to coworkers, so bring along plenty of business cards! 

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2005