Article Date: 4/1/2006

business advisor
Find Inspiration On The Road...
There are some common courtesies to bear in mind when visiting colleagues.

When I was a young up and comer, I always made it a point to seek out well-known O.D.s to visit when I traveled to meetings, or even on family vacations. I very much enjoyed seeing the offices of successful optometrists around the country.

What I learned from these visits was central to my own success, as it was both inspirational and educational to meet highly accomplished O.D.s in person. And while I strongly recommend this approach if you are looking for new ideas, there are some important "do's and don'ts" to follow when you take a peek into another O.D.s practice.

Be a gracious guest

Don't just show-up. Make an appointment. It's perfectly o.k. to call a colleague and say something like, "I'm Dr. Jones from Jasper, I'm going to be in your area next month and would like to stop by and visit your practice." A few might say no, but most docs will be flattered by the request.

Don't be intrusive. As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching." Be conscious not to interrupt patient flow or disturb staff members trying to do their jobs.

Don't be too nosy. It's fine to inquire, "Why do you take acuities before the case history?" or, "How do you like that brand of retinal camera?" but questions about finances are generally off limits. If your host volunteers this kind of information, that's fine. It is, however, a little crude to outright ask someone you don't know well, "How much do you gross?" or, "What do you pay your associate?"

Don't try to one up your host. Once you've visited a few offices, you will have seen some impressive operations. The last thing a guest should do is deflate a proud practice owner by telling him, "Your frame display is nice, but Dr. Smith in Seattle has one twice as big."

Don't point out problems. Again, if your host asks for input, it's a different story. But as a rule, uninvited comments such as, "You need a slit lamp in that exam room," or, "You should never let your receptionist quote disposable lens fees on the phone," are completely inappropriate.

Take home lessons

Do try to find at least one pearl you can take home and emulate. That is, after all, why you are there. Ask your host what he thinks makes his practice special. Is it a beautiful, high-tech office? Has the practice integrated a new piece of equipment into the exam routine? Do they use a particular method of recall or delegation?

Do follow-up with a thank-you note and an offer to reciprocate if the O.D. is ever in your area.

You can always learn from others

The theme of this column is based on a quote that has helped guide my life: "Except for the books you read, the places you visit and the people you meet, you will be the same person five years from now that you are today." It's something I really believe and for that reason, I'd like to express my sincere thanks to the many colleagues who have mentored me over the years, especially Dr. Bob Koetting of St Louis. You will never know how much your willingness to share helped me to grow as an optometrist.


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2006