Article Date: 1/1/2007

o.d. to o.d.
May You Find Success in the New Year ... Here's How

Successful practices share a common trait that has little
to do with age, ethnicity, gender or mode of practice.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Before charging head first into a new year, many optometrists will look back at 2006. I wonder, what, to their wandering eyes, will appear? I've spoken with many optometrists over the last two months to get a sense of how we are doing both collectively and as individuals. The responses have been as varied as you might expect.

Success stories

In late September, I spoke to a colleague whose office is located in the Southeast. His practice had grown significantly in 2006. It had done well in 2005, and he expected 2007 to be the best year ever for his seven-year-old practice.

Without my asking, he added that the reason for the growth in his practice was a function of planning that he and his staff had originally begun in 2004. It seems that the entire office is focused on how they can improve the performance of the practice.

There are weekly staff meetings where the previous week's production is reported and compared with the goals that they had set. Every six months, the doctor and his staff take a day out of the office so that they can discuss opportunities they have for making additional improvements.

It seems that the primary focus of the doctor and staff is what they can do to enhance the service available to their patients, how they can make the delivery of those services more convenient and then how they will increase their earnings as a result of their efforts. Wait a minute, I thought, an optometrist that actually plans for increased profitability — I haven't seen one of those in awhile.

Starting fresh

In October, I was in the Midwest and after presenting a four-hour lecture, I was resting my feet when a colleague offered to buy me a cool one. I put my "Will Consult For Beer" sign back in my briefcase and the conversation began.

This doctor has been in a very successful practice for nine years but now wanted to start his own practice. It seems the practice had no place for a partner and because of his contract, there was no opportunity to increase his earnings without moving on.

The number one question he had was whether he should he start cold or try to buy an existing practice. Now I started my own practice, but that was a different market than exists today. My advice was to first look for an opportunity to purchase an existing practice at a fair price and capitalize on the existing patient base by providing a broader scope of services at more appropriate reimbursement levels than most existing practitioners currently charge.

Early in November, I enjoyed a conversation with two young optometrists who had graduated in 2005. Both of these doctors were practicing in retail settings but wanted to be in a private practice setting where they could provide more medically-related care. Their husbands had jobs that were not likely to require relocation so they decided to buy an existing practice in the Northwest and job-share.

The success factor

There were many more conversations with colleagues of different ages, ethnicities and gender. Not all of them were doing well. But those who enjoyed success had one thing in common with the three scenarios above: They were planning — planning for their future in optometry. Rather than complaining about what optometry wasn't, they were focused on what optometry could be.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2007