O.D. to O.D.

Can you afford a two-week vacation?

o.d. to o.d.

Can You Afford to Take a Two-Week Vacation?

Take a step back and see whether your practice is working for you — or whether you are working for your practice.

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

I am writing this after just returning home from the American Optometric Association (AOA) meeting in Chicago. I was there for four days, in and out of meetings, and what I noticed as I went through the corridors from meeting to meeting was that not many people looked all that happy to be there.

The AOA is supposed to be “Optometry's Meeting,” so, where are all the optometrists? I know that much has changed through the years regarding professional associations and societies. One change is that people, in general (not just optometrists), don't tend to be the joiners they once were. They receive their professional and leisure interaction more spontaneously, and they're not so impressed by being or becoming a member. In general, I think people are focusing more time on their families and friends rather than organizations. So, where are all the optometrists? Maybe they're on vacation.

Two-week envy

It's that time of year when we may envy the corporate types, as we hear about their two-week summer vacation plans. For O.D.s, the question comes down to this: Can you afford to take two weeks away from your practice and have it run as smoothly as it does when you're there?

If you can, that's great. You've found a way to systemize your practice and put other doctors and staff you can trust in charge of running things and getting the job done.

If you can't, or if you're in a growth stage in which you don't see how it's possible, I suggest you step back and assess whether you're working for your practice — or your practice is working you.

Define success

Many optometrists might define a successful practice in terms of the dollars. My idea of success, after focusing on training and delegation, is a practice that works without me. After all, if your practice won't work without you, all you've created is a high-paying job for yourself. And unless you really like to merely work at your job, instead of finding ways to create a steady stream of income from your practice, you'll find it very difficult to ever leave your practice for any length of time. By the way, this is a sure recipe for “burnout.”

Change your mind-set

Start looking now for a person qualified to run your practice based on the systems and processes you've developed and put in place. Remember: The goal is to have systems run the practice and people run the systems. Change your mind-set from one of ownership to delegation. In my experience, once a system and trained staff are in place, you'll be amazed at how many people have a talent for running your practice.

Summer is a great time for all of us to reassess and reflect on where our practice is and where it's going. At the same time, think about ways to create systems in your practice so that when you take your next vacation, you will really enjoy yourself and perhaps return to a practice as good, if not better, than the one you left. OM