They say time is money and I agree, but time is easier to control. If you have enough time, you can create money. For many people, free time is more important than money. So let’s consider some ways to create more time in your work schedule and ultimately give you more time for your personal life as well.
More time and more money are very important goals and you can achieve them, but you must be willing to change the way you do some things at work and in life. Take control of your time.
First step: delegation
The biggest factor that helped me achieve success in private practice and create more free time is delegation. Many ODs get stuck in a rut of very low delegation, but you have to take control and push forward with a plan. This single step can make a huge impact on your life. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I soon realized that if I assigned tasks to my employees, they would not get done exactly the way I would do them. But it was worth giving a little on that point because so much more production occurred! And so much of it occurred without me! I was still able to control the quality of the work by training my staff how to do each task and then supervising them and developing reporting systems so I knew the procedures were getting done.
Don’t just think of delegating optical dispensing and pretesting (although if you do that fully you will have taken a major step in the right direction), but also delegate administrative tasks. If you just started your practice or if it is very small, you will have to increase your delegation gradually, but keep working on that goal. Keep pushing. Delegate more than you have to. Delegate even if you could do it yourself because the goal is to create free time. You will use that free time to a business advantage so don’t think of it as a luxury you can’t afford.
Second step: more staff
In order to delegate more, you must have people to delegate to. If your current staff is stretched thin, you can’t give them more tasks. My advice: hire another employee. Make it a full-timer. Rearrange duties with your existing staff to give them tasks they are good at. Don’t be in a position where if somebody quits you will be in a tough spot (and someone will quit). Try to be slightly overstaffed!
Don’t worry about the increase in payroll cost (at least not too much). The good news is that you get to pay for staff over time. You may hire a new employee with an annual salary of $40,000, but you get to pay for that asset in smaller amounts on paydays.
Third step: more efficiency
Find ways to be more efficient at everything you do in your office. That might be doing eye exams, ordering eyeglasses, or paying bills. If you do not see a large number of patients, see them in fewer days per week. Do routine exams quickly and let your staff handle much of it. See if you can create two full days per week when you don’t see any patients at all, but do not reduce your revenue production. Come into the office on these free days and work all day on new ideas.
Fourth step: create money
Finally, let’s use the new time you just created to produce more revenue. Money should still be a big goal for you, because if you had enough money, you could work even less. How do you create money? Make your practice busier is a good way to start. If you just had some free time, you could think of new ways to grow. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Work on marketing projects.
Find ways to get more referrals from other health care professionals. Start by visiting them.
Start a safety eyeglass program for local industry.
Start your own vision plan for local business that don’t offer one.
Go to the local nursing homes and do eye exams.
Support your community through civic organizations.
Open a branch office far away from your main office.
Buy a practice in another town from an OD who is retiring.
Merge your practice with another doctor who has a philosophy like yours.
Find ways to cut your lab bills and other expenses in a major way.
Pursue an optometric specialty, like myopia control or sports vision.
There really are unlimited concepts you can pursue if you just had the time.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.