I tried to get you started last week by jumping right into a marketing project and I'll present more in the weeks ahead. Building a practice with plenty of patient demand is a process that requires time and effort, but you will be rewarded with greatly increased profitability and the potential to enjoy both your personal and professional life more. There are many facets to practice building, so let's continue to tackle one per week. Make time in your schedule to work on these projects. Visualize the great things you could do if you had plenty of patients wanting your services!
Is your community aware of your practice?
Many practices are nearly invisible to the public. I'm not really talking about how many people see your office location (although that certainly helps), but rather how many people know you, think of you and talk about you. While there are many ways to promote your practice, this article will focus on community service. Spend a little time out of your office doing good things for others and key people in your local area will notice. Some of these people will become your patients and others will just talk about you in a positive way, but this kind of exposure is very good. Pay it forward. Give away your time and skill and the public will pay you back.
The biggest impact will be found if the doctor and/or practice owner performs the community service, but really any representative of the practice can make a difference, including opticians and office managers.
Start by making a list of community organizations and projects that exist and then select the ones that you would like to pursue. You can ask key leaders in your community, check your local library, visit your town website or just ask your friends and staff members for ideas. Here are some possibilities to look for:
Service clubs. Examples include Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees and many more. These often meet once per week at breakfast or lunch. Ask a current member if you can come as a guest. Learn about the goals, rules and local projects. If you join and become active, you'll gain many other business leaders as patients and that word of mouth becomes very valuable.
Church. If you do more than just attend services but also volunteer for committees, projects or choir, you'll gain the trust and admiration of many people.
Business clubs like the Chamber of Commerce offer many opportunities for networking with other professionals and business people. Join the group, pay the dues and attend the functions.
Charities from Salvation Army to Red Cross to United Way and others need volunteers. How can you help?
Hobby-based clubs. Pursue your interest by joining a local club for gardening, books, photography, or whatever it may be.
Take a class – or give a class. Does your city parks department or community college offer adult education classes?
If you are good in sports there are many opportunities to volunteer as a coach or umpire for little league baseball, Pop Warner football, soccer, and school sports programs. Even if you can't play sports, how about joining the high school booster club?
Other local projects
In addition to membership in community organizations, see if there are opportunities to participate in the following projects that apply your knowledge of eye care. Ask around and if you can't find some of these events, maybe you can start one.
Vision screenings. Usually these are organized by the state or local optometric society, but school systems may do their own and may need help. Senior citizen groups may also host vision screenings.
Health fairs. These may be offered at local shopping malls, hospital systems, large physician groups and other venues. They may be looking for eye care information to share with the public or you could offer to provide free eye screenings. Take your autorefractor or non-contact tonometer. Develop a simple disclaimer that the test is not a substitute for a professional eye exam.
Career days. Most high schools or middle schools host an event that invites local professionals to speak to students about career choices.
Science projects. Can you be a judge or assist with projects about the eye or optics? Can you do a presentation about eye care to a school class, from kindergarten to high school senior?
Local information talks. Many local clubs are looking for programs at no charge. PTAs want to learn about vision and learning and senior citizens want to understand macular degeneration.
Radio, cable TV and newspaper interviews. These may be harder to land, but it doesn't hurt to let the editors and programmers know that you are available.
The right motivation
If you pursue these organizations and projects, do it with the attitude of providing a service without personal financial gain. Don't think about your own business development and it will actually just follow naturally. Placing your own needs first is a sure way to make the effort backfire.
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.