Challenge, I feel, is all we’ve been facing over the last many months. Challenges on a societal level most of us have probably never imagined, but also compounding in various other manners as well. The way in which we’ve reacted as a collective, as businesses, and from a personal perspective have all been put to the test. We cannot control these challenges. But, as I say to my staff, we can control the way in which we respond.
In part, this is a mindset, in my opinion. Having a growth mindset will likely better prepare you to face and react to challenges. Stagnation will make this more difficult. You may think you’re flexible, but I find it can be easy to slip into a feeling of comfort and familiarity with the way you do things, especially as it comes to our practices. In fact, it can be reassuring to have that stability. But it could be harmful in the long run. In light of the many challenges we’ve encountered as of late, here exist a few observations and actions worth considering:
Same as it’s always been. If you’ve been running your exams and your business in pretty much the same way for at least several years, you may want to step back and examine some key areas. Can you, or another person/employee, challenge and question how and why you do things the way you do?
For instance, is all the paperwork you have patients fill out prior to their appointment necessary? (I think the answer is no on that based on what we have found absolutely necessary post-COVID). Do you need to autorefract established patients with no reported vision changes? Is the timing of your payroll ideal? Should you change your business entity structure for tax purposes? What pattern do you have for examining financials? Are you really seeing what’s going on in your business? Is how you buy frames and manage optical efficient, and most important, as profitable as it could be? You get the idea. If you are not the person to question, find someone who will.
Have a plan. Do a large percentage of your patients work at a local business that carries a specific insurance? What would you do if that company changed to a plan you did not currently take, and found it would be less profitable to do so? As many in our profession do, we allow others to dictate what we are getting reimbursed, and in what manner. Some of this is just being a part of the insurance reimbursement model. But you do have a choice here.
Have a plan and think for yourself. What would happen if you had to cut off a third or more of your revenues due to someone else (an outside challenge) making that determination? I’m a fairly optimistic person, but try to be a realist when it comes to my business. I have contingencies. I’m constantly striving to add or improve my out-of-pocket services so reimbursements don’t drive my entire bottom line. I have an in-house plan that is an attractive alternative to many “standard” plans out there. I offer many specialty services that are difficult to find elsewhere. My practice has unique value propositions. As I’ve focused on creating an excellent patient experience, my patients don’t want to go elsewhere. And if they do, I want to ensure they know they have an option to return to my practice.
Emotional decision-making. We would all like to think we are logical, non-emotional decision-makers. In fact, the research shows that that is mostly not the case. We’ve oftentimes made up our minds about buying that piece of equipment, or adding that new specialty, and examine/research the details to justify the decision that’s already subconsciously been made.
I understand that it is frustrating and upsetting when major shifts in our industry affect us personally. I’m not saying don’t feel that or deny your anger. What I’m saying is that you have to examine the decision from the other side, as most often it’s a business decision on the other party’s end as well. We don’t have to agree with it, but what are you going to DO about it? What’s your reaction and subsequent action?
Oftentimes, a challenge will at first seem unfair, but I’d personally like to thank those in our industry and our society who’ve thrown down the proverbial gauntlet for making me step up and take action. Those actions will likely improve my practice, improve my patient care, and hopefully improve my business for the long run. The less I can depend on outside forces dictating my business success, the better. I invite you do to the same when faced with these new challenges.
Gina M. Wesley OD, MS, FAAO owns and practices at Complete Eye Care in Medina, MN. Accolades include Minnesota's Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011 and the Early Professional Achievement Award from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2013. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and enjoys practicing, writing and lecturing in the industry. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.