I’m a voracious reader, and I love to digest content from books, whether that is via the traditional hardcover variety or audio (when I’m driving, working out, or even being busy around the house). I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, and truly believe what you can learn by different perspectives and new ideas are never-ending. Some of my best business-savvy revelations and ways I decide to run my practice are due to what I’ve read. Let me outline my top 3 picks and why I love them:
The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz. This book is not only super-rich in its content and ideas, but witty and fun to read. (I’m not sure I could honestly say that about all business books I’ve read). The author lays out a strategy for understanding in that trying to be all things to all people in your business, whether that’s a service-based or product-based business, you are detrimental to your growth and overall profitability. The premise is based on the idea of the giant-pumpkin farmer: This farmer culls out all small pumpkin plants and only concentrates on the biggest and most promising “giant” pumpkins. By eliminating this extra “noise,” the pumpkins grow to astronomical size, and instead of having a patch of lots of mediocre pumpkins, the farmer has only a few of the best, most valuable pumpkins whose seeds he or she can then turn around and sell for thousands of dollars.
In relation to our practices, I sometimes see doctors hopping onto the latest trends in eye care in the hopes that will launch their practices into more aspiring realms of profitability. This can include things like dry eye, specialty contact lenses, VT, ortho-K, optical technology, lens edging, pediatrics, glaucoma, AMD testing…Embracing all those small pumpkins will only divide your attentions further. This book has allowed me the grace to say “no” to many little business ideas that pop up in my week-to-week. I have my several large pumpkins in my practice I hope to grow to enormous size, and since I’ve made my focus concentrated, I’ve seen them grow tremendously.
Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey. Many of you may be familiar with Dave Ramsey for his no-nonsense, get-out-debt-now philosophy. He has many excellent ideas within this focus, but I’ve discovered he has first-rate perspective on business leadership as well. This book lays the foundation for both new and established entrepreneurs alike. From understanding your vision and mission, to time management in the day-to-day, the book is a practical how-to of successful business operations. There’s no theory, there’s proof in what he’s done to build his multi-million-dollar empire.
Yet, all suggestions can easily trickle into our optometry practices. My favorite chapter is the one in which he talks personalities and hiring and firing. Staffing is by far the most challenging aspect of my business, and making decisions to hire, and especially fire, are practically delineated. Asking yourself the question, in the midst of deciding to fire someone, “If you knew what you know now about this person, would you hire them again?” brought such clarity and peace to staffing decisions for me. He does also go into financials, of course, but I was pleased by the wealth of content in this book.
Profit First, Mike Michalowicz. Another book by the author of the aforementioned Pumpkin Plan, this one is all about financials in your business. If you are like me, you want to know what’s going on with cash flow and profits, and it was incredibly frustrating for me to look at accounting reports and try to figure out what happened the month, or quarter, or year before. I felt I was playing catch-up, and my bookkeeper and CPA didn’t always know how to advise me as to “where the money went.”
I want real-time information that I can grab onto; one that helps me make sound decisions in the immediate. This book brought that to me. The premise is that you should be dividing your deposits and withdrawals from your bank accounts into smaller “plates” in order to better control profitability. You have certain percentage allocations to these accounts, and as you start to understand and see patterns, you adjust those percentages to give yourself greater profits. And understand here that profit doesn’t mean your pay. You have allocations for your pay, and profit is everything above and beyond that.
There are several areas in which this has helped me: I now have a pretty good idea about what is a “normal” flow of cash into my practice each month. Not revenues, or net, or whatever fancy term our profession likes to tag it, but cash in the bank. I then allocate a certain percentage of that cash to expenses. I do this twice a month. Once that cash is spent, and if I still have expenses, I know I’m outreaching my ability to pay. I either need to cut expenses or raise revenues. Every month, I’m setting aside money for my quarterly tax estimates and creating a nice cushion, so I’m not caught unawares. This system also made me realize it was time to pay off some outstanding debt, freeing up more cash for increased pay and savings for future investments. I think my bookkeeper and CPA, although they thought the system a little strange at first, are thankful I’m no longer bombarding them with questions they didn’t know how to answer. See ya, GAP financials.
Happy reading, everyone. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did, and that simple reading brings you the thousands and thousands of dollars in increased profits it did for me.
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.