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HomemibusinessThe Three Pillars of Profitable Practice

The Three Pillars of Profitable Practice

When it comes to running a successful optometry practice, there are three pillars to building a solid framework and ensuring you are ideally positioned to operate in a competitive environment.
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Pillar One- Leadership

The profession of eye care is a wonderful profession that makes a significant difference to the lives of the people we serve. The profession of optometry doesn’t pay the bills or a salary, an optical business does.

While that reality may leave many wondering whether they wish to be a business person or a professional, there is strictly no choice. Anyone who operates as an independent optometrist does both. It’s just impossible to be excellent at both. Excellence requires a choice and once we make that choice it will change the way we think and act.

Business Success
The formula for business success is a well-understood three-step process:

Complacency has three little friends. They are called ‘inactivity’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘denial’…

1. Choose your customers
2. Discover what they value
3. Build a profitable way of giving it to them

Business leaders that do this create a business culture and processes that the staff intuitively understand.

Identify your customers
While it is essential that you, as a business owner, can detail who your customers are, the more relevant question is: ‘what sort of person do you want as a customer’?

You need to identify the type of people (i.e. customers) you serve and the sorts of people that flow through the examination room. You also need to proactively choose your customers – and in doing so, set the boundaries of your business – only then can you build a business that delivers what people value.

Add Value
Value is the ‘stuff’ you do that makes the difference… The benefit you create that your customers can’t get from your suppliers and they can’t (or don’t want to) create for themselves.

Value starts with the tangible – the examination, lenses and frames you sell. On top of that, you need to add a much more valuable and intangible layer. It’s this layer that becomes your premium point of difference, a layer that your customers will pay for. Without offering this premium layer you are just the same as everyone else.

Increase Profit
Increasing profit is simply a matter of increasing revenue and lowering costs. However increasing revenue by raising prices in such a competitive market is difficult.

Profit is also defined as ‘delivered value’ – that is, the value placed into your customer’s hands. To do so, you must build your practice’s ability to deliver value.

Leadership
Choosing your customers, creating value, and building your profit starts with you and the vision you have for your business. True success comes from leadership – after all, we can follow, be reactive, be the same as everyone else… or we can lead.

Pillar two – Management

What is the Challenge?
Companies in benign environments can find it very difficult to reinvent their business models. They can often experience prolonged reversals of fortune when paradigm-busting change occurs.

Could this be your business? Absolutely! Are our businesses at risk? Yes they are – always! The only way to protect your business from failure is through effective management.

As a manager you need to foster a culture that supports innovation and continually questions why you do what you do and how you do it… you need to encourage change.

You also need to encourage enthusiasm and energy – after all, a core enemy of management success is a creature called complacency – it is insidious and pervasive. It is very easy to be comfortable and accept what ‘is’ rather than question and move forward. Complacency has three little friends. They are called ‘inactivity’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘denial’. They support complacency in holding back change when it is most needed.

As a manager, you must develop a management system, environment and culture that takes you away from complacency, rejects inactivity, and banishes nostalgia so you can embrace
the exceptional.

What Matters?
There’s plenty that matters when it comes to running a successful independent practice in a competitive environment… here are just some that are important in effective management:

  • Do not leave a gap: If you are not actively working on your practice and patients, you can bet someone else will be
  • Shared and clear sense of purpose and progress: your people need to know why we are here and what would you like to do about it
  • Have a plan: You have to know where you are taking the business
  • Information: Effective decision-making is driven by information (no information means risky decisions)
  • Implementation: Make changes happen – the best businesses are experts at this
  • Understand what you are dealing with: Knowing the marketing strategy of your competition and the environment surrounding your business ensures you can direct resources appropriately.

Pillar Three – Customer Service

Ultimately your customers will judge you by the service you provide. An efficient, productive and customer focused business will always be an essential requirement and a key to success. There are many practical and simple ways that you can improve customer service and make your leadership and management efforts become tangible.

Your patient’s delightful experience needs to start the very first time they make contact with you. From then on, everything you do should be carefully designed to make their time in the practice better than it has ever been before.

It starts with the basics. Optometry businesses are complicated and the series of events that lead to a happy patient are all capable of ending badly.

The business that supports this process has to have the fundamentals sorted out. If it cannot run itself, your staff will find it really hard to provide exceptional service. Your communication, computer systems, reception desk and areas like consulting rooms all need to be primed for efficient and effective care. When staff has the right systems and tools to do the job, they have a good chance of providing your patients with high-level service.

The importance of effective communication within the practice and with patients cannot be underestimated. You need to work hard on simple but well timed events and systems that provide your staff with the information needed to do their jobs and prevent the process from going off the rails.

Finally, once you’ve sorted out the basics of your business, look at how you can provide a premium service so that you can take your practice from the ordinary to the exceptional.

The Three Pillars of Success will be presented as part of the ODMA Bootcamp stream during ODMA from 5-7 August, held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour.

Andrew Wilson is the Founder and Management Partner of Vaughan Govier Pte Ltd and has worked with optical businesses throughout Asia.

Mark Overton is the founder and Director of Ideology Consulting and provides business enhancement and coaching to health practitioners and related businesses.

Faith Davey is the founder and Director of Davey Dispensing. She provides locum dispenser services, education and customer service enhancement to optical businesses.