It would be nice if there was just one simple solution to all our practice problems… a magic bullet that would improve sales and profitability. Sometimes we can get a win and a particular strategy will make a big difference to our practice, but more often than not, it’s about the little things.
Optometry practices are complicated. They handle complicated issues and provide complex products, delivered by clever and complicated people. And there are lots of things happening. All at once. Every day. Are we surprised then, that success lies in the detail?
There are so many little things to consider, so where do you begin? Well, first, you need to work out what needs attention and what can be left for another day. You can’t fix everything at once and most practices have limited time, people and money.
It’s important to treat your practice like your patients. Don’t assume and start fresh with a comprehensive examination. This is particularly valid if you are inside the business. One well known optometry entrepreneur once described Australian optometrists as ‘boiled frogs’ referring to the well known Boiled Frog Syndrome business analogy: basically frogs, being cold-blooded creatures, don’t notice change in surrounding temperatures until it’s too late. To put that into context, if you’ve worked in your practice for a while, what might appear to be a potential problem for you might appear to be ‘business as usual’ to anyone on the outside. So take a step back and look at things with a rational eye. You can do this. You do it every day with your patients.
One well known optometry entrepreneur once described Australian optometrists as ‘boiled frogs
What’s Your Fairy List?
Get everyone in the practice to provide their input. They all have ideas. Ask them to make a ‘Fairy List’. Ask the question… if you had a magic wand and could fix six things in the practice what would they be?
Now it’s time to review the list because, if you are going to make changes, you need to be sure they are the improvements that will matter to your patients. After all, it’s your patients who will pay. Anything that adds to the level of information or knowledge they receive about your service and products is an excellent thing. It will help them make effective decisions about what they need and want from you, and will also help them understand why you are different.
With the list determined, take the time to prioritise the changes that need to happen. Actually this can be the hardest aspect when it comes to improving your practice, but it is most important. Consistently we see the most successful practices all over the country are the ones that are very good at implementing change. Whether it be a big change or a little one, they make sure it happens and sticks.
Go Wild Merchandising
Small changes to merchandising can be particularly effective. Try shifting your frame range to different positions in the practice and see what happens. Invest in new poster frames. An A4 frame will cost you around AU$15 but you’ll be surprised at how much more professional the practice will look. And while you’re there, change those busted and yellowing light globes. For less than $100 you can make a huge difference to how the practice looks and feels to patients. Go wild and spend another $20 on something that smells nice – this can be as good as repainting the place (for a while anyway) – but be careful: some aromas can be over-powering. Have a tidy up. How obvious is that? But so often it’s not done.
Look for Incremental Sales
Financial performance is also aboutthe little improvements. There areseveral important key performance indicators for your practice that can be easily accessed through the practice software reports. Have a look at the average sale per patient and also per consultation. The value of your average frame and lens sales can also be telling. Spectacle jobs, own frame usage, the list goes on. Armed with this information, you can determine small steps that will make a difference to the profitability of the practice without
having a major impact on your overall way of doing business. As an example, the equivalent of one pair of specs per day in additional sales, which can be achieved in many different ways, will add over 10 per cent to a practice with a turnover of $700,000. A snippet of information here, a comment there, a few tweaks and things will change, and that change brings plenty of wins for both your patients and the practice.
So look for the little wins that matter. They are all over the place. They are easy to fix, don’t cost the earth and don’t take all your time. Achieve a few every week and after a little while you will look back and see that overall, you have made a huge difference to your practice.
Big Rocks to Look Under for Little Improvements
Mark Overton has science and business qualifications and, for over 30 years, has consulted to or worked with major public hospitals, federal government, small and medium private businesses, medical research institutions, professional associations and small businesses. Mark is the CEO of Ideology Consulting and, on occasion, lectures at universities.