Business consultant Michael Jacobs reflects on lessons learnt from a high profile career in optics, giving mivision his ‘two cents worth’ on the future for independent optometry, Australian-style? In this article he talks about getting the most out of ODMA 2015.
The Australian independent optometry market is well served with trade fairs and CPD events with Australian Vision Convention, Southern Regional Congress and Super Sunday but all three of these events are primarily educational albeit with a trade fair add-on. ODMA on the other hand is a true trade fair with its primary focus being supplier products and services, not withstanding its recent moves to value add by including a significant CPD program. Whether it is instruments, frames, lenses, contact lenses or services for independent optometry it will be found at ODMA. So, ODMA is extremely important as a forum through which independent optometrists can expand their horizons on what the future might hold for their profession and their industry.
Plan, Plan, Plan
If you haven’t already planned to attend ODMA 2015 it is not too late. Let’s look at the benefits of attending. As an optometrist you will have the opportunity to not only see the latest frame fashions, but you will also be able to catch up with the latest in diagnostic instruments and technology – a field that seems to develop a new generation of technology every two years. And all of this in a single location where you can not only compare different supplier products but actually operate them almost side by side. Is it any wonder that the instrument suppliers do a large percentage of their business at ODMA?
But what about your staff? Given that ODMA is a biennial event, you should seriously consider taking some of your staff. This is not only an education for them but also a reward and an incentive for future performance. Note for diary: consider making attendance at ODMA part of your practice reward program for top performers. For Brisbane and Gold Coast based practices there is no excuse for the entire practice staff not attending at least one day of the show.
ask the supplier to ‘show you the beef…
Deciding who should attend and for how long is just the beginning. You need a plan if you want to get the best out of ODMA 2015. If you don’t want to waste the cost of attendance or worse still, buy frame stock that you cannot sell or an instrument that doesn’t meet your needs, then a plan is essential.
Instruments and Technology
Start with optometrists’ toys – the clinical instruments, the latest OCT or whatever it is that is gnawing at your optometry geek nerve. Let’s say you have decided that you would like to buy an OCT for your practice and you want to compare models and offers at ODMA. Well, I would suggest that you might consider going back to basics and asking yourself the question WHY? Why do you need an OCT or do you really just want one because they look like a fun toy – sorry, instrument. Well, believe it or not I say that is a perfectly valid reason, so long as you have the available funds from current operations or savings. But if you have convinced yourself that your new OCT will pay its way, make sure you are not dreaming because your dream may become a nightmare. If you believe that this instrument is an essential diagnostic tool, but you cannot convince your patients to pay for it, then you are kidding yourself. So, make a decision. You are buying an OCT because you can afford to and it satisfies an inner urge or you are buying it as an essential diagnostic tool and are going to charge patients accordingly.
So now you have reasoned why you should buy an OCT, the next question is which one and how much. First you should assume that the OCT you buy will likely have a lifetime of no more than five years because in that period technology will have changed sufficiently to make your current purchase obsolete. Just look at the digital retinal camera you purchased five years ago as an example. This means that the payback period for the instrument needs to be less than five years and in fact I would suggest three years as a starting point. If you plan to finance the purchase then make sure that your finance terms are no longer than your presumed payback period.
With all of that sorted out you should now be able to develop a philosophy for the operation of your new OCT in your practice. Are you going to use OCT on every patient, or those that are over a certain age, or just on those that have a clinical indication… and how much can you reasonably expect to charge and thus recover on your OCT purchase? Of course OCT’s aren’t the only game in town but the same philosophy applies no matter what you may purchase. Oh yes, one final word on instruments. Fully investigate warranty, product support and installation. There have been some recent cases of relatively new instruments being made obsolete simply because they would not interface with the latest update to Microsoft Windows, for example.
While we are talking technology, make sure you spend some time at the major lens labs and contact lens stands as the technology in these products is changing almost as fast as instrument technology.
Frames – Fashion and Function
There is no denying that instruments and frames dominate the ODMA display floor space and like instruments, the lure to spend up big on frames is strong. Again, I cannot stress this point more strongly – have a plan. Buy only what you need and what you can sell. Do not buy what you like. Let me say it again; buy what you can sell not what you like.
Before you leave your practice, do an assessment of your inventory. Analyse your needs. Take notes on where you are low on stock. Note quantities of frames as well as the price ranges you need. Look at which frame wholesalers are attending the show from the ODMA website (www.odma-2015.com.au). Make sure you visit a selection of new (to you) distributors to get an idea of the breadth of the market, price ranges and special offers. Don’t buy anything. Now, go to your usual distributors and compare notes. It is very important that you buy as much as possible from as few suppliers as possible to maximise your leverage for discounts or other incentives. If your regular suppliers can match the new suppliers then stay with your regular supplier. If you decide to buy from a new supplier don’t commit to large amounts of stock. You need to test the supplier as the supply chain is much more than a few fancy frames at a trade show. Ask about how often reps will call on your practice. Make sure you have a full understanding of the distributor’s warranty policy. Be wary of ‘consignment inventory’ as it often comes with a lot of fine print and be careful of promises of future benefits. To quote the famous Burger King advertisement, ask the supplier to ‘show you the beef’.
After all that planning, negotiating and purchasing, don’t forget to allocate some time to fun. A few drinks with your favourite supplier or dinner with fellow optometrists can make for a great show but I highly recommend the ODMA Gala Dinner. If it is anything like the 2013 Dinner it should be a night to remember.
Happy hunting; have a great ODMA 2015.
Michael Jacobs is the former Chief Executive Officer of Eyecare Plus. He is now a business consultant and columnist for mivision.