4 ways to manage growth

By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcelTM Business & Career Coach

Life is full of the unexpected. How you handle the unexpected makes the difference between success and failure in your practice.

I was reminded of this in October while having dinner with a good friend in Seattle during the American Academy of Optometry meeting. As we enjoyed some spectacular oysters, we heard, "Ding, chime, buzz"—the sound of hundreds of phones going off at once. Curious, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and saw an Amber Alert. A child had just been abducted in the local area.

This unexpected news completely changed the mood of the dinner. How could I continue enjoying a great meal with a friend when all I could think about was whether my 1- and 3-year-old boys were OK back home? This unexpected announcement changed my thoughts, my actions and my general demeanor. Although the night went on, my thoughts remained on the gripping fear the parents must feel and the hope that the child had been found.

The lesson: The unexpected changes everything. Although the unexpected events we face in optometry are not of the magnitude of a missing child, they inevitably change how we do what we do.

Practice growth can be one of those unexpected events. If you face a practice that has grown beyond your capacity, use these four common approaches to take your practice to the next level:

1. Build bigger

With managed care squeezing out more care for patients and less reimbursement for doctors, a bigger practice must be well thought out to avoid pit falls such as increased overhead. Still, I commonly hear comments from optometrists who wish they would've built bigger. Smart building expansion allows for growth and has the benefit of managing it all under one roof.

2. Buy or start a second practice

This is commonly the right approach for aspiring ODs looking to push growth. A second practice can be financially rewarding but requires you to always anticipate unexpected events. But this is a great option if you enjoy the business aspects of optometry.

3. Remove bad vision plans

Some of the most profitable small businesses don't grow in size physically but do grow financially. Learn how to control growth by increasing your per-patient visit while limiting the number of low-reimbursing insurances. Some of the most profitable practices in America are small practices with big bank accounts.

4. Hire an associate

Finding the right associate affords you the luxury of working on the business instead of always working in the business. Having extra strategic time available will help you control practice growth and potentially increase profits.

Many optometrists manage their offices with a "let things happen" attitude, which is reactive. This philosophy can be successful, but most business owners would agree that being proactive offers a better path to success. Proactive business owners are able to work through the unexpected and minimize the potential damage. In other words, always expect—and plan for—the unexpected.

AOAExcelTM offers tools and resources to help manage your practice.

March 7, 2014

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