Independent, Together

“The freedom to organize your own life, make your own decisions, etc. without needing help from other people.” That is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “independent.” While independence in eye care brings freedom to make your own decisions, utilize products of your choosing, and the ability to practice the way you want, independence does not mean we have to go at it alone. While we may run our businesses as we see fit, there is such value in collaboration with other like-minded colleagues.

I have a handful of optometric colleagues and friends who I text/email every single day. We touch base about what is going on in our businesses, talk through issues we may be having, and seek advice about new products and services we are thinking about adding. We made it through the COVID-19 challenges together, including weekly Zoom meetings to figure out how to safely open our practices and navigate the PPP process. We are also open books — we share metrics, revenue, goals, and salaries with each other. When one of us is thinking about making a change, it’s nice to bounce ideas off someone we know in the industry.  When we are dealing with a professional challenge, we know we can count on each other for advice and support.

When a practice is looking to make a change to become independent, that can be a scary feeling. There are many “what ifs” that pop up: What if I lose all my patients? Will I make any money? How will new patients find me? How do I keep my current patients? Practices wonder how to best communicate to patients that they are going out of network for a vision care plan, changing their optical selection, or changing their lens choices to support independent labs. Cold start practices may be contemplating a practice that takes no managed care plans but wonder how they will generate revenue. Established practices may be looking to add specialties such as dry eye, aesthetics, myopia management, or sports vision that are typically cash pay, but they don’t know where to start.

The great news is that none of us has to go at it alone. If you are reading this right now, you have made the first step in setting a goal and learning more. We have some great topics planned and have reached out to colleagues in the optical and optometric community who are living their dreams and who are happy to help others do so. 

Having a mastermind group or accountability partner(s) also helps. Knowing that I have colleagues who share similar beliefs and goals — who I can reach out to at anytime — makes it feel like I’m not going at it alone. I can learn from their successes and be inspired by what they have done.  

Attending meetings, conferences, and lectures that are focused on independence can leave you feeling energized and inspired. I know that when I hear from other successful businesses on the steps they have taken toward independence, it makes me feel like I can do it too. As more and more colleagues decide what independence means to them, these types of events are sure to grow.

Joining groups that include other industry professionals, such as the Optical Women’s Association, has been life changing for me. I have met women from all different companies and roles and have made some wonderful friends and mentors through networking events. Many of these women are passionate about seeing independent eye care and optical practices succeed, and they are willing to lend their time and expertise to help. A focus on personal and professional development, as well as leadership, leaves us all feeling inspired and empowered.

Independence can equal freedom for us — freedom to run our businesses how we want to, without influence or interference from outside sources. However, independence doesn’t have to mean going it alone, and being part of a group of other independent professionals can help us all navigate being independent, together.

Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD

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