When I came to Vision Source of Newport 28 years ago, it was a very well-respected practice that has now been serving our community for over 73 years (we were founded October 17, 1950 by Dr. Nathan Ford). We have grown our practice almost 10X since my arrival 28 years ago, which was made possible by setting goals and achieving them.
One of the primary goals in our office is to give our patients the best possible eye care experience. That comes down to having that “OMG” practice. To be an OMG business, people leave your office and think “Wow.” Patients are wowed from the moment they walk in the front door until the moment they leave.
Creating an OMG Practice
For me, one of the best things we have done lately to improve the patient’s experience is to have our phones answered off-site. I was recently in the Atlanta airport during a flight delay and asked a few people at the bar what they didn’t like about going to the eye doctor. Two main things stuck out. The first was a consensus that they didn’t enjoy being greeted by someone on the phone while giving them “the finger” — the index finger signaling the “wait a moment” gesture. When the patient walks in the door, they should feel like they are the only person who matters. The second thing was about frame selection. They all hated being told to just pick out a frame, as it is confusing and frustrating to look at hundreds of frames. They expressed that they wanted a “frame stylist” to help them pick out what frame is best for them.
We also really like to educate our patients. We try to explain why we are doing each test. I even explain the refraction process to the patient! To me there are three levels of satisfaction: we can either meet expectations, exceed expectations, or you can amaze the patient. One way you can amaze the patient is to educate them. When a patient says, “I have learned more about my eyes in this visit than I have at all my other eye exams combined,” I know that I have at least exceeded expectations — and hopefully amazed the patient.
Getting Staff on Board
A well-trained staff is the most important part of the OMG practice. I have often heard that we are like a well-oiled machine.
A few years ago, I sent a survey to my team asking what was important to them and what would make them happy, long-term team members. (The answer was more PTO.) We immediately really improved our PTO policy and things improved both short-term and long-term. We have had only one resignation over the last four years — and that person has even asked to come back.
We close the office when we feel training or retraining is necessary, usually around once per quarter. We do that on Friday and call it “Fun Friday.” We train in the morning to make sure all our processes are intact, and then we go do something fun together in the afternoon to keep that family atmosphere. I had one of my colleagues ask me how I could afford to do that. My response was, “I don’t know how I could afford not to.” During those days, we usually discover things that increase our revenue throughout the year, and the time spent building that family atmosphere is priceless.
Everything we do is a team effort. The biggest thing you can do as a practice owner is make sure the message (and the verbiage) is consistent throughout the office. The patient needs to hear the same message repeatedly. And our team needs to know that the most important person in the office is the one walking through the front door. Also, I cannot say this enough — try to educate the patient throughout the process. Inform them of what each test does. Explain the refraction process in simple terms. I explain to the patient what the slit lamp does, and what the BIO does. An educated patient is an amazed patient, and that develops the OMG practice.
Most Limitations are Self Imposed
As a private practice consultant, a recurring theme I’ve noticed is that most practices are scared to do what it takes to grow, and many practices struggle with growth. For whatever reason, there is a certain level many optometrists are afraid to expand or grow past. I think this comes from fear itself; it is an emotion — there is no logic to it. I talk to doctors all the time who are booked out months in advance, yet they are still a one-doctor practice and haven’t grown in years.
Practice growth is simple: you either must see more patients or increase your per-patient revenue. Growth always falls under one of those two categories, and you can’t be afraid to expand and/or build when the time comes. One way to see more patients is to add doctors when it is time.
That is the passion behind my coaching company, Legit Vision. We did it here in a small, rural Appalachian community, so in addition to providing the tools and means we used to grow over $3 million, I also want to provide the courage to other ODs to let them know it can be done, and someone will be there every step of the way to help with the effort.
Every office is unique. Some need more patients. Some need to increase revenue per patient. Some need that “boost” to take it to the next level. I am hopeful with my coaching that many of these practices will grow, adding partners as they go.
Investing in your practice is the best investment you can make — it is the investment you have the most control over. If done properly, a privately owned independent optometric practice can be an amazing investment. I would rather bet on myself and my partners than any stock.
I always like to close with a cool saying. I will do two here, one serious and one a little more comical.
“Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you respond.”
“Remember, you cannot please everyone. You are not a taco.”