Finding Your Why

In the first installment of the Cold Start Series, Dr. Stewart shares how having solid mission, vision, and values statements can help ODs get clear on the heart of their practices.
During the design process, Dr. Stewart focused on her mission, vision, and values to support her choices.

As we start the new year, I have exciting news to share. I am opening a brand new practice, Look New Canaan, located in the beautiful community of New Canaan, Connecticut. I sold my prior practice in June of 2022, and I have enjoyed my time consulting, speaking, writing, traveling, networking, and being involved in the optometric community over the past 18 months.  

The biggest question I have been answering lately: why? Why start a new practice at 43? Why go back into patient care? What drove me to make this decision? How will this practice look different?  

I have been so fortunate to have had some amazing experiences and opportunities in optometry. I joined my former practice one year after graduating from the New England College of Optometry and became a partner just 18 months after that. We were able to grow into a multi-doctor practice and expand to a larger space. I learned the business aspect of managing and running a practice, building, and supporting a team, and how to integrate new technologies and treatments. 

So, after all that success, why am I starting over? I truly miss patient care and being involved in managing and running a practice day to day. There are so many great innovations that have taken place since I last was in the exam room, and I’m excited to introduce them into my practice. I have many great ideas about what my dream practice will be, and I look forward to building an authentic practice.

Think of Your Why
How did I get here? How did I take these ideas and make them a reality? I first started by thinking about my why. As a cold start, this came down to why I wanted to start a new practice. If you are an established business, this why is also important. Why did you become a practice owner? Oftentimes, we lose sight of this. What is the current state of your practice? If it’s not where you want to be, are there things you can start thinking about to slowly right the ship and get this aligned with your vision? What are your values in your practice? What does the future hold?  

Before I started researching equipment, real estate, frame vendors, or writing a business plan, I took the time to work on my vision, values, and mission statements. As a new business, these served to guide all the decisions I was making. I’d like you to think about your practice. Do you have these? If so, have they been updated? Does your team know them and reference them? These statements can be extremely valuable for established businesses. They can help guide us in making decisions, such as when it is the right time to start, grow, acquire, or sell a business. We can also use them to decide whether to hire more staff, add an associate doctor, or add a specialty service. Have you been looking to drop or add an insurance or medical plan? Reflect on the type of practice you want to help you make that decision.

What are these statements, and how are they different? This is the way I tend to describe them:

  • Your mission statement is your WHY
  • The vision statement is your WHAT
  • The values are your HOW

Defining Your Mission, Vision, and Values
A mission statement is based in the present. It is WHY your business exists. It is your purpose and what makes your business different. This is where you can define your ideal patient/customer. Who are they, what do they look like, what products and services do they want, and what can we do to attract them? When I started thinking about this, I could see these patients in my mind, and visualize my space. I wanted a retail location on a highly trafficked street. I knew the two communities I would look at and had a sense of locations within those towns. I envisioned large windows, open spaces, and plenty of room for a beautiful optical. I planned to have an “open access” practice, one not dependent on managed vision care plans. I used this profile when looking at real estate and was able to quickly decide if a space fit that mission.  

When it came time to write a mission statement, I looked to include my why, my business image, the types of products and services I would offer, what makes me different, and the inclusion of technology. The mission statement of Look New Canaan is: “Our mission is to deliver exceptional vision care with innovative technology, stylish eyewear, personal attention, and a splash of fun.” Succinct, to the point, descriptive, and authentic — just like us!

The vision statement is a little different — it is your guiding light. It is future oriented and is used to state the current and future objectives of a practice. This helps guide you when times get tough, and when you need to make hard decisions. When thinking about your vision, dream big! Be inspiring and passionate and focus on success. Think about where you want to be five and 10 years in the future. Our vision at Look New Canaan is “to transform patients’ lives through customized care, innovative technology, and exceptional eyewear.”  We don’t want to just provide eye care — we want to have a greater impact.

Core values, or your value statement, are the principles that guide and direct a business. They are the moral compass, and the conduct we expect our team to uphold. They should be short, specific, and unique. What are some of our core values at Look New Canaan? My top value is transparency. Patients can find medical care and eye care complex and confusing, and our goal is to simplify that. We list our pricing on our website and want patients to feel there are no surprises. Another value for us is efficiency. When creating the business model, I looked at ways to make everything easy and accessible. My vision for this included online scheduling, text messaging, online intake forms, and the ability for patients to order from our website. Another value is balance. I set out to create a practice environment that supported both patients and my team. I wanted to create a business that would have no evening or weekend hours so we could all have time with our families to rest and recharge.  

Find Success by Focusing on Your Why
If you are now realizing you don’t have a mission, vision, and value statement, now is the perfect time to create one, even in an established business. Engage your team for their ideas — what do they find to be unique and inspiring about their work environment? Make these statements engaging and motivating and tie these to individual and team goals. Once you create these, communicate and share them EVERYWHERE. Put them on your website, display them in your office, and make sure each team member is aware of them. Also, these statements are meant to change over time. Always reevaluate and make sure they are current. Need more help? Check out some big businesses and local optometry practices to find theirs for inspiration.   

Early on, these statements can be so helpful when starting a business. I continue to refer back to each one when making decisions and will continue to do so as Look New Canaan grows. Established businesses can reinvigorate team members, improve staff engagement, and improve office culture when these are incorporated.

Have you been inspired to update your mission, vision, and value statements? I’d love to hear from you!

Catch Up on Dr. Jennifer Stewart’s Cold Start Series:

Stay tuned for more articles in Dr. Stewart’s Cold Start Series!

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