Making Lemonade

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sweet summertime — we’ve made it! One of my favorite parts of the beach community I live in is seeing kids with lemonade stands as I drive around. I always try and stop — especially now that these mini entrepreneurs have added Venmo to their payment options!  

This made me think of the common phrase we often hear, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This saying encourages people to maintain a positive attitude and optimism when dealing with adversity. How can we apply this saying to our practices and keep looking on the bright side when things may be tough?

With the lazy days of summer upon us, some practices may notice a slowdown as schools let out and families take vacations before the back-to-school rush. Many of us automatically go into panic mode when we experience a quieter time in our practice. We may make rash, quick decisions that aren’t well thought out and we are playing defense, rather than offense. While we should look into the reason for this slowness (have your recalls and appointment confirmations been going out correctly?), sometimes this can just be part of the natural fluctuation of a practice schedule. 

What can be done if you notice this? Use this time wisely instead of hitting the panic button. This is the perfect time to get to those projects that you never have time for. Block off a few hours to do a deep dive and analyze your bills. Are you getting the proper pricing, discounts, and credits from your frame, ophthalmic lens, and contact lens companies? Are you maximizing your rebate programs? This is a perfect time to meet with your company reps and figure out a strategy for the rest of the year to make sure you are using the right mix of products for profitability.  

Has your frame board gotten away from you? Assign a staff member the task of inventorying your frames and doing an analysis of what is selling, what isn’t, and how your board space is allotted. Make a plan to sell off stagnant inventory, increase your top sellers, or visit fall conferences and shows to bring in a new line to revive your optical.

Take some time off! This is a hard one, but something I am actively trying to embrace in my cold start. I am fully taking advantage of quieter periods and spending more time with my kids. This is time I know I’ll never get back. The patient schedule will fill, and the busyness will come, but my boys will only be little once. They love the surprise of me coming home early or going in late and dropping them at camp. It’s okay to lean into the work/life balance — this is why we became business owners! You can also encourage your staff to use paid time off (or non-paid time off, depending on your office manual) during this time.  

We noticed a slowdown at my cold start practice, Look New Canaan, during the end of May and early June, likely due to the close of the school year. Instead of panicking, I took the time I had to do all of the above. We restructured our optical offerings based on a profitability analysis, changed our contact lens ordering strategy, did intensive staff training, spent time in the community marketing, and took some much-needed time off to refresh and rejuvenate. We already have seen an uptick in the schedule as school has let out and parents can breathe, and now we’re ready and excited for the new wave of busyness!

Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD  

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