Is this your reality?

Like most business owners, you undoubtedly spend countless hours mulling over whether or not your practice is running at its full potential. You consciously dart from one department to the other, entertaining your inherent curiosity with an unconsciously-fabricated stress-alleviating justification. You sleep well at night because you hired that practice administrator with a reputable background and a sharp demeanor. Your employees reveal nothing but loyal and committed colors on a consistent daily basis. Your schedule remains booked despite the economic and industrial impact of the corporate sector. And your CPA provides you with nothing but affirmation, glistening financial statements and balance sheets, and an annual invoice. You are officially the master of your craft, and your practice is flourishing at full bore. Or is it?

I can count on one hand the number of private practice owners I have met amidst my consulting endeavors who have been omniscient in all aspects of their business. Approximately two-thirds of private practice owners I have consulted for have dabbled in just enough to be dangerous (or so they think). The remaining private practice owners, with the exception of the very few aforementioned ‘professors’ of their business, live in a false sense of security by means of delegation to others who are seemingly deserving of such confidence and trust. 

What do you strive for?

Not all private practice optometry owners strive for maximum income, optimal profit margins, and success-fueled business growth. For those who are not, kudos to you. Your blood pressure certainly appreciates it. But for those of us aiming for hemorrhaging tax brackets or self-established pride-nourishing metrics, optimization on a daily basis is the linchpin catalyst for our pathway to success. I deliberately opt to use ‘we’ as opposed to ‘they’ as I identify myself in the tax-hemorrhaging aspiring demographic of private practice owners. For me, every day’s successes or failures are a stepping stone (or push back) in my pursuit.  

Private practices, like most businesses, are comprised of the following sectors: Marketing, Operations & Sales, Human Resources, and Accounting & Finance. Marketing speaks for itself and is generally assigned to either the practice administrator or another underpaid and all too often under-qualified recipient of the task. Operations and sales are delegated across the entire staff, including the medical biller and coder as well as the optician if applicable, with an emphasis on “top notch customer service” and sale conversions.  Human resources are most often assigned to the practice administrator or the owner him or herself. Accounting and Finance is a co-lead effort steered by either the practice administrator, or the owner, and the outsourced CPA.  

How much delegation is too much delegation?

There is hands-down nothing wrong with delegation. In fact, delegation is the benchmark ‘destination’ that should be set on every practice owner’s compass. Relying solely on delegation without a Ph.D. in all business departments, however, is dangerous.  

Think your medical and billing skills (or those of the employee to whom you assigned the task) are up to park? Reality check: the average annual production loss due to medical and billing errors alone is $100,000 (McCarthy, 2015). Think you are optimizing your optical and contact lens sales? Reality check: the average annual loss due to an insufficiently established Doctor to Optician handoff is $42,400 (Barker and Stockbridge, 2011). 

Think your employees foster your directive to optimize customer service?  Reality check: the average business loses 10 to 25 percent of its customer base due to poor customer service (McQuerrey, 2017). Think you have a sharp eye on your employees and can trust their loyalty? Sadly, on an annual basis employees steal more than $40 billion dollars from their employers, and at least 24 percent of small to medium-sized businesses report having suffered from at least one employee theft (Bacigalupi, 2008). And lastly, depending on your stage in your career (and the level of marketing efforts you are putting forth), thousands of dollars may be spent on advertising without a dime of investment yield.  

If these figures are not enough to ‘reset the clock’ on your level of appreciation for just how important it is to be skilled and knowledgeable in all areas of your business, you are either taking a beta blocker or are of the demographic of private practice owners not cringing at anything less than optimal – and truly, good for you. But for those for whom this perked your antennas, consider this concisely summarized reality check as fuel to go back to the drawing board, reassess your level of knowledge in each department, and implement actions plans accordingly to bridge any and all identified gaps.  

Bacigalupi, M. (2008).  How to Deal with Sticky-Fingered Staff.  Retrieved from: https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/how-to-deal-with-sticky-fingered-staff

Barker, A., Stockbridge, G. (2011). Don’t Let the Rx Walk. Retrieved from: http://www.eyecarebusiness.com/issues/2011/august-2011/dont-let-the-rx-walk

McCarthy, C. (2015). Top 10 Practice Management Mistakes. Optometry Times.

McQuerrey, L. (2017). What Percentage of Customers Does a Business Lose Each Year? Retrieved from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/percentage-customers-business-lose-year-79271.html