Matt Geller, OD, sat down with Bryan Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM, the owner of EyeExec Consulting and past president of the Maryland Optometric Association, at SECO to discuss the most common optometry practice challenges.
In grad school, optometrists aren’t necessarily taught the skills they need to run a business. Optometrists often use a model of how private practices have always been run, Rogoff says, but when practices grow that can become a problem. “A lot of times, they don’t have the background of operations efficiencies, and they start putting bandaids on a lot of different parts of their practice, and all of a sudden, the profitability and revenue, and what we like to call customer service or patient relationships—that tends to become a downside of things.”
“We always listen to the experts when we talk about medical care,” says Rogoff, “But when it comes to expanding our business, we’re not going to those same type of experts. Sometimes we’re looking at other people, and the success they’ve had, and we say, I can replicate that doing what I’m doing.” But even more challenging is the emotional connection practice owners make to their businesses. Rogoff says this can lead to challenging situations where practice owners make decisions based on emotions, rather than business acumen.
“I start from the clinical side and I work backwards,” Rogoff says about his consulting. “If I come down from the business perspective, and I’m talking a lot about operations, and I’m talking about financials and numbers, that’s not the language [practice owners] understand.” As optometrists communicating with and educating patients, we can see that it’s not too different!
Meeting people where they are is a major theme throughout Rogoff’s advice. It’s important to understand a client’s, a patient’s, or your own values and goals. “It’s all about knowing where the value comes from,” says Rogoff. When it comes to setting a goal, a financial goal will have a very different set of steps than a clinical goal you set with your patients.
2018 presents ongoing challenges, and some new optometry practice challenges. “There’s a lot of consolidation in the industry,” says Rogoff, as well as competition, growth, and low barriers to entry. But then there’s the simple things, like patient retention. “There’s a way to bring in new patients, but if you’re losing more patients than you’re bringing in, then you’re always going to start to lose your revenue and your profitability.”
What options are open to optometrists to meet these challenges? There’s always new modalities and services, but that won’t help if your patients don’t want them. “It’s really about knowing your patient base and . . . what the patient really wants to have in the practice. If they’re not interested in those services, or there’s not a demographic that needs those services, then you’re going to be investing money that’s not going to show any profitability.”
So how do you discover your target market and learn their needs? “I always recommend to do a third-party type of survey,” Rogoff says. He also suggests using NPS, or Net Promoter Scores, so you know exactly how word-of-mouth recommendations about your practice are working. But it’s also important to know why people wouldn’t promote your practice.
Of course, it’s possible to do this yourself, but Rogoff recommends turning to the experts. “A lot of times, we don’t know the right questions, or we might lead certain questions to answers that we might want to hear, but if you’re using a third-party service then they’re getting a little more validity out of the statistical population that they’re surveying.”