By Tyson Allard, OD
April 20, 2022
Independent optometry is not for the faint of heart or spirit. It requires determination, tenacity–and a least a few good strategies for success. Here are three ways I reduced the expense of running a practice, got the stress of trying to do it all myself under control and learned how to mindfully relax.
Cost of Goods
With inflation and supply-chain difficulties increasing, cost of goods (COGs) became a greater challenge over the last year. Our office developed a few strategies to offset the additional expenses to our practice driven by supply-chain problems.
First, we replace as we order. We have a set frame list (100 or more frames) on the boards, and if we sell one of those frames, we immediately order it from the manufacturer and ship directly to the lab. This allows us to keep frame boards full and order as we go to keep costs down. We only buy what we sell. This approach keeps our boards full of current and good sellers.
Second, we buy in bulk. Most manufacturers will discount frames more if you buy in bulk. Our office recently placed an order for 500 frames from a manufacturer that gave us a minimum 30 percent volume-based discount. Inventory discounts like this allow independent doctors to decrease COGs and have the boards full to allow for better sales.
Buying in bulk and negotiating with your lab can save you significant money. Do your research and determine if a buying in bulk would work for you, or sit down with your lab to create a price list that works for you.
Get Expert Human Resources Help
Human resources and staff management can take a toll on the energy of an independent practice owner. It requires staying up to date on state laws and management practices. To stay up to date on HR, we optimize human resources consulting from IDOC HR Services, which has been fantastic to work with. When we have an HR question or challenge, we call them and their consultants help guide us through the issue. In addition to consulting help, there are local HR support groups, which you can join for $50 a month. Other industry groups, like PECAA, Vision Source and others also offer human resources help.
We are not HR experts, but they are out there!
On the management side, our chief operations officer and I go to at least one practice staff management learning event a year. To truly grow in management you have to be exposed to different thought processes and ideas. I would recommend setting a goal to go to an educational event in staff management at least once a year.
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Physician Work-Life Balance (aka physician burnout)
Physician burnout was accelerated by COVID-related challenges. Our practices and patients require much from us. It is a great experience to care for our communities, staff and patients, but we also need to remember to care for ourselves. I recommend looking at healthy ways to combat the sense of burnout. Last year, I started experiencing symptoms of burnout. I sat down and evaluated work/life balance and made a few changes:
1. More vacation– for me to better take care of staff/patients I needed to refuel myself with time off.
2. Getting outside– playing more golf and jogging more. This allowed me to enjoy the outdoors, which is important because we spend so much time in dark exam rooms.
3. Yoga– allowed me to reset my mind to better serve my patients.
Burnout is a serious thing. It can impact our practices and our mindsets, and finding ways to combat it is a big challenge.
I love this quote: “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”- Kobe Bryant
Every practice challenge gives us opportunities to rise and grow. Independent practices have a wonderful opportunity to serve and care for our communities. With challenges come even better opportunities to succeed.