Professional Development

Hooray for Single-Tasking!

By Roger Mummert
ROB Content Director

Oct. 2, 2019

Multitasking, it is said, is the art of doing multiple things at one time–and all of them poorly.

That truism and the antidote to it were brought into clear focus in a recent interview with Dan Fortenbacher, OD, FCOVD. Dan practices in two locations in Southwestern Michigan, and despite his automotive multi-tasking of bouncing between two offices an hour-and-a-half apart, he strives to devote himself to one thing: improving the lives of his patients through vision therapy.

Dan calls his practice“Wow Vision Therapy” and it’s just about…vision therapy (VT). He once worked in a primary care practice and specialized in vision therapy, but he sold his share and opened his own practice to specialize in just VT. He says is keenly interested in the myopia epidemic and could branch out into myopia management, but he does just VT. He also told me he is fascinated with new technology in sports vision training, and while he incorporates some of that into his practice it’s just about VT.

“Early in my career, I tried to do it all,” Dan told me. “But you can’t do it all and be good at it all. You need to pay attention to one thing.”

Dan allows that adding side-profit centers to a practice is, in principle, a good concept for patients, but for ODs it can prove a huge distraction. “I hear colleagues complain they are all stressed out because they’re doing all these things,” he says, “and they don’t have any free time.”

I admire Dan’s singular focus, and I have to admit some mea culpa, at the same time.  

Must it Always Be About Adding Services?
At ROB, we try to facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges that we believe will help practices to grow and flourish. Our typical ROB article: “Here’s what I did, here’s what I learned, and here’s the return on the time and money I spent on it.”

Take the Test

THINK YOU CAN MULTITASK WELL? TAKE A TEST.

Nancy K. Napier, PhD, created a simple test to measure how well you can multitask. Try it. 

Dave Crenshaw wrote a book called The Myth of Multitasking. He re-labeled it “switchtasking” and calls it a “thief.” Watch his video and take his test.

More often than not, terms like “Add..” and “Build…” and “Expand…” and “Acquire…” precede article titles. Yes, we’re in the habit of advising ODs to add services that will increase gross revenues and, if given proper time and resources and managed well, will more importantly increase net revenues, as well.

Is adding services always the answer”?

We often forget that adding one thing means subtracting another. If you add a specialty service and spend 10 hours a week at it, that’s 10 hours that you are not doing the primary task of an OD: seeing patients, conducting exams and driving practice revenues at an average of $350-$400 an hour, by various measures, and often more. Yes, you can hire associates who contribute new skills, and while that may make sense in some practices, it adds another level of expense and management. That takes away time.

Three Ways to Increase Profits
Bear in mind the three basic actions that increase profitability: raise prices, cut costs or increase volume. Well, raising prices is really tough. Cutting costs is also tough, but usually doable. That leaves increasing volume, and let’s include in this category adding services that will help to achieve that. This seems the most logical course to increase revenues, and most ROB stories are about it. 

But what if?

What if we steered a new course, one divergent from the “do it all” direction? What if we said: Concentrate on what you are best at. Be comprehensive at it. Know when to refer out, hire on, etc. And know when to leave an opportunity to others because it detracts from what you are doing well.

I see evidence that this approach–a concentrated, single-tasking approach–is taking hold. I see practices that are phasing out their optical departments, and some practices that never have had one. I see practices just doing dry eye, just doing pediatrics, just doing myopia control. And trying to do it well.

I’d like to pay tribute to a visionary who was blessed with a long and successful life: Robert J. Morrison, OD, who passed away in 2015 at age 90. Bob Morrison was a contact-lens pioneer, an inventor, a PCO lecturer and a tournament-level tennis player. Perhaps he was best know as “doctor to royalty” who made house calls each year to provide eye exams and contact lenses to members of several royal families of Europe. And Bob was my optometrist. I once got bumped out of Bob’s exam chair during an exam because Prince Albert popped into the New York office and wanted to be seen tout de suite. I was dilated at the time and my brush with royalty is a blurry memory. 

Despite Bob’s dazzling success in practice and business, he readily admitted that he had not been the top student in his class, far from it. He just never let that hold him back.

“Find out what you’re best at, and be the best at it,” he told me and many others whom he touched in his lifetime. “And good fortune will come your way.”

Here’s to single-tasking! It’s due for a revival.

 

Roger Mummert is Content Director for Review of Optometric Business. Contact: rmummert@jobson.com

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