Manage by numbers, not by emotions

May 1, 2010

If you're like most optometrists who own a practice, you rely on your bookkeeper or accountant to pay the bills, cut payroll checks, and prepare tax reports for the Internal Revenue Service.

Key Points

Las Vegas-If you're like most optometrists who own a practice, you rely on your bookkeeper or accountant to pay the bills, cut payroll checks, and prepare tax reports for the Internal Revenue Service. You rely on your receptionist to answer phones, schedule appointments, and greet patients.

Yet, despite such efficient delegation-and in some way perhaps because of it-very few discussions occur between staff members about how to grow the practice or what changes can be made to build profits.

Mark R. Wright, OD, FCOVD, has seen this type of disconnect all too often at optometry practices around the country. As the president of Pathways for Success, a consulting firm for optometrists, and a faculty coordinator of the business management program at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Columbus, Dr. Wright said that-unfortunately-most optometrists make important business decisions based on emotions instead of facts, numbers, or concrete data.

"Optometrists don't have time to sit down and manage their practice appropriately," he said. "Having reviewed a lot of optometry, ophthalmology, and optician practices, I have seen that the majority are not tracking or managing by the numbers."

To help eye-care professionals utilize business data to better manage their practice, Dr. Wright developed a 2-hour workshop, "Managing by the Numbers," which he presented at International Vision Expo West.

In his course, Dr. Wright identified the numbers that must be tracked and how to analyze practice data and industry-standards, which are objective benchmarks to determine the health status of an optometry practice.

Commit the time

Whether you want to expand your practice or simply make a few changes to boost revenues, Dr. Wright said the first step is to make a commitment to work on your practice-a not just in it-for at least 1 hour each week. Then, use this time to review the books. Numbers act as clues, offering a wealth of information as to what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong and areas that need special attention.

"Take measurements of your practice to determine its health just as you would take measurements on patients to determine their physical health," Dr. Wright said.

For example, why was your practice's gross income higher last month than this month? Why did you sell more frames last year than this year? Maybe more patients requested eye exams last quarter than this quarter.

Track the numbers

There are many factors that can affect or influence how your practice performs, ranging from effective marketing campaigns and staffing changes to a sour economy. Focus on fixing the problems so your numbers improve and the practice can move forward.

The numbers to routinely examine and track include gross and net income, dollars generated per patient and classic expense categories like payroll and overhead, he explained.

National benchmark information also is available from sources such as the Ciba-Essilor MBA program, Eyes on America, or the Vision Council. Compare how your practice performed-last year, last quarter, or last month-against the national average. Did it fall behind or lead the way?