Let’s talk about the future of your practice for a few minutes. How many more new patients do you want to fit with contact lenses this year? How much incremental income are you expecting? Do you have written objectives to achieve both of these goals? If you are starting to use a new lens or procedure—for instance, corneal reshaping—do you have a goal for how long it will take you to become proficient? Setting goals for business growth is nothing new and hopefully something you are already doing. In this column, I want to discuss how you should set those goals and how you should choose the right numbers to best maximize your practice.

As a caveat to this conversation, because we are talking about an event that will take place in the future—i.e., the attainment or missing of your goals—there is no perfect method or answer to setting your exact goals. However, there is a significant problem with setting them via the same method each time, especially if you consistently reach those goals! The problem here is that your expectations are likely too low and you are probably reaching your goals by default.

Set Open-Ended Goals
For example, you may start your fiscal year by saying: “I want to grow from last year’s $500,000 gross sales to $600,000.” If you reach your goal, is that a success? Not necessarily, especially if you consider that you employed specific tactics focused primarily on reaching a precise number. If you were thinking beyond that goal, could you have earned $650,000?

To simplify this example, if you calculated the number of patients you have and raised your fees by 20%, you might make exactly $600,000. Or, if you maintained your fee rate and saw 20% more patients, you’d also reach your goal. But, in this case, was reaching the goal a positive event for your practice or a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Consider the end result if you saw 20% more patients and raised your fees by 20%. That would have changed your revenue volume to a much higher number! As you can see, goal setting can sometimes work against you—particularly when you set out to reach those goals based on certain concrete tactics.

Instead of making a concrete goal such as fitting 15% more patients with daily disposables, try making an open-ended goal like let’s try to fit daily disposables whenever they are clinically appropriate for the patient. The first tactic isn’t as globally reaching as the second strategy. In this case, tactics are what you do and the strategy is how you think.

Track Your Results
Remember to be careful that your goals are not too amorphous and make sure they maintain some verifiable metrics. This concept can be broken down into major categories of practice development. For example, your goal might be to become more visible in the community through social media. While certainly a worthwhile pursuit, how will you know if you’ve attained such a goal? Instead, add attainable benchmarks to the goal: name media sites where you’d like an online presence, survey patients at a six-month point to gauge success, create a baseline at the start of the project from which growth can be measured, and set definitive next steps should you find success. 

In this case, the only possible trap for not stretching the goal high enough would be that “increase” has not been defined. Still, the second goal is more specific and far-reaching than the first and as such, allows room for greater growth.

I recommend that you think about the future of your practice and set realistic goals for the next year. In doing so, however, take care that your expectations do not limit your potential for success.