I recently met with a practitioner to discuss new strategies in practice management. As I have heard before, this practitioner said he knew it all and that he could summarize practice management in a few words: “Buy smart, hire good staff, be a sharp marketer and focus on customer service.” It was the same old rhetoric.
In response, I asked him if he conducted an inventory of his contact lenses. When he looked at me with a blank stare, I repeated the question. He considered the question and then dismissed it, saying that not only did he not inventory his contact lenses, but also that he didn’t see how my question had anything to do with practice management.
My point was simple. There are a lot of new things in practice management and, in fact, what’s old is new again. Just like the principles of optics haven’t changed, the principles of practice building also haven’t changed. It is the mechanisms and tools to execute those principles that have changed. It makes sense for all of us to periodically make sure that the techniques from our past are revisited, recycled and then recalibrated to current market conditions.
As an example, let’s look at a practice’s inventory of contact lenses—an interesting notion, because so few of us do this anymore. While it may have been commonplace to keep a stocked inventory in the olden days of vialed lenses, today’s manufacturers and distributors have made it incredibly easy and efficient to order lenses online, and to use their fulfillment systems to do so. For the practitioner, this shifts the need to inventory lenses away from us and onto them. Therefore, in the context of the above discussion, there is room to review contact lens inventories in another way, and like many old practice-building ideas, this too is worth revisiting and recycling.
Revisiting the Old Wisdom
• Buy smart. Generally, when you buy an inventory of lenses, your unit pricing drops. While it’s true you will incur costs for carrying inventory, you should move your inventory quickly with good forecasted data. With careful planning and smart buying, you can plan around a 30-day schedule and negate nearly any added expenses.
Keep in mind that you do not need to inventory every lens. Start with what you consider to be your go-to lenses in the most common powers. Next, create a list of your second-tier lenses and stop there.
• Hire good staff. Your staff has to understand the reason why—and be able to articulate that reason to your patients. In this case, your staff should understand the benefits of having an inventory of lenses, how to dispense ideally a year’s supply of lenses on the spot and how this practice can help with patient compliance and pricing.
• Be a sharp marketer. Patients should perceive you as the place to get contact lenses, and having their lenses in stock is one way to support that now uncommon marketing position. Having a well-researched, carefully planned inventory might be one of the least expensive marketing tools at your disposable.
• Focus on customer service. Think about it, what could be more convenient for a patient than walking out of your office with everything they need in hand—from lenses and solutions to cases and eyeglasses? Being able to have what your customer needs is one of the many hallmarks in great customer service. In our case, serving your patients’ needs when they need them to be served goes along with this mindset.
This article is not specifically about inventorying lenses. Rather, it is about realizing that business-building fundamentals have remained unchanged from essentially the earliest street markets. Offer great products, value and service in a memorable atmosphere and work with an educated staff—and you’re highly likely to succeed.
The key is rethinking and modernizing your strategy. Instead of a billboard on a highway, use social media. Instead of the Yellow Pages, use search engine optimization. A television commercial may be replaced with your own YouTube channel.
While using these new methodologies, stick to the core elements of old-school business building. Don’t get into a rut and think that there is nothing new in practice management. If you get complacent, you’ll find that your practice is the one that suffers.