Megatrend Four: Improving ease of ownership and operational experience

It will become easier and a more enjoyable experience to run your practice.

Date:
Written by: Dominic Watson - Myers La Roche, Analyst and CEO

Running an optical business has been pretty tough over the past few years: you recently came through the teething pains of EGOS or signed up to a shared care scheme in some shape or form? You've weathered Covid with government regulations changing on an almost daily basis and are currently hearing all about the Cost of Living Crisis– an easier operating model and ownership experience probably sounds like a distant dream.


However the storm will pass and when it does, the foundations are in place – or at the very least ready for you to put in place - for you to reap the rewards and investment in time in your business – both from a life-style perspective and financially. 


Read on for the 6 reasons why running a practice is going to become easier


6 REASONS OPERATIONAL COMPLEXITY / EASE OF OPERATION IS GOING TO GET A WHOLE LOT EASIER


1. There are now a record 16,247 qualified optometrists in the UK and they are located across a wider geographic spread of the country, due to the increased number of universities running optometry courses – there are now a total of 13 across the UK. Recruitment of quality, commercially motivated clinical staff has been a problem in many areas for some time, but the growth in the ranks of optometrists should improve matters going forward.


2. Practices focused on private patients prepared to pay well for products and services, allows for a more enjoyable operating model for owners and staff – less rushed, less pressure.


3. Successful adoption of eye care schemes will improve cash flow and patient loyalty


4. Well implemented and well utilised IT offers amazing productivity benefits: 


  • Increasingly sophisticated practice management software will now integrate fully with cloud based accounting software such as Xero. This means that global financial information about your practice has never been more readily available. There is no longer a need [or cost implication] for you to wait for your accountant to produce expensive, retrospective management accounts. With good book keeping practices in place, it should be possible for you to understand the profitability of your practice on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis – and to keep a close eye on cash flow too. 
  • Increasing integration of practice management software with equipment such as auto refractors and OCT affords a reduction of transposition of RX data and smoother, more efficient use of time in the testing room to focus on face to face patient communication. 
  • Older, “IT illiterate” staff members may have mostly retired now [Covid was a significant catalyst for this] removing one of the final barriers for genuine practice wide IT adoption. Used properly, a practice management system should be at the core of all practice activities and when used in this way it provides full accountability - quickly revealing which staff members are performing and which are not – and where owners need to focus on remedial training.  
  • Productivity benefits of centralised mailing, automated SMS and online booking can release staff time, allowing them to spend more time with patients during the ‘golden hour’ on site, leading to higher sales, satisfaction and referrals
  • Well implemented practice management systems will prompt staff to record the marketing stimulus for new patients, or returning lapsed patients – to allow return on investment to be monitored for all marketing activities
  • Cloud based systems / secure remote access and increasing high speed broadband coverage mean that it is easy for owners to keep a handle on practice performance, from home or on holiday. I have a number of optometrist owner clients who only set foot in their practices a few times a year. They have successfully empowered their staff to run all functions of their business. By remotely accessing their practice performance data and financials they are able to keep tabs on their enterprise and spend no more than 2 or 3 hours a week on high level management. Whilst hands off operation to this extent is relatively rare, effective use of IT, systems, delegation, outsourcing and automation can without question transform your business and your experience of operating it. 


5. High speed broadband and ubiquitous use of the Zoom application now affords ever more sophisticated and cost-effective options for more regular niche optical business coaching, and peer to peer accountability support groups such as Myers La Roche’s Practice Pulse service (other specialist coaching and consultancy services are available!).


6. Brexit offers the government the opportunity to roll back a level of business red tape (although this is yet to materialise).



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