Just say NO! Was it Nancy Reagan who used that line in her campaign against drug abuse? This is good advice not only for teenagers considering huffing something gross, but these are words to live by for optometrists, too ... Just say NO.

Want to enlarge your Yellow Page ad? NO.

Want to have us install this new instrument and you can return it in 30 days for a full refund? NO.

Would you like to be a charter (they always say charter) member of this new professional organization? NO!

When you say YES, you automatically add something to your list. Do you really want to add something to your list? The answer to that question is obvious: NO.

The point is that a good eye doctor has to say NO more often than YES.

Can I get those contact lenses that make my eyes look all white? NO.

Can I start coming in once every two years? NO.

Can you to refer all your cataract patients to me? NO.

Can I have a copy of my six-year-old contact lens prescription? NO.

Can I have next Wednesday off? NO.

Am I a good candidate for that surgery? NO.

Will you come talk to my kids class for career day? NO.

Will you volunteer for _________ (pencil in anything)? NO.

You have to just say NO. I have a wonderful friend and colleague O.D. down the street, Dr. Thomas Griffith, who you may know from his fine work at SECO in Atlanta each year. Tom and I have made some wonderful business decisions together through our 20-plus years as friendly competitors. These decisions were about joining forces to buy equipment, about labs, contact lens designs you name it. Every wonderful business decision we ever made was NO. Whenever we say NO, it works out perfectly.

YES has not been as great. Fortunately, I rarely say YES. There are a few exceptions:

Can I buy you lunch? YES.

Can I leave you some samples of ____________ (pencil in anything)? YES.

Do you like peanut butter fudge? YES.

Can I get new glasses, even if my prescription hasnt changed? YES.

Are you accepting new patients? YES.

Arent you 27 years old? YES.

So, how do you decide whether to say NO or to say YES? It takes experience, and the only way to get enough experience is to make the wrong choice a few thousand times.

So, after 30 years of practice, youd think Id never make the wrong choice again, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. So very wrong.

A couple years ago, I was convinced that joining a new, small practice association would save me tons of money, enhance my professional standing, give me powerful, shared marketing advantages, and restore that wonderful feeling of professional camaraderie that Ive been missing. After much inner searching, I said YES.

Shoulda said NO. Remember, when in doubt, the answer is always NO! If you have to sleep on it: NO. If you have to bat it around, flip a coin, use a Ouija board, call your Mom, pray about it, throw dried chicken bones in the air and voodoo it, look it up on the Internet, listen to your inner voice, read the tea leaves, or see what shakes out then the answer is NO. A thousand times NO! And, dont join any group that would have someone like me as a member!

NO? Good. YES? Bad. Got it?

Vol. No: 145:05Issue: 5/15/2008