By now we all know if you give everyone a raise or hire new employees, business will plummet before the ink dries on the contract. If you decide things are good enough to get the family out of town for a week or two, cash flow will decline at least twice as long as you and the crew were lollygagging at the beach. Oh, and you know if you buy a new car, suddenly everyone wants to get their glasses online. 

Why? Well, either Satan runs your business or God has an unusual sense of humor. Either way, my advice is to stay calm and, if all else fails, fire everyone. As soon as you are grossly understaffed, business will explode. Soon your office will be full of patients who would love to buy stuff from you, if you only had someone in the office who actually knew how to post a check. 

The Missing Link

Handling these ups and downs is the crux of running a successful small business—one thing we were never taught in school, even though it’s probably more important in optometry than all the dials on a phoropter. Of course, if our professors actually knew anything about running a successful small business they wouldn’t be professors, right?  

I am sorry if any professors took offense to that. Those of you who have successfully run a small business can reach out and I’ll apologize to both of you. And selling quilted glasses cases on Etsy does not count. 

Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but do I make a good point? Why would someone with a doctorate in optometry offer a free exam if you buy glasses next door? One business class would have saved their soul. 

Now that I think about it, we did have a business class in school and it was taught by a well-respected and successful private practice OD. During the two-hour class, he showed slides of his very successful practice. There were at least 20 slides of his bathroom. It was quite nice and the toilet paper appeared to be of excellent quality. His décor was velvety and filled with Japanese tapestries, Ming vase wannabees and various Samurai swords. 

I guess I should have decorated my office more like his.

Filling the Void

There are, of course, business courses offered at CE meetings, mostly sponsored by labs and other vendors. The extremely engaging speaker assures you that if you buy the stuff produced by the sponsoring labs and vendors, your business will be healthy and growing. The speaker’s own speaking business will be healthy and growing too, as they will never have to face another patient whose progressive adds drive everyone crazy. Now, that is a business plan!

I know, I know. There are plenty of optometrists who do great in private practice. In fact, probably the worst optometrist in America still has a nice car and is a member of the country club. I guess that could be because he doesn’t really practice optometry and drives for Uber. The point is, he has a Doctor of Optometry and is doing just fine. 

Also, I know optometrists who have MBAs. This additional financial training gives them not only the ability to accurately analyze every facet of their small business, but also another diploma to hang on the wall. They never hang Samurai swords on their office walls—makes it too easy to commit harakiri when their checkbooks don’t balance. 

Remember: fire everyone and watch the phones explode!