Where You Might See a Threat Others Might See an Opportunity

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By Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH, WO Professional Editor and Member, Advisory Panel

In a recent Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll, ODs responded with a single-word response to indicate the biggest threat and the biggest opportunity they saw in optometry. We put the responses into word clouds—and you can see them here below. What I find so interesting is that some words appear on both lists.

Biggest Opportunities


Biggest Threats


In a way, it’s the old glass-half-empty or glass-half-full question. One person’s threat can be another’s opportunity. One way to look at this is to determine where the disrupters are (the threats) and how you can fill a void in their market strategy or move in a different direction from that. In other words, either be better at the game or play where they are not.

Here are some examples. Online vision apps are popular in part because they’re technologically cool. For the patient who has come into his or her eye doctor’s office every single year and gone through the same “which is better” kind of exam, an online test seems convenient and new. As ODs, we know the shortcomings of that approach—but our patients don’t. That’s the problem.

To counter the perception that our office was somehow less technologically advanced than an online app or site, we began scripting explanations that all the technicians used to help explain what our technology does and why it’s important. If patients are looking for high-tech solutions, we’ve got them. We just weren’t sharing the information well enough if they didn’t know it. That’s an example of being better at what the market disrupter is doing.

The other way to make an opportunity out of a threat is to move into a space where the competitors are not. When I first graduated optometry school, I was very interested in vision rehabilitation. No other eye care provider in the two surrounding counties was offering those services. My part-time occupational therapist and I went to every rehab facility to explain what we could do. As we became busier, that portion of the practice grew, and we began to get referrals for stroke patients, brain injury patients and kids with binocular vision issues. What I thought would be a small niche grew to be a substantial part of the practice.

Here’s the key. We didn’t value our vision rehabilitation practice solely by the professional fees for these services. Of course, we didn’t want to lose money on the endeavor, but bottom-line value to the practice came because our quality of care extended to our other services. Adult children who brought their elderly parents in for vision rehabilitation services after a stroke would ask us, “Oh, you do eye exams, too?” Parents who brought in their children for binocular vision services would ask the same thing. We proved our worth to these family members because we did everything that the offices in town did—and more.

It’s not always easy to identify an opportunity where others see threats. But when you can, chances are that your practice will blossom in new and unexpected ways.

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