By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO August 10, 2012

Well, it is that time of year again—time for my birthday. Have you noticed that we always wonder where has the time has gone? Surely, the world has changed and a lot has gone on—after all, an entire year has gone by—and yet, I didn’t notice. Is it possible that these same phenomena occur in our practices? Time goes by, the world changes around us, and yet we continue to do things the same way. 

We all know that we have been battling a challenging business environment. Tighter margins, higher cost, and stiffer competition are the order of the day. Our patients are shopping more, buying less, and seem to be influenced more by the constant drumbeat of retail messaging. So, you might say, nothing new here. You might even think that your practice is unique and somehow unaffected. 

But have things changed? Absolutely, and we independents would do well to pay notice. Despite a flat growth rate in the eyecare industry, did you know that Luxottica reported a 23.6% increase in profitability for their optical retail business in the second quarter of 2012? Does this success in retail have implications for our independent practices? What are we doing about this increasing challenge? This is but one example of a changing world. Did we notice? 

The real question is whether or not we have an updated playbook to remain competitive in today’s marketplace, or are we still hoping the old plays will work? Do we have an online strategy? Are our practices delivering the retail experience which patients are demanding? What is our value proposition? Do we have a social media strategy? In other words, are we continuing with the zone defense despite the fact that our competition seems to be making more three pointers? 

As I see it, we need to take notice of the changing world. We must identify and align with strategic partners to neutralize any competitive advantage. Allowing time to pass without responding to changes in the marketplace is not good business. So, let’s review our playbook, modify it as needed, and compete from a position of strength. As for the birthdays, be thankful for the time that God has given you and let someone else do the math.

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