The Game Plan

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO January 25, 2013

Hasn’t this football season been great?! We just made it through the bowl season and we are on our way to Super Bowl XLVII. Each game has a favorite, but as we all know, lots of upsets! What makes the difference? Well, the truth is that games are won or lost for many reasons, but I would submit that the team which is most prepared is most likely to win.

To succeed you need a winning game plan. It requires accurate data, relative strengths and weaknesses, identification of threats, and an honest self assessment…all of which will influence how the game is played.

And so it is with independent optometry. Our profession has grown and developed, not because we hoped it would happen, but because we have made it happen. Our continued success will require a continuously updated playbook and the courage to adapt to an ever changing competitive environment.

What goes into designing a winning game plan? It all starts with current and accurate information. You have to understand your opponent (competitor). Analyze strengths and weaknesses (the marketplace). Address new rules and interpretations (healthcare reform). Look carefully at your own team (what makes independent optometric practice great). In a word, you have to prepare. The great football coach Urban Meyer has said, “I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn’t win.”

This is the spirit of the VSP “Proof is in the Patients” campaign. The competition has intensified and changed. The marketplace and key drivers for success have changed. Healthcare reform is a reality and is yet to be fully vetted. And certainly, it is a good time for the independent OD to apply introspection to each individual practice to ensure continuing success. The Proof campaign is specifically designed to keep doctors informed about the marketplace and to share information about programs and strategies that VSP is employing on behalf of independent optometry.

Patient loyalty is a very important key to the success of any practice. However, an over-reliance on loyalty can hinder objectivity and lead to the characterization of marketplace analysis as “doom and gloom.” In my view, a clear understanding of the marketplace is essential in developing our practice game plan.

It is the client (employer, union, municipality, etc.) who is the decision maker in the eye care marketplace. Plan offerings must meet client demands or they will not be selected. We must identify true business partners, ones who seek to put patients in our offices rather than retail stores. We can’t ignore the fact that online optical sales are growing, we need a response. We should understand what is happening in other parts of the world and look for possible applications in the US. And, I think we all would agree that we must not be asleep at the switch as healthcare reform unfolds. We must work to ensure our full participation. It will require a flexible playbook to succeed as market consolidation continues.

As I See It, preparation is the key to success for independent optometry. It will require information, intuition, guts, and true business partnerships as we compete on behalf of our patients and our practices. I believe the future is very bright, indeed. Both my son and my daughter will be in optometry school this fall. Our success today will be their success tomorrow. “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” – Henry Harman

I certainly want to invite you to attend one of the 2013 “Proof is in the Patients” presentations coming to a city near you. I can promise you an honest marketplace assessment and a clear explanation of any strategic adjustments that VSP is employing as it continues its mission of putting patients in the practices of independent optometry.

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