Optimism: The Result of a Great Game Plan

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO March 22, 2013

The story is timeless. It's David v. Goliath. It's Hickory v. South Bend Central. It's the underdog prevailing over the favorite.

How in the world do these upsets happen?

Why are some folks intimidated, while others achieve legendary success?

An optimistic approach and a realistic expectation of winning are found in the development of a healthy respect for an opponent without getting psyched out. Success comes from focusing on the task at hand, rather than worrying about who or what you are up against.

Independent optometry has been defying the odds for many years. Medicare parity, DPAs, TPAs, scope of practice enhancement, and beyond—all accomplished with the execution of a well-constructed game plan. The formula: first a vision, then a plan, and, finally, execution with determination and resolve.

So, let's focus on one specific challenge which is facing independent optometry—the battle to fill our prescriptions. I think we all would agree that our dispensaries are the most vulnerable component of our practices. We are faced with increased retail and online competition, a difficult economy, and an assault on our materials value proposition.

How are we going to respond? Are we going to hope it's going to be all right? Or, are we going to game plan and compete? Remember, regardless the challenge, the formula for success is the same.

What should we be doing now?

First, let's be sure that we are carefully monitoring our practices. We must keep track of our capture rate and its trend over time if we are to have an accurate measure of competitive intrusion. A gut feeling is not good enough, we need hard data.

We need to understand what competitors are saying to our patients. I would recommend a little mystery shopping to shed some light here.

We must not forget the importance of personalized recommendations for our patients. It is the personal connection that sets us apart.

We also know that lenses and materials vary in cost and that one size doesn't fit all. Our patients need to be reminded to make apple-to-apple comparisons.

And one more thing, it is high time for frame and lens manufacturers to step up and help us by presetting our patients with reasonable expectations regarding cost and benefit. If we want someone to know something, we have to tell them.

I believe we have every reason for optimism in independent optometry. We do a great job for our patients and they feel a strong connection to our practices. We enjoy multiple access channels to patients including 59 million who are preferentially directed to our practices by VSP Vision Care. Multiple access channels give us an enormous advantage and access means opportunity.

So, despite our diminutive size when compared to big business, the game is ours to win. However, if we are going to win, we are going to have to shore up our value proposition and remind our patients that we provide not only great service but also great value.

As I See It, we continue to take great care of our patients, we analyze the competition, we maximize available tools and resources, we execute our plan, and we look to the future. We cannot assume that our patients will embrace our value proposition if we do not clarify it for them, so, we definitely need to focus our attention in this area. A great game plan is the prelude to success; it is the stuff legends are made of.

Looking for tools you can use to increase your capture rate and sharpen your competitive edge? Review your personalized VSP Annual Practice Report, and visit the Programs menu on VSPOnline.

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