After 11 years of running my own optometric practice, I was at my wits’ end. The office was chaotic with the staff running the show instead of me running the staff. They seemed to have excuses for everything including why they were frequently late or not doing their work. When I asked them to do a task, they would balk and complain they didn’t have to do “that” in their last job. Since they were uncomfortable asking patients for money, they didn’t. Collections were dismal, accounts receivables skyrocketed and patients walked out the door without paying.
My sales and income figures were so low, I wouldn’t even look at them. It didn’t really matter because I didn’t know what to do about them anyway. The competition was increasing and I didn’t know how to deal with that either. I devised several reasons why we were doing so poorly, such as “You can’t be busy over the holidays,” or “Patients won’t come in after 5 p.m.,” or “No one will buy upscale frames in this town.” These reasons were not only off base, they made it “okay” to have low production and income.
I was overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel. Even though I loved optometry, I was contemplating a career change when I attended a Sterling seminar on practice management. I signed up for the Sterling program thinking, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll close my doors.” Thankfully, the Sterling program did work. In just six weeks’ time, I started to see gains and began to feel like I was succeeding. In just three months’ time, I had an established template against which to compare my actions and create a practice with known successful actions—it felt great.
Sterling’s program was very different from any other practice management program I’d seen. It was customized to me and my practice instead of one-size-fits-all. With my consultant, we isolated the areas in myself which needed attention for me to become an effective executive. We also zeroed in on the areas of the practice which needed improvement. My consultant wrote a doable step-by-step program to get the practice on track and worked with me every step of the way to get it done. The program addressed such issues as attracting new patients, boosting production and efficiency, improving communication, finding and hiring the right staff, getting organized and getting the finances under control.
Another difference in the Sterling program is rather than just telling me what to do, they made a point of training me so I would know what to do. Now, my executive skills are on par with my technical skills.
It’s been 22 years since I signed up with Sterling and I am still a client today. I was at their offices in Glendale, California, just a few months ago to do a specialized one-on-one consulting program. I also receive regular consultations from my consultant whom I depend on for guidance and direction. She may not always tell me what I want to hear, but she always tells me what I need to hear.
Thanks to Sterling, my income has increased by 250% and the increase in profitability far exceeds that. Since I know how to run the practice, I no longer have to worry about competition because I won’t lose any business. What about the recession? No problem. These circumstances have no effect on us, but if they did, I would know how to address them. What I have learned from Sterling is the growth of my practice is completely under my control.
After my first year with Sterling, I took a month off. Before that, I had never taken off more than three or four days at one time. Now I take five weeks of vacation per year. Out of all of the benefits I have received from the Sterling program, that is the one that means most to me: having the time to spend with my family and do the things I want to do outside of the practice.
I used to feel like I was losing the game. But in the nick of time, we hit a bases-loaded home run with Sterling in terms of time, effort, emotion, and viability. You can choose to try to take a walk, strikeout, or hit the home run, and I chose the home run and have been running successfully ever since.
Michael Walby, OD