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How to run the best possible practice in 2017


I see the beginning of 2017 as fresh. A year of fresh possibilities. It is new and brimming with fresh beginnings, filled with hopes and dreams. If you are not feeling it, perhaps you are ensnared in the gray world of A, B, and C. This ABC is a continuous loop. You are not sure how you got there or how to get out.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

What do the following have in common?

Opening a new book; the smell after a spring rain; how one feels after a really good night’s sleep; seeing the sun rise: All might be described using the adjective ‘fresh.’

My dictionary defines fresh in the following manner:

  •  Not previously known or used; new or different (Example: "The court had heard fresh evidence.").

  •  Recently created or experienced and not faded or impaired (Example: "The memory was still fresh in their minds.").

I see the beginning of 2017 as fresh. A year of fresh possibilities. It is new and brimming with fresh beginnings, filled with hopes and dreams.

If you are not feeling it, perhaps you are ensnared in the gray world of A, B, and C. This ABC is a continuous loop. You are not sure how you got there or how to get out.

In context, ABC is an initialism. Each letter is used when spelling Anger, Bitterness, and Criticism (ABC).

You know you are caught in a trap of ABC:

  •    When the headlines cause your blood pressure to rise.

  •    You look in your inbox for political updates expecting to read of reimbursement cuts.

  •    In the office, you recommend basic spectacle lens technology because you assume your patients do not want to pay extra.

  •    And, most tragically, you may expect your employees to fail and never compliment their successes.

These three letters, A, B, and C, will never underpin actions leading to fresh. They have no place in my fresh new year.

Please join me. This can be the year you begin retooling your practice into the one that brings you happiness each and every day.

Most New Year's resolutions, no matter how well-intended, are doomed to fail for one often overlooked reason: they are incongruent with our dreams and values. In The Art of the Fresh Start, Glenna Salsbury provides tools to uncover the values that guide you, leading you to discover what you want to achieve and how to get there through internal motivation.

How I incorporated it


Not long after I first read her short book, I met the author. The year was 1996 and I spent a weekend with her at a retreat she led. I had just begun consulting full-time with eyecare practitioners and went as a guest of a California practice.

For them, it was all about personal change. Me? I wondered if her methodology could be the catalysis for permanent and positive change in an eyecare health office.

Do you remember her story? Millions of readers marveled at Salsbury's inspiring story of miraculously seeing her dreams become reality, as told in the bestselling book Chicken Soup for the Soul. In The Art of the Fresh Start, she goes in depth, sharing with readers her life-changing, practical approach for tapping into one’s core being in order to achieve permanent, repeatable, and ongoing self-renewal.

I left excited about her approach because it can be adapted to practice management and process improvement. I also left with clarity: a clarity that has structured my business coaching and consulting services for the past twenty years.

Personal Application

Are you willing to make 2017 the year you go all in? Put yourself out there and begin to plan for the best place to practice eyecare in the nation?

Salisbury’s guidebook begins with what she calls a Summit Challenge. For me, this challenge was the most difficult part of her transforming process. I have found that my Type A, action personality wants to skip quiet reflection. For example, I do not keep a journal. Now, you would think that someone who has been writing professionally since she was 15 would keep a journal-go figure! This Summit Challenge also involves sharing your inner hopes and desires with a group of trusted advisors. This much transparency leaves you feeling vulnerable.

In a practice setting, this Summit translates into a leader retreat.

You and your core team are tasked with answering the following questions.

  •      What does the ideal practice look like?

  •      What is holding the practice back?

  •      What gives the owners feelings of peace, freedom, joy, satisfaction, and contentment?

This is when your core team steps away from the business of patient care and technology to reflect. With lots of paper and flip charts, your core team will use their collective insights to develop the practice’s mission statement and core values.

Share Your Vision


Share Your Vision

Kevin McCarthy, in his book, On-Purpose Person, helps the reader answer these questions.

  •      Why do I exist? (Purpose)

  •      How am I to live out my purpose in my professional life? (Mission statement)

Now share the practice’s mission statement with your entire office. This will probably take about four hours and I suggest this be done away from the office. During this ½ day session, everyone in the practice will be asked to adopt strategies that support the owner’s mission statement and set tactical goals accordingly.

This top-down approach to strategic planning is recommended because your team wants to please you. The pace of change and achievement is set by practice leaders and begins with strategic planning.

Salsbury’s book is literally a step-by-step how-to guide. When the owner is centered and knows what he or she wants, the practice follows. During a retreat, key players buy into the owner’s vision. Often, it’s the insights of these key players that help the owner have clarity.

The owner’s life purpose and the practice’s overarching mission statement will be the calibrating factors for all practice decisions. For example, the owner’s heartfelt desire to retire early with discretionary income to travel abroad may not align with the practice’s long-term participation in certain managed care plans.

On the other hand, striving to provide quality, affordable healthcare to everyone in your community parallels accepting many managed care plans nicely.

A mission statement underpinned by core values and amplified with strategic statements leads to tactical clarity in everything from deciding which managed care plans to accept, to setting employee pay scales, to deciding what type of artwork to buy.

Now, are you excited about 2017? Enjoy the journey of becoming the best practice possible.

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