Insights From Our Editors

2021: What Do I Need to Do Now to Prepare My Practice?

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

August 26, 2020

The New Year is closer than you think. Here are important actions to take this fall in your practice to be ready to serve patients and build profits to the best of your ability next year.

An interesting article, “How Should a Business Prepare for Next Year?” was published that gives helpful advice in Chron (an online publication of the Houston Chronicle). It takes a broader view than just setting numerical goals. Here are the main points adapted for our eyecare practices.

The time to think about next year is now. Do not wait until the end of the year or even the beginning of next year. That’s too late. Many of the eyecare vendors in our profession begin the process of goal setting for next year in July of this year. The plans are finalized in October, then go into intense planning to make them happen for the following year.
“But we don’t know yet what will happen this year, so how can we plan for next year so early?” is a common refrain we often hear. Operating your business without a plan makes no more sense than starting out on a trip without first mapping it out. The sooner you start and the more effort you put into the plan, the better the end result will be, so start early on your plan.

Look at the financial and non-financial numbers your practice created so far this year. Compare these against your budget and goals for this year. Which services or products are doing the best? Which ones are doing the worst? Which marketing projects did the best in return on investment? Which did the worst? Work your way through each part of the practice.

Be sure to include your management team in this analysis. You want to know their thoughts on why the numbers turned out the way they did and, equally important, what are their thoughts on what can be done next year to make the numbers better.

Create two sets of projections: one set of projections based on doing the same things next year that are being done this year and another set of projections based on new ideas for next year. Will patients purchase more or less from you, what will be the impact of cost-containment efforts, what will happen if you raise (or lower) your prices, and what is the predicted return on investment for any new technology purchases, are just some of the questions you should be asking. Another key question is what is your operational ability to expand your business by adding another location, adding new distribution channels, such as an online store, or adding telemedicine?

After completing this analysis, you’ll have a better idea about the impact of making changes.

Start with last year’s budget. It’s easier to modify an existing budget than it is to create a new one from scratch. After taking into account the results of the previous step, create your master budget for next year. Remember to include your potential tax burdens and tax strategies to help reduce your burden.

Once you’ve done the work above, make decisions and create your overall plan. (Don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis.) A major portion of creating your plan is delegating areas of the plan to staff members to help make sure the work gets done. Create benchmarks to make sure you are staying on course. Include plans for adjusting your master budget when you under-perform or over-perform your projections. Your master budget needs to be reviewed and adjusted at least monthly.

You can read about how to swim all day long. It’s only when you hit the water that all the lessons come together and you make real progress. Make the plan, then work the plan – that’s how you move your practice forward.

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