Practice Management

3 Winning Marketing, Operations & Leadership Improvement Ideas from Outside Optometry

Dr. Mai with one of his young patients. Dr. Mai says some of his most valuable practice improvement ideas come from outside of optometry.

Dr. Mai with one of his young patients. Dr. Mai says some of his most valuable practice improvement ideas come from outside of optometry.

Building your business with innovative ideas from outside the industry.

By Thanh Mai, OD

March 13, 2024

I love going outside the eyecare industry to learn new stuff that, when applied to my practice, can be like an atomic bomb leading to explosive growth. A few months ago I spoke with a CEO who sold more than a billion dollars a year worth of sandwiches. That’s right, sandwiches. And the conversation is always eye-opening.

Sure. Attending a practice management optometry conference with a slate of ODs is great. But you know what I like even more? Learning from restaurateurs, Silicon Valley tech geeks and the physical therapist with 500 locations about things that would never cross your mind. For instance, I learned a ton about myopia management from a CEO who spent years selling cereal before diving into childhood myopia.

Here are great ideas I culled from outside of optometry that continue to help me better serve patients and enhance my practice, which has grown at least 20 percent year-over-year for the last nine years.

Digital Marketing: Informal Videos Shot in the Office

“Thanh, I wouldn’t get fancy and be overly produced. I would seriously just grab my phone and talk about whatever the heck you wish patients knew about their eyes.” This was advice from a digital marketing expert who had spent over a billion dollars on ads in dozens of industries.

So, my partner, Valerie, asked her cousin to come to the practice to video-record us talking about topics we discuss with patients in the exam room, such as myopia management and conditions like dry eye. We didn’t hire a fancy marketing team, or spend 300 hours making videos to post weekly. We just shot the videos and paid her cousin to make edits, and then we threw them on YouTube.

The result? We’ve got over a million views on our practice’s YouTube channel.

We’ve had patients fly to see us from China, Brazil, Canada, and some who have driven to us in Costa Mesa, Calif., all the way from Nebraska because of our digital footprint. Patients who watched our videos say they feel like we are their friends since they listened to us before setting foot inside the office. It has enriched patients’ in-person experience.

Operations: Learning the Best Way to Run Meetings

“If you’re going to run hundreds of meetings, shouldn’t you get trained on how to run a meeting?” I heard this from a chief operating officer consultant who helped the country of Qatar run more smoothly.

Goodness gracious he is right. As a business owner you should have meetings with your team to train, to conduct team building and to prepare everyone for each day. The problem is that most ODs were never taught how to do this, even though many ODs hold meetings daily or, at the very least, weekly. The general structure now of our best meetings are:

  1. Talk about our wins from the previous week. Could be personal like celebrating my son’s seventh birthday or professional like helping a patient with corneal scars see 20/25 again.
  2. Review metrics we’re trying to improve.
  3. Review our action items to see if we need to discuss anything, and to hold ourselves accountable.
  4. Discuss our challenges. Most importantly, identify the real problem, discuss it briefly, and then spend time discussing the solution.
  5. Wrap up by rating the meeting on a scale of 1-10. Anything less than a 8 becomes an issue (i.e. we didn’t start on time).

 Leadership: Find Role Models

“Success leaves clues” – Tony Robbins

Even Tiger Woods has a golf coach.

Overwhelmingly, the bulk of success, according to Tony, has to do with the psychology of the leader. A growth-oriented “big” minded OD will soar to new heights. Usually that growth-minded OD is focused solely on what they can control. They spend almost no time worrying about which alliance was bought out by what big corporation or what vision care plans are doing.

A key ingredient of success at any level is to model someone who has done it before you. So, do you want to hyper-drive your dry eye practice? Find someone doing it at the highest level and model them. Find the best optical merchandiser and copy their strategy. Find the biggest myopia management practices in the country and model them. Ask the human resources team at Google how they hire, onboard and retain key employees.

Vision Source gave me tools for optical merchandising, staff onboarding advice and guidance through COVID. Treehouse Eyes laid out the myopia management roadmap for us. My partner swears by the Sanet courses for our vision therapy practice.

Who you are modeling yourselves after? Hopefully it’s not just the person in the mirror staring back at you!

Thanh Mai, ODThanh Mai, OD, is a partner with Insight Vision Center Optometry, a Vision Source practice in Costa Mesa, Calif. To contact him:


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