• Where Will You Be in 12 Months?

    by Mark Overton

    “If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable to him.”
    Seneca, Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician (5 BC - 65 AD)

    Business is not about riding the bumps and berms of our economy and environment, but charting the best possible path to our considered objectives, avoiding those potential hazards where possible.

    So first we have to know where it is we want to end up, in fairly specific terms. I wise man once said of politicians (something to remember in coming weeks!) that “the value of a political statement can be measured by whether any sane person would disagree with it”. “We are committed to improving the standard of education for our kids” is not a plan. Neither is “We would like to increase sales by a healthy margin.”

    “I would like to increase practice income by more than 20% before June 2011” is a good start. I might disagree that this is achievable, or encourage you to spread your wings a bit more, but I can do that because you have started a plan. We can ask the next important question which is “Specifically how will we achieve this?” We can progressively consider the detail of what needs to be done or has to change so that this result can become a reality.

    “We don’t have a plan, so nothing can go wrong!” Spike Milligan.

    It’s always possible to achieve great things without planning, but if it happens to go wrong it helps to know early on so corrections can be made. Hopefully we will have anticipated the potential problem and “Plan B” is prepared and ready.

    “I have found that in battle, plans are useless, however planning is indispensible…” Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower

    Almost certainly your plans will need to change. This is not a problem but an expression of their very purpose. You will have a much better appreciation of the effect this change of events will have on your practice, and an assessment of whether we simply need more ammunition or a fresh injection of troops.

    “The only thing harder than planning is explaining why you didn’t….” Anonymous

    The 19th century French engineer, Henri Fayol described the four main functions of a manager as “Planning, organising, leading and controlling”. These functions are interdependent. Remove one and the rest begin to crumble. No plan and controlling becomes difficult. How can you lead of you don’t know where you are headed yourself? Accountability becomes almost impossible.

    “But our practice is going very well!” I hear you cry?

    “Dig the well before you are thirsty” Chinese proverb

    It will go better with a plan. You can bet your competitors have plans to take your patients and your market share. They will get a foothold if they have not already done so and we need to know how to manage this. You need it and your staff want it.

    2011 will be a very interesting year for the optometry profession. Competition will increase as new entrants stabilise and focus on internal growth. There will be new practices opening. There will be economic pressure and possibly interest rate rises. Employment is changing and business costs are on the way up. I strongly recommend you have a plan, even if it’s just a quiet evening with a pinot, pencil and note book. Good luck for 2011 but I hope you don’t need it.

    Mark Overton - Ideology Consulting

    Mark Overton is a professional consultant from Ideology Consulting, with an academic background in science and business. He has 28 years experience working in both the public and private sectors and specialises in optometry practices and related organisations.
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