I have been an optometrist for 11 years. Shortly after I got out of school, I started working for another doctor. After nine months as an employee, I bought the practice. But it didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned. For the first six months, I just watched things going down and down. I realized that I needed some help in running the practice, but didn’t know who to call. I needed help with everything: how to run the practice, how to keep the income up, how to hire staff, how to manage them. I required a comprehensive management program, not one that would just address one or two aspects of the practice.
At that point, I received a video in the mail from Sterling, watched it and then talked to some other doctors who were Sterling clients. It looked like just what I wanted. So, I signed up for the program and went out to their offices a couple of months later to receive some management training and consulting.
The Sterling program teaches the doctor how to be a business owner and manager, things you don’t learn when earning your degree. One important skill you gain is the ability to manage your employees better. Sterling also helped me with testing of potential employees so I can select the best. One that I hired back then is still with me after nearly ten years.
The program also straightened up some of the bad advice I had gotten earlier on how to run the practice. For example, the doctor I bought the practice from used to say that a patient is always right. That may be a good policy for a restaurant or hairdresser, but it is not the right way to operate a professional practice. Sure, you should listen to what the patients have to say and take that into account, but as the trained professional, you have to do what is right, not what the patient thinks is right.
Another mistake I made was in building the practice on managed care. Yes it did bring in lots of patients, but those patients just brought in a lot of additional work. They didn’t help the bottom line. Sterling helped me cut out the managed care. True, my gross income did drop, but my net went way up. I found that I was much less busy, but was able to deliver better service to my patients and was also able to make a better living doing it.
Delivering this higher level of service has also helped me overcome competition. We had a low-cost chain-store come in town and will have another here soon. We lost some patients at first but they have since come back. They know the quality and service we provide is superior. They only left because I am more expensive, but then they realize I am worth it. So we have had a big influx of patients coming back recently. They trust my opinion more than other doctors and prefer the level of service we give them.
But in addition to helping retain existing patients, Sterling has helped me to maintain a steady inflow of new patients as well. They taught me how to do a particular type of advertising which is very successful and cost-effective. Even though the ad had not changed for almost three years, it continues to consistently bring in new patients. Normally we have to start pulling our charts in November to make room for more. This year we had to start pulling them in August because we were getting so many new patients.
I use the management data I learned from Sterling in almost everything, even at my church. For example, the material I learned about managing employees also helps me to handle people and disagreements in other areas of life. I use it every single day. I think the current calling I have as a bishop in my church is because I know how to effectively handle people.
After doing the program I started realizing that every time a situation came up, I knew how to handle it because of what I had learned.
Kelly Corbridge, O.D.