After leasing space next to Pearle Vision and Vista Optical stores for three years, I opened my first office in 1995. I bought a second the following year. But the practice wasn’t doing that well. I had staff problems, including patient complaints because of poor service from the staff. Some patients told me clearly that if the staff stayed they wouldn’t come back. I knew something needed to be done but didn’t know what. Fortunately, at that time my wife, who is also my business manager, encouraged me to become a Sterling client.
We started with Sterling in October ’98. The courses we took gave us a thorough understanding of how to manage the practice. Everything made sense and the results have shown that it works. We have more than doubled our production since then. Because of increased efficiencies, I have also been able to cut my work week back from six days to four-and-a-half. Plus I can now take vacations more regularly than I did previously and enjoy them more.
When my wife and I returned from our initial training, Sterling helped us hire competent staff. The ones we have now are giving very good service, the patients are very happy and they keep coming back. Since we are all working as a team, it greatly helps in getting patients to accept full treatment plans. We present the plans with full confidence and no one questions our treatment plans anymore. They can tell that we really want to give them the full service that is needed for them.
A big change that has helped the office run smoother was learning how to correctly schedule patients. We are much more efficient at doing that now. Before I might see one patient every hour-and-a-half and the time in between was not used properly. Now I am much more efficient in how I use my time. This lets me see more patients while I am in the office, then I can relax when I’m not working.
Also, the staff are doing much more than before. They do all the pretesting. I just go in and do the refraction. This means that I can see more patients, but I can also spend more quality time listening to the patients’ concerns and address them specifically during the eye exam. This is very important for patient care.
Another thing I got out of the program is how to use statistics to gain an awareness of when something needs to be done. Now I know that practice management is a science. There are certain steps you have to take to be successful. It is like medicine. If you know how to properly diagnose a problem, then you know what steps you need to take to treat it. That is what Sterling teaches: how to diagnose your practice’s health and then what to do to improve it.
We use this extensively in managing the practice. We set up goals, and work out what we have to do to reach those goals. We keep track of how we are doing, which makes it plain what steps we have to take to grow or how to fix problems that arise. When we make the staff aware of statistics going down, they increase their efforts to bring them back up. Our personal consultant has also helped us a lot in bringing in more patients.
My wife, Paramjit, has also benefitted very much from the program. She feels more in control and is a better manager. She can have other people work efficiently for her. Sterling has helped Paramjit broaden her perspective towards life.
Overall, the office is much better organized and runs smoother than it used to. This gives a lot of peace of mind. Before, I would wake up in the middle of the night worried about the problems with staff. Now we don’t worry at all. I can’t recall the last time I was stressed at night.
After years as a Sterling client, the practice is continuing to grow. We bought our own building in December, which will serve as a third location. With the third practice opening up in March or April, I will be looking at hiring another doctor.
I wish I would have done the program earlier because the practice now would be in even better shape. We now net far more in one month than the program cost, and we’ve been doing that for years. The return is many times more than what I paid for it.
Sarbjit Virk, O.D.