This September, a small Kiwi contingent crossed ‘the ditch’ for the inaugural My Health First Optometry Business Bootcamp in Kingscliffe, New South Wales. This first-of-its-kind course aimed to inspire and motivate optometry businesses to adapt to current change and equip them well for the future.
Head coach for the weekend was Sam Bowden: veterinarian by trade, business enthusiast and speaker by outcome. Sam regaled us with his experience of business collapse and the motivation it took to turn the corner and rise again better than ever, to a point where he does what he loves professionally with ample time for life outside work. He talked on themes of engagement, culture, enthusiasm for what we’re doing, time management systems and recognising system failure. His energetic delivery and business pearls could be translated across industries, but the optometry crowd particularly resonated with Sam’s experience of a combined retail and clinical environment.
Independent Aussie optometrists Andrew Bowden and Hugh Bradshaw offered advice from the fiercely competitive Australian environment, which includes government-funded eye tests (Medicare). Slightly different to the Kiwi model of “user pays” for eyecare, Australians have bulk-billing for eye tests, which has left many optometrists uncomfortable with charging over and above the rebate.
The last talk of day one came from the delightful and energetic Gus Balbontin. Originally from Argentina, by way of smuggling microwaves over the Columbian border, Gus became an executive director at Lonely Planet. This futurist’s take-home message was, “No matter how big the size of the business, be adaptable and don’t fall in love with your products and your services! Whilst they might be great today, they may need to be something else tomorrow; they are not as good as what’s coming.”
On day two, US optometry expert Mindi Lewis presented on optometry practice specifics. Mindi walked us through simple strategies to elevate sales and promote practice growth; from the experience of booking the initial consultation, through to the sometimes awkward discussion of a patient asking to take away their prescription. She presented simple tools to help remain customer centric and gracious, while educating and informing to maximise customer loyalty and likelihood of spend.
To end the conference, small “mastermind” groups were formed to assist each other with business road-blocks. As someone who finds it easier to solve other people’s problems (and is quite happy for someone to solve mine!), this was a wonderful way to access different approaches in an expert, supportive and non-judgemental environment.
What a great weekend: well-organised, relaxed, informative, inspiring, as well as entertaining. The first Optometry Business Bootcamp was so well received, it sounds as though there will be a waiting list to attend next year!