“Our aspirations are our possibilities.” - Robert Browning
It is often hard to remember, for those of us who labor in this particular garden, that the only thing really small about small business is the word itself. There are more than 30 million small businesses operating in the U.S. right now, and a half-million start-ups come to market every year. Small business hires 50% of the U.S. workforce, and represents more than 99% of the employers here. They produce a total of $6 trillion in gross domestic product.
The biggest chunk of the optical industry falls into the category of small business—from vision care practices to retail stores to optical labs and even the majority of all optical suppliers (publishers, too). So it’s almost laughable how many optical small business owners think so…well, small.
It’s almost situation comedy material: The optometrist-owner who purchases a $50,000 piece of equipment will clock employee lunch hours; or she’ll prevent the staff from using computers because they’ll spend all day on Facebook or other Web sites.
These practice or retail optical owners will beat up their reps for pennies, but use some ineffective hunk of management software that winds up costing them thousands. They’ll continue to run Yellow Pages ads but run from the Internet. And they’ll curse online optical sites, big box stores, and other retail threats but do little to understand their competitive advantages. They don’t have a business plan, a marketing plan, or, in many cases, an employee training program.
These business owners exhibit a “candy store” mentality, e.g., the kids are stealing candy, and my employee is probably asleep in the back room, and that guy is dog-earring that copy of Playboy, and if I don’t keep my eye on everything and everyone, I’ll go broke.
To say the least, problems like shrinkage and unmotivated employees are very real to all small business owners, optical owners included. But those with vision don’t let themselves get pulled into the day-to-day quagmire of small business issues until they’ve tackled the big ones and feel confident in their execution.
A prominent and highly successful optometrist once said, “The problem with most of us is that we just don’t think big enough. We get so wrapped up in minutiae and protecting our ‘professionalism’ that we forget we have a business to run. Think big; don’t sweat the small stuff.”
It means a paradigm shift in how one runs and thinks about his business, but it also means opening the door to the prospect of much greater success.