Ten years ago this May I graduated from the University of Houston College of Optometry. We had to wait two months to get our license to practice. It was during that two month break that I took a cruise with my wife to Bermuda (my first cruise and her third).
I’ve always believed that I learned more in my first six months of practicing in the real world than I did in four years of optometry school. And it was on that cruise that I realized how I wanted my practice to run (though I didn’t know it at the time).
So let’s see if I can come up with 10 pearls of wisdom for new graduates…
1. Develop guidelines, not policies. Be flexible. It’s really not that difficult to make most patients happy. Some may have unusual requests, but if you can make them happy they won’t even think about going to see anyone else.
2. I wish someone would have stood up at our graduation, maybe with a bull horn, and told us to pay down our student loan debt as quickly as possible…before buying that first house and that shiny new car. Even though I listed this as #2, it’s the first bit of advice I give to any new grad. It’s advice that I regret never receiving.
3. No matter how young you look coming out of school, it’s easy to look like you know what you’re doing. Look every patient in the eye, early and often. And give them a firm hand shake. They want to see your confidence right away so that they can relax and pay attention to you.
4. Show appreciation to your staff. I’ve never been as good at this one as I’d like to be, but it’s very important. But I’m working on it, despite what they may think!
5. Don’t expect everyone you work with to be a clone of yourself. It took me years to get over this one.
6. One of things I learned on my very first cruise is that you can run your business like everyone else and be like everyone else, or you can run it differently and be that much better. During our dinner services onboard the cruise, I couldn’t believe someone was coming up to our table with a special little instrument to wipe the crumbs off my table. It reminds me often of this pearl #6. I don’t expect the crumb sweep as part of an average meal anywhere else, but it sets you apart if you do it.
7. Read a book or two on customer service. Don’t expect any real success unless you figure out the importance of it, because you will not learn it in school. Any fresh graduate can do a refraction and get a glasses prescription right most of the time, it’s the rest of the experience in your office that counts.
8. Get involved in the community. I didn’t learn this one right away.
9. Don’t just hire people with experience. Hire nice, intelligent people and teach them what you want them to do. Some of the worst people I ever hired had terrible habits that they had developed from years of “experience”.
10. Never stop learning something new. A lot of us left school with a good understanding of the eye, but not always the greatest understanding of vision. They are two separate concepts. And if you don’t know them both, you may have a lot of people leave your office with unsolved vision problems. Been there. Done that.
So there you go. Ten years from now I will come up with 20 pearls of wisdom, hopefully. Have a great week!