Are You An Entrepreneur? Should You Own Your Own Business?

It is the American Dream to own your own home and have your own business. As much of a dream that is, it is not for everyone. Owning something, especially something big or expensive requires a lot of work and responsibility. Many people are just not cut out for that.

Over the last couple of months, several people I know have opened their own optical shops. Conversely in other conversations with optical friends, others that have opened and just cannot run the business. They may be great doctors, inability to hire ad keep staff, lack of policies and procedures, disorganization, inability to make or keep a decision, lack of tracking, lack of attention to details, inability to listen to others (advisors) and lack of focus on the business end can lead to a company going out of business.

There are many parts to owning your own business, but two are really the most important.. the product and you. You can have a fantastic product and be a poor businessman. You could be a smart  business owner and have a poor product.

I turned to four resources for eyecare providers to look at to see whether running their own business is for them and answer some questions, if they find they hate being self employed.

Small Business Association (FREE) They had 20 questions to ask yourself if you have the entrepreneurial spirit. 

  1. Why am I starting a business? What are the top three factors for influencing this decision?
  2. What problem does your business solve?
  3. What kind of business do I want?
  4. Who is my ideal customer? Your target customer.
  5. What products or services will my business provide?
  6. Where is the revenue coming from?
  7. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
  8. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market? This is premise of USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and the case you’ll make to your prospective customers to buy your product or service. It’s essential to a marketing plan.
  9. Where will my business be located?
  10. How many employees will I need?
  11. What types of suppliers do I need?
  12. How much money do I need to get started?  There are always financial risks involved in any business. Analyze the risks you face before taking the final step.
  13. Will I need to get a loan?
  14. How soon will it take before my products or services are available?
  15. How long do I have until I start making a profit?
  16. Who is my competition? Learning everything you can about your competition, online and brick and mortar. This information will be important in learning how to “position” your own business.
  17. How will I price my product compared to my competition?
  18. How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
  19. What taxes do I need to pay?
  20. What kind of insurance do I need?
  21. How will I manage my business?
  22. How will I advertise my business?

In another site Minority Business Development (FREE) the writer posed a few more questions that I thought were interesting, as they pull in more of the personal (ego) questions one should ask themselves.

  1. What are my key personal strengths–what am I better at than anyone else?
  2. What could I see myself actually enjoying doing every day and can I form a business around it? Running a business is a lot of work and effort, and a long term commitment. It will be more fun and rewarding if you love what you are doing. When we’re engaged in doing something rewarding it helps to motivate you to keep going even when things get tough.
  3. Am I a better leader or do I need a partner who I can rely on to help blaze a path for me? Business owners may or many have management abilities. Instead they have a vision for the company’s future. Effective managers inspire their employees rather than intimidate them. What’s your management style? How will it help (or hinder) you ability to lead your business to success?
  4. Am I ready to devote the necessary time, resources and capital to be successful in business?
  5. Am I in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally to dedicate a lot of time and energy into starting a new business?
  6. Do I have personal and financial support of family and friends to accomplish my goals?
  7. How will I balance family and business?
  8. Do I possess the necessary skills and abilities to start and control the day-to-day operations of a business?
  9. Do I have up-to-date working knowledge of technology necessary for efficient operation in order to keep pace in the business world? If not, where would I get it?
  10. Am I open to meeting new people and listening to a variety of new ideas?
  11. Is my past education and experience relevant to the industry I’m looking at? Is my education and/or certifications sufficient to do what I want to do? Business owners have to wear a lot of hats, from janitor to marketing to sales.
  12. What sacrifices and risks am I willing to take to be successful?
  13. What are my financial goals, both personally and for the business?
  14. Have I made proper provisions for income and insurance (health and life) while waiting to achieve business success?
  15. Why do I believe I can make this business work?
  16. Why do I believe this type of business is sustainable?

American Express also has a business site: They said to ask the following questions of yourself.

  1. Am I a self starter? When you have your own business, there’s no boss or manager to tell you what to do and when to do it. To get your business off and running you’ll have to motivate yourself to get things started.
  2. Do I enjoy challenges? Businesses provide constant challenges. If you enjoy a good challenge, it will energize you. If you don’t, you may end up feeling as though you’re engaged in a constant uphill battle.
  3. Am I a creative problem solver? Creative problem solving is a key skill for business owners to possess. One way to hone your creative problem solving skills is to challenge yourself to think “out of the box”. Don’t go for the obvious, think in a different direction than you’re used to, and inhibit standard responses.
  4. What skills do I need to learn or brush up on to run my business effectively? Recognize which skills you need to develop in order to run your business most effectively. Identify the ones that are worth investing time into learning, and which ones you might be better off finding outside sources to perform.
  5. Do I have effective marketing and sales plans? No business can survive without a constant supply of new customers. Develop a compelling USP, values proposition, sound-bite and marketing message; set-up a marketing schedule to get your message out there consistently; and learn how to close deals without using pressure to ensure you’ll have all the customers you need.
  6. Have I established business goals? Setting goals is an important part of any business plan. But setting a goal is only part of the picture. Achieving them is even more important. Learn how to identify which goals are important enough to commit to, and systematically work towards them by breaking them down into steps, establishing timelines, identifying resources needed, and benchmarks for success.
  7. Have I written a business plan? If I need to raise startup capital, is my plan powerful enough to attract investors? Not all business plans are created equal. Make sure you include all of the sections that investors will look for. Also, make sure that the type of plan you’ve written is appropriate for the amount of money you’re looking for.
  8. What are the things that my business will require that I cannot do myself? Will I have funds to pay for them? Don’t forget to add these important line items to your start-up cost spread sheet.


From the optical arena, I asked Jay Binkowitz of Gateway PN (The Edge) what he thought coming from an optical business perspective.

All too often we underestimate the knowledge and experience necessary to open or purchase a new practice. Ten years later we wonder why we still can’t pay our bills and have the lifestyle we deserve not to mention how to deal with the over bearing debt load we carry around every day. For many our business’s end up as a ball and chain that we can’t wait to sell. The path to success in anything is preparation and the true understanding of what needs to be done on a daily weekly and monthly basis to achieve our goals along with the absolute unwavering commitment of time and resources. That may be an eyeful to read but it is what it is. No one starts out as failure when they are dreaming of what they want but they do become one without the right entourage of folks to help them.

Here’s a few pointers on things to think about when approaching your new business.

1) You and your team should test drive a few practice management systems to understand your own needs and style of working with them. The best way to do this is to visit offices that are using them and shadowing for a day or two.

2) You need to set up a bookkeeping system like QuickBooks the right way. The information your accountant needs is only a small part of what you need. So you will need guidance on setting up your chart of accounts to support better decision making. All too often P & L’s are not done with the level of information needed to truly understand what is happening. Take an online course and learn to do this. Do not just rely on others.

3) You will need a way to measure and track your business the way The EDGE does. And with this tool you will learn what the information means and how to communicate goals and results with your team. Without this type of system you will never understand how the money gets into your checkbook.

4) Your team needs a culture. My favorites are Hugs by Jack Mitchell or Be Our Guest by Disney. Service is not just a word it needs to be defined and very liberal.

5) How about your web presence and your social media? Who will take care of this? I use the folks from EyecarePro and their OD Lingo program myself.

6) Another consideration is a 3rd party billing service as you will need to spend your time with patients and staff.

7) How about programs and resources like CodeSafe and the support of someone like Dr. John Rumpakis in guiding your steps through billing the right way from day one

8) Next are your considerations for a 3rd party marketing system like Solution Reach or Web Systems 3 or 4 Patient Care to communicate with your patients. Who will be responsible for this and how much experience do they have?

9) Let’s not forget our lab! We need an edger like the ones that Santinelli offers if we want to be profitable and need to understand how to use stock sv lenses. Especially with vision care plans!

10) Vision Care Plans? Hmmmmmmmm ! How will you know if you are profitable or if your staff really knows how to work with them? For this you will need to understand how to do a true costing analysis and lab review to assess the relationships of your products, fees and plans. Generating revenue does not always equal profit! And just because you think you’re not profitable with a plan does not mean you can’t be either.

11) Lets jump in with lenses and lab now. We are certainly blessed with great technology from many resources. Which company has the resources and support to really help you grow your business? It is not about the rebates or the cheapest way to procure products if you don’t know how to sell them. Without this support you could get the lenses for free and still fail.

12) Frame board management. Yikes! Who went to school for that? lol. You need a real plan / approach to this that will address many needs. Understanding what it means to invest in collections the right way and how to support them as well as the wholesale and retail price points needed for you location is critical. You can’t just buy products with the “I think I can sell that” philosophy. We need a good mix of products from designer to mid-level to core and to high margin product as well to support our profitability with vision care plans.

13) How about your investment in your optical and your clinic?  It is fair to expect 50% of your revenue from the optical so you must take it seriously and not shy away from retail. Most docs tend to focus so much on the clinic they lose in the optical and or turn it over to very well meaning folks that do not have a real business background. You should consider hiring a consultant both before and after you open to not only prepare you but to coach you through the day to day steps needed to support your success.

14) Another consideration is to think about which alliance or group will serve your needs to reduce your cost of goods and provide support education and training services.

15) Cash flow, cash flow &cash flow. You need to plan on a slush fund that will cover you for the first 18 months. As much as you hope to make profit from day 1 you can’t count on it. So you need to project your cash flow needs before you end up in trouble.

These are just a few thoughts that come to mind. The money you invest is worthless without a real business plan. And the understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to the above mentioned items as well as many more like HR and staff management. That all being said this industry provides fantastic opportunities for those who are willing to work hard, learn and remain committed.

Take a long hard look at these questions and the answers you give to them. Then ask yourself is this for me?

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  1. Thank you for this! I have been thinking about this myself.