Turning Your Passion into a Business

by | Jun 14, 2021 | Entrepreneurship, Ownership

As a lifelong athlete, I wanted to find a way to combine my love of sports and athletics with a career. Sports and performance vision is an incredibly rewarding field that allows me to follow my passion and turn that into a sustainable business that continues to grow and change. Within optometry, we are fortunate to have many ways to do this – even if sports isn’t your passion! While it took me a decade to realize my dream, I have learned a lot along the way. As a Disney fan, one of my favorite quotes is “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I’d add that if you can dream it, plan it, analyze it and think it, then you can do it (and continue dreaming, planning, etc.)!

Whether it be a sports vision practice, adding dry eye treatments, embracing myopia management or looking to make an optometry practice more successful, taking your dream and adding a plan, metrics, elbow grease and patience can go a long way towards making you more successful.

Set Your Goals

I’m a big proponent of setting 1, 3, 5, and 10-year goals, and writing them down! Those goals may change over time, and you may reach them sooner, but having something to work and strive for is often the motivation we need, especially when starting a new business. There is nothing more satisfying then crossing something off your list! This is helpful not only with a specialty practice, or our primary practices, but for our personal lives as well.

Be Patient

I knew Performance 20/20 was a great, well-thought-out idea, and I knew we had the most cutting-edge technology available. We had a great space, located in a large hockey complex, with foot traffic from the skating rinks, as well as the three businesses on our floor. So when we first opened our doors, was there a flood of athletes clamoring to schedule with us? Unfortunately not. The first athlete that signed up with us got the VIP treatment, and I was able to really work with him and hone our training skills, and my communication. Little by little, word got out, and then built to a steady stream of emails, calls and referrals. It is intimidating to open a practice or launch a specialty and wait for it to grow, but having confidence in the business you have developed, the operations and structure, and having solid metrics to track will all help as you grow, no matter the speed.

Flex and Adapt

Flexibility and adaptation are key. With all the planning we did, what was the one scenario we did not have a contingency plan for? A global pandemic that shut down our business, the schools and all sports for close to a year. With a business built on in-person training of athletes, this could have been a devastating blow, especially to a new business. We instead took this opportunity to pivot and think about our business model. One of our ideas that was on the back burner was a way to work with our athletes while they were on the road, at boarding school, at college, or unable to train in person, and this was a great time to implement. We partnered with a technology company to provide remote training to our athletes, communicated with them about our new model, and were able to deliver training to them in a completely different way. While we can’t plan for everything that happens in our practices, having a clear vision of your business and being open-minded can help weather any circumstance that may arise. Optometry practices had to learn to offer care differently when our offices were shut down, and even as they began to reopen. Many of these “new ideas” have stuck around even as we get back to normal. There is always a way to be better, and sometimes we need a push to get there!

Know Your Numbers

“You can’t improve what you don’t measure” is one of my favorite sayings. Before we opened Performance 20/20, we knew what our monthly costs were, including rent, utilities, equipment costs, staffing, and miscellaneous including insurance, website, etc. We calculated how many athletes we needed to see to break even, and then to meet benchmark goals. Once we figured those out, we also planned how to be more efficient. We asked, “How can we train more athletes in the hours they are available to be more profitable? Are there additional services we can sell? What are additional ways to generate recurring revenue? Should we add new technology?”

This is also something we can be doing in our optometry practices. While it may seem overwhelming, I encourage business owners to just pick one metric. Identify one metric that you understand and analyze it in the context of your business. Now, find some measurable ways that you can improve this, and track that metric over time. Some examples in our practices may include average frame, practice capture rate, or percent daily disposables. For a specialty practice, this may include new myopia management patients or dry eye treatments. Once you have a handle on that metric, continue to monitor it, and start with another. By slowly adding to your analytics, you won’t feel overwhelmed, and will continue to grow your business.

Network, Network, Network

If I build it, they will come- right? Unfortunately, not everyone was as well-versed in sports and performance vision as I thought. I spent a lot of time hosting open houses, demos, speaking to coaches, trainers and parents, and “cold emailing” anyone who I thought would be interested. While time-consuming (and often frustrating) in the beginning, this paid dividends as word got out. For your practice or specialty, we often assume people know exactly what we do, but spending time on education and promotion will pay off in the long run.

Set Aside Time

Small business owners work tirelessly in their businesses but setting aside time to work on their businesses is equally important. I also set aside time daily for workouts, which keep me healthy and give time to myself. Often my best ideas come during a weightlifting session or when I am out for a walk. I find these times essential for generating new ideas, working through different scenarios and even formulating ideas for new business opportunities. I try and leave my phone behind and be present just with my thoughts, and minimize distractions as much as possible. Try and have a pen and notebook handy though for when these amazing ideas come to you!

By Jennifer Stewart, OD

Optometrist, internationally recognized speaker, writer, consultant, and entrepreneur.


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