Reflecting on 2020
SightCare CEO John French reflects on the trials and tribulations of 2020
What a long year this has been. Do you look back and think like me that 2020 had more than 12 months? There was January, where most of us were just getting started on our new year resolutions. Independent optical practice owners were getting ready to put into place their new plans for business growth. There was half of February where you were probably going strong and excited at the prospects for the year. If you still made it to half-term holidays those will now be a distant memory and you will, no doubt like me, be absolutely convinced they happened in a different year.
Then, Covid-19 hit, and all became a bit of a blur. Hopefully, you were not hit by Covid-19 itself, but if you were the blur is just even foggier. I admit, I barely remember March. The first memories I have of it are probably the end of March when we were well into the planning of the 2020 SightCare Networking Conference. Since then we moved through the crisis, lockdown #1, not so much lockdown, independent businesses starting to reopen but in a manner never seen before, a 2nd wave perhaps on the horizon, and then hit by the lockdown #2 as it arrived. With the only consolation that opticians could remain open and continue routine examinations but tempered by the prospect that once again patients would be fearful of entering outside. Who can even remember all that happened? How does reflection work if you can barely remember part of the year?
So what worked along the way?
In times of crisis, it is easy to get dragged into negative talk. But amidst all crises, there are pockets of opportunity, growth, or just calm between the storm that you can identify. Your patients and customers may not be visiting and buying right now, but perhaps their level of engagement with you and your brand has increased exponentially. You may not have been able to see many of them in person but you have used the time wisely to re-define your eyecare service and ensure an even more effective way to sustain and potentially grow your business. Or you may not have been the best employer your staff wanted to have but hey, you kept them in a job with the help of flexible furlough, sane, and with some reassurance that all will be well while keeping some of your patience.
What derailed you along the way?
Obvious question? Well, don’t stay at Covid-19 to answer this question. What was it about Covid-19 that derailed you? Was it the uncertainty? Or was it a dry-up in your patient appointments? Was it that your team could not function the same way under the new stringent infection control and PPE measures? Or rather it was trying to be a jack of all trades while juggling examinations, dispensing, triaging patients, bookkeeping and all those other tasks left at your door as a result of staff members being furloughed. Whatever it is, be clear about it. This does not need to be a self-beating exercise, but the clearer you are the better you can address it.
In fact, you may not be able to control your patient/customer base entirely, but you may be able to keep an engagement or even launch different eyecare services and eyeware that will remain competitive in the current environment. You may not be able to forecast your attended appointments or your turnover in the way you did BC (before Covid) but you can make adjustments to avoid being subject to the same limitations going forward. And if your team did not function well while being furloughed or re-adjusting to the return to practice, use the Christmas period to re-evaluate processes and how you can improve.
Time to Reflect
All the business books you will have read will have told you that your goals are best aligned with your values. Well even in a year of turmoil this continues to hold true. However, it may it may be that so much has changed in your business that you need to shift your business and personal goals. Or it may also be the case that your goals were not really aligned with your deeper values in the first case. I am finding that a lot of our SightCare Member practice owners are connecting with their inner values through this experience of increased reflection time, heightened uncertainty, and some sense of isolation.
For whatever reason Covid-19 is here with us for a long time forcing us to do something we haven’t done in centuries or multiples of that. Stay at home and isolate ourselves from others. It comes with a price but also with a valuable yield. If no one is there to watch you, ask yourself with no shame – does this goal even make any sense? Do I know why I want this? If you did not write your why in your goal-setting earlier in the year, maybe this is why…
If you have been fortunate to have set yourself goals that are surviving the Covid storm, then it is time to lick the wounds and figure out how to get back on track. This may be assuming that you are not on track but if you have read this far it may be at least a few pieces of your business plan got somewhat derailed. So it is time to do a business review comparing where you are vs. where you expected you would be and identify the necessary steps to get from A to B.
To take action you need a good amount of reflection. What are the opportunities out there for you? Are there new actions that will help you move towards your goals? Do you need actions that go slower than planned? Or the opposite, can you find ways to accelerate. This is one of the key parts where you need that piece of paper – be specific and commit by putting it on paper.
Pick up the bits that went well in 2020 and ensure you keep those going or doubling. Did your patient/customer engagement spike despite the crisis? Then do more of it and make sure you keep listening to your patients and customers? Did your team suddenly developed new processes to work effectively in an infection-controlled environment and found a new passion by working through a crisis? Consider addressing your weaknesses in order to address them upfront. Look at your numbers and make sure you know what they tell you. If something has gone smoothly through Covid-19, it is likely to be an area where you have a competitive advantage. With the list in hand, devise a plan to double down on your strengths.
So as we approach the end of an unforgettable and unimaginable year take a moment to look back and analyse what you have achieved vs. your plans. Yes, a lot may have been de-railed on the back of Covid-19 but goals don’t need to be completely de-railed by this crisis. They may get revised, they may get postponed, or they may be absolutely fine to exist in this pandemic however take a moment for reflection to set yourself up for better 2021.