Competition Comes in Many Forms
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Any consultant or business education program will inform business owners that one of the golden rules of business is to keep an eye on the competition. This is true in the private sector of the business world, for public entities, and even in academic life. There are several facets to evaluate when performing a competitive analysis. A key first step in conducting such an analysis is to determine exactly who your competition is.
An entity may be a “direct” competitor—for example, another practice in a small town, or big box stores in areas of greater populous. Competition may also come in more subtle or “indirect” forms—for example, your patients not following your recommendations in terms of annual or medically needed evaluations, or in terms of following your prescription for lens care.
However, one of the more frustrating forms of competition is what I like to call “unqualified” competition; sometimes these are obvious, but sometimes they are not. Obvious sources of unqualified competition may include easy targets like the Internet or patient-to-patient miseducation. The less obvious competitors are more troublesome.
What got me thinking about this recently was a meeting I attended at which a dermatologist spoke about her perspective on how dermatology has been relatively successful in creating a mindset of “prevention” when it comes to skincare. She noted that one of the biggest sources of unqualified competition that she has seen comes from hair stylists. It’s not that hair stylists can’t give out good tips on skincare, but she pointed out that hair stylists are not medically trained—and do not necessarily follow the peer-reviewed, medical literature, as do practicing dermatologists.
Competition can come in many forms, and a key to protecting your practice and business is to understand those various competitors and develop protective strategies against them. As American industrialist Henry Ford said, “Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.” Now think about your contact lens practice, and its competition, with these concepts in mind.