The Business of Contact Lenses

The Secret to Success: Be Ready and Willing to Fail

the business of contact lenses

The Secret to Success: Be Ready and Willing to Fail


The difference between success and failure isn't always clear cut. We work with practitioners all over the country. We come in contact with different business models, practice locations, regions, educational backgrounds and work ethics. With all the practice data supplied to us, you'd think we would be able to easily predict which practices should do better than others. After all, you'd expect that practitioners who have great clinical skills and who practice in affluent, growing demographic areas while using a solid business model should readily outperform those who don't have all these positive attributes.

However, this proves to rarely be the case. We have many clients in poor inner city areas whose practices outperform those in economically booming regions. The key difference isn't one of clinical acumen, genetics, geography or environment. Rather, it's the practitioners' willingness to fail. Without question, our best performing clients are among those who've taken chances to grow their practices and failed.

Changing Gears

Of course, their success came about not because they failed, but because they were willing to take a risk, failed, changed course and then either failed again, changed again until they succeeded or got lucky and succeeded sooner. Nearly all successful businesses have a history of continuous and ongoing failures. How they react to them and that they're willing to risk failing is what ultimately leads to their success.

Let's take the case of those practitioners whose lens of choice is a two-week replacement, old technology HEMA lens, which, by the way, is still the most widely prescribed contact lens modality. Practitioners fitting these lenses are stuck in an "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" mode of prescribing.

However, their more financially successful colleagues have been fitting either daily disposable or silicone hydrogel lenses for years. While the first generation of daily disposable and silicone hydrogel lenses wasn't as good as what we have now, risk-taking practitioners fit them anyway. In "failing" with these lenses, they positioned themselves and their practices as being on the leading edge of contact lens technology.

The failures may have consisted of less than desirable wearing time, decreased comfort or less than perfect vision, and the fix for these problems may have been to temporarily switch patients back to their original, older technology lenses. Yet, even in these modest failures, these practitioners have succeeded.

What Patients Want

What causes some to take risks and others to avoid them? For contact lens fitters, it might simply be a fear of looking like a failure in front of their patients. Might a lack of self esteem be at the root of these risk-averse practitioners? Our company's experience with hundreds of practitioners points to a craving for patient acceptance as a common trait. And what patient would accept your clinical skills and add to your "like-ability index" if you fail to fit him properly?

Paradoxically, I believe the answer is nearly all of them. Again, the line between trying and failing or succeeding is blurry. It's my belief that most patients appreciate the extra effort you might take to try something new for them, even if you're ultimately unsuccessful. And with the multitude of new lenses and lens care solutions available to us, the odds of failing are continually becoming smaller.

So, go ahead and try and possibly fail. Either way, you'll ultimately succeed. To avoid taking risks in your practice is to practice on a financial treadmill. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or