Will you pop the red pill?

Early on in secondary school, my English teacher announced to the class that he’d decided which movie we were going to study that year. With bated breath he revealed it would be The Matrix and the room of boys collectively exhaled. You could feel the excitement and the relief that we weren’t going to get saddled with yet another Shakespearean or dystopian sombre-fest that had a lot of great hidden meanings but was incredibly unenjoyable to watch.


The enthusiasm, however, slowly wore off. Fast forward to the present and I am still unable to watch the film without noting every single reference and hidden meaning and distinguishing between the green or blue filters the director applied to different scenes. Needless to say, it’s a tough watch.


What has remained with me, though, is the pivotal moment when Neo is offered a choice by rebel leader Morpheus: “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”


Blue pill vs red pill

The nature of our industry is that neither the blue nor red pill is necessarily the wrong one. Many optometrists have been successful for a long time by doing the tried and true and doing it very well (blue pill). What we are seeing, however, is an influx of younger ownership bringing greater curiosity about the available options and how they can explore a fresh approach and push the envelope (red pill). This injection of thinking and ideas into the Independent Optometry Group has been a significant one and has challenged the status quo on how our owners manage their practices and how they look at outcomes for the future.


Walk towards your pain

A few elements to consider, should you wish to take the red pill and move your practice into a different way or working:


Channel visibility

Bricks and mortar will always be essential, but more is needed. One of our guest speakers at last year’s IOGroup AGM talked about the need for omnichannel visibility. This relates to the integration of commerce methods available to your patients (online and offline). Online suppliers continue to impact bricks-and-mortar stores, but this can be minimised by adding your own online channels. With generational progression, this will only grow and with the omnichannel customer spending 15-30% more than the average, it’s well worth investigating how you can earn more while doing less. IOGroup practices using Xpress are seeing success as they continue to tighten their processes and improve their bottom lines.


Efficiency and productivity gains

The flow-on effect from this is the efficiency and productivity gains created. Process flows are a highly undervalued and an under-evaluated part of the business. Creating smarter processes through automation and systems is one aspect, but commonly used tools such as Microsoft Office or Google Workspace can also save significant time. Working closely with all your partners to create time and cost savings may appear as small gains but are significant over time.


Dig deeper

The third and final component is the hardest to acknowledge, yet the most important. The true mark of the red pill is seeing what you don’t necessarily want to see. The best example is your financials. We are often satisfied if the business is ticking over and everyone is getting their cut. But unless you understand the detail of where your revenue is coming from and where your expenses are, you will never know the true state of your practice. Investigating how your model can be improved, on a regular basis, will identify some holes to be plugged, or some easy wins. Everyone wants the quick wins, but a deeper look into your financials can reveal the smaller ones which add up to a significant impact.


The theme is really to think outside the box and be brutally honest with yourself. It’s comforting and easy to stay within the confines of what has always existed, but in the long-term the safe approach might be the one that bites you more than making a few mistakes. Opportunities are easily missed when you’re overly cautious about risk. Instead of your own agenda, think about the business’ agenda; think about industry and retail directions and investigate how deep that rabbit hole goes.


All these years later, I still may not be able to truly enjoy The Matrix. I do, however, remember some of the lessons it taught me, which are transposable to any corner of life or business. Be bold: pop that red pill for yourself and your business!


Campbell Wiltshire is the Independent Optometry Group’s business development and marketing manager. To find out more about how IOGroup can help your practice thrive, get in touch with him at campbell@iogroup.co.nz or IOGroup’s CEO Neil Human at neil.human@iogroup.co.nz


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