July 23, 2020

4 Things Steve Jobs Can Teach You About Being an Optometrist - E2

4 Things Steve Jobs Can Teach You About Being an Optometrist - E2

4 Things Steve Jobs Can Teach You About Being an Optometrist - E2

Here we are again my friends! I just finished the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson and it was an amazing read from which I will give you 4 things Steve Jobs taught me about Optometry.

To begin, I am constantly searching for good reads and inspiration. Steve Jobs’ biography provided both! Now I think he was a quirky son of a gun, and probably not the best “role model” for communication and interpersonal skills, but it’s hard to argue his results or that he was not an absolute visionary. That being said, there were 4 things I took away that will directly influence how I view my practice.

End to End Control.

Jobs was an absolute control freak in regards to what could run on his products and who could tinker with them. Now from the outside looking in, you think “what a control freak”. Everything I read or podcast I listen to talks about a CEO mindset of delegating and focusing on the forest, letting the staff be concerned with the trees. Now helicopter managing is not good for anyone, but the genius lies in the reason for his obsession. His products would ultimately be judged on whatever platform they ran on. If a crappy operating system limited what itunes or Keynote could do, it was blamed on Apple. Optometry is no different, If the tech or optician is rude or keeps forgetting what the patient asked, no amount of charisma will make the doctor look good. If they get their exam from you, but go to Costco for their lenses, if their archaic PALS suck, do they blame their $100 lenses or your prescription? Find a way to control the patient experience end to end and keep them in your office.

Details matter.

Jobs’ father was a cabinet maker. When he was creating and installing them, his father made sure the back of the cabinet was as pristine as the front. He did not care if nobody saw it, he would know. Similarly, Jobs was notorious for requiring his engineers to design the circuit boards (which no customer would ever see) with perfectly straight lines. It cost more in manufacturing and seems arbitrary, but it mattered to him. How scripted is your staff when they answer the phone? How about their presentation in optical? NATO. It's not about the outcome! If you run a loose ship, eventually you’ll have a loose office and that is how you are viewed as a doctor/practice owner. Details matter!


Jobs believed that his products should be simple and user friendly. If you had to think to use it, it was not for his target customer. I am not sure if it was Jobs, or just Apple in general, but the story as I remember it is as follows: somehow (through a missionary or a philanthropic endeavor by Apple) an illiterate child in some far away country was given an iPad. Within an hour the boy had it figured it out and was showing his friends how to use it. They were even playing games and competing with each other. If only a PAL were so simple to learn! Just take a step back and see the barriers we put in front of our patients. How hard is it to schedule an exam, how about when they check in? After filling out the 30 pages of forms, do we ask them the same questions in the exam room? What about training your staff? Can you hire based on personality and have confidence you can teach them the ropes? We are the ones in charge! Aside from the actual standards of care (which have tons of grey areas) we should be striving to make things as simple as possible for the patients. You want to be seen, get glasses, try contacts….deal! Stop trying to impress your colleagues or make consulting gurus happy and KISS your problems goodbye (Keep It Simple Stupid)!  

A reality distortion field: it is not just denial.

This came up time and time again with Jobs. His reality distortion field, which is, simply put, his denial of the facts and circumstances, and ultimately willing something to happen. The old adage ”the people who say it cannot be done, need to get out of the way of the people doing it”, describes Jobs to a T. In certain circumstances, negotiation and ultimately his cancer, this mentality definitely hurt him more than helped, but overall this is how he changed Apple and invariably made the world more interesting. I think to successfully open an office cold, you have to have this ability because on paper, it is never going to make sense. In addition, for your office to remain relevant and cutting edge you have to evolve and adapt. This is very easy to say, but in the spirit of being like Jobs, are you willing to change something very good, to make something great? Adding any specialty service takes time, effort and energy, and it comes at the cost of what may already be working just fine. You need to have this blind belief that you can do something better. There’s no doubt that Jobs had this. How about you? Look at every aspect of your office. Start small (check-ins or workups) and do not just settle for what is working now, or that is the way you have always done it. You can be Polaroid or Blockbuster, or you can be Netflix and Apple. The time to change, adapt, evolve your office is now!

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