When meeting someone for the first time they will often ask what you do.  What’s your answer?  You tell them you are an optometrist, right?  After all, you went to optometry school and trained to become an optometrist.  There is an “OD" behind your name that identifies you as a doctor of optometry.  And you do optometry work like examining eyes, prescribing glasses, fitting contact lenses, treating eye disease, managing vision training programs, helping athletes with sports vision, assisting the partially sighted and other eye care tasks for which you have been trained.

All of this is what we refer to as tactical work in the world of E-Myth.  The E-Myth, as you may recall from the first article in this series, refers to the entrepreneurial myth that so many small business owners live in.  They believe they are entrepreneurs because they own their own business.  But most often the owner is required to do the specialized tactical work, without which the business will fail.  Most private practice optometrists are living the entrepreneurial myth.

Another way to answer the question about what you do for a living might be “I’m an entrepreneur that specializes in eye care”, or “I’m the CEO of an eye care company”.  This answer has nothing to do with optometry school.  It’s all about the strategic work that is so critical for the success of any small business.  It’s about managing a team, marketing, pricing, merchandising, equipment, sensory package, branding, product selection, vendor partnerships, patient satisfaction, employee ODs, IT, social media and anything else related to growing a small business.  

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Successful business owners are doing strategic work most, if not all of the time.  It’s really obvious if we look at some of the entrepreneurial superstars.  Steve Jobs started out building computers in his garage and Bill Gates wrote software at one time.  But they didn’t build Apple or Microsoft using those tactical skills.  

So what type of work are you doing most of the time?  Do you find yourself so exhausted seeing patients all week that you don’t have much time for the strategic work?   Are you unable to leverage the training and resources provided by optical labs and vendors?  Do you get good ideas at optometry conferences but fail to implement them?  Do you purchase high tech equipment only to have it collect dust?  Are you prepared strategically to handle the changes in the health care environment or the challenges of competing in the retail optical arena?  Do you see your tactical workload changing in the near future?  Do you think you can be free to enjoy life on your terms if you continue doing business the way you do now?

If you are time starved due to your tactical work now, make sure that any strategic work you do is of the highest quality.  Identify the business systems that provide the most potential revenue growth for your practice and then delegate them to staff or automate them with technology.  This is the first step in freeing up more time for you to wear your entrepreneurial CEO hat.   

There are many ODs that truly enjoy doing the work of optometry and interacting with patients.  That’s great, but imagine doing that as a hobby and having more time for family, travel, philanthropy and other enjoyable activities.  What if you could end each day not knowing whether you have been working or playing?   That’s the place strategic work can take you.