The world of entrepreneurship is naturally confusing, especially in the rapidly changing and demanding field of eye care.
Together they’ll discuss the spectrum of challenges that business owners and leaders face when trying to decide the future of their company and the process of solving these problems — creating clarity from confusion. Learn some of the methods Jennifer recommends and has used in her own life and find out why it’s important for leaders to develop a workflow to quickly navigate through inevitable confusion, accept the necessity of being decisive, and move their business forward.
October 18, 2023
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Becca Starks: We have the ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice.
Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Hey, I am Bethany Fishbein. I am the CEO of The Power Practice and Host of The Power Hour Optometry Podcast. And I just want to first congratulate all of the new optometrists graduating this week from the optometry schools across the country. It’s such an exciting time. It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I and my classmates at New England College of Optometry in 1997 graduated. It goes fast. It’s really an exciting time. So congratulations, first of all, and this show is inspired by and dedicated to you and all of the people that you are hoping will hire you. Once you get your licenses and get out there into the world. So I’ve invited a guest, I have Becca Starks, Becca handles Enterprise Accounts and Operations for KMK Careers. And she’s here to help me sort out some of the things that today’s optometry students are looking for, and help educate some of the optometrists who are looking to hire young optometrists about misconceptions they may have or differing perceptions of this graduating class. So, Becca, thanks for doing this your second podcast ever. That’s awesome.
Becca Starks: Yes, thank you for having me. This is exciting.
Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, thank you. It’s an interesting time because we work with mostly established optometric practice owners. So most of the people that I’m speaking to day to day are employers of young optometrists, and they have this vision of what today’s graduates are like, and then I get the opportunity to speak with optometry students and recent grads and they’re not necessarily like that perception at all. So hopefully, you can help us bridge the gap a little bit.
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So, talk about yourself for a minute here. I want you to just talk about KMK and KMK Careers because when I want to data on students, I knew you were the one to go to. And so I want all of my listeners to understand your involvement with young optometrists today.
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. So KMK for those that don’t know KMK’s foundation is the KMK board review, which was started 18 years ago by Dr. Kyle Cheatham. And now fast forward 18 years we are inside of all of the 23 optometry schools nationwide. We have a team of optometrist instructors that traveled to all of the schools and we have a relationship with both third and fourth-year optometry students and 98, This is a big number to remember 98% of optometry students utilize KMK to pass their boards. So essentially we have a relationship with almost every single optometry student nationwide from the board’s perspective. And so we now have a new division of KMK specifically on careers which is just a natural extension of supporting those same students and finding their first career.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re initially talking to these students when they’re students studying for boards. And then they hopefully pass boards and you know, move on and take more boards and pass those and move on. So what are the services that you’re providing for these students once they’ve graduated as doctors?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so it’s really fun. Personally, I am mostly an employee you’re facing so those that are looking for these candidates. However, we have a team of career advisors and all day long, they’re the luckiest ones in the world. They get to speak to these upcoming grads. So right now they are around the clock talking to those that are about to graduate here and a couple of weeks or maybe have graduated just recently. And uncovering what they’re looking for in a practice is really it’s a one-on-one relationship, so it’s totally free to students. They sign up to get a career advisor. They have calls with that career advisor to uncover what are they looking for what type of practice is it specific specialties, just anything that may be the true motivating factor as to why they want to go to a certain practice. And then essentially we play matchmaker so the career advisors speak to students all day long. I speak to employers all day long, and then we come together and get to build a bridge between the two and hopefully connect great candidates with a great opportunity.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Maybe it’ll be the next Netflix show after Indian matchmaking, Jewish matchmaking. It’ll be optometric career matchmaking. And be a celebrity.
Becca Starks: I think some of us would watch that, at least your listeners would probably enjoy that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: My husband and I would watch it so
Becca Starks: same.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So I mean, you’ve got a line of sight into exactly who today’s optometrists or today’s graduating class, today’s brand new optometrists are, can you give some facts and figures of what that class looks like?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so essentially, from a demographic perspective, it’s highly female. The data is showing 70% female and 30% Male.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: 70?
Becca Starks: 70 Percent.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Wow.
Becca Starks: Yes. And there’s information I believe you are going to be able to put in the show notes. But there is a really robust report. I believe it’s lots and lots of pages. I don’t remember how many but there are highlights within that on pages nine and 10 that give a really good but really quick summary of demographics of this class, within gender within race. There’s even financial information about how many needed to have financial aid, that sort of thing, and some really detailed information even about by school breakdown.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are you able to roll through some of the things in there that kind of stood out to you?
Becca Starks: So the biggest thing that stands out to me is female and how as you it shows kind of year over year how that transition has changed from much more female than male as it was in the past. Same thing with race, I believe I don’t remember how many years ago it was but just not too long ago. It was predominantly white for professionals graduating and now that’s shifted to highly other races, whether it’s Asian or black or other races that are included in that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about the financial piece? Because I feel like that’s such a big topic for new doctors. Is this need to pay back student loans? Do you have any stats on the amount of debt that students are graduating with?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so the report itself shows 85% of students are utilizing some type of support financial aid, loans, and the average for a graduate right now graduating is about $200,000 in debt. So definitely it is.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s just from optometry school or that’s including undergrad debt?
Becca Starks: That’s actually a good question. We just get the stat of 200,000 and I assumed it was just optometry school. But that’s a good question.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So young, female, and any change in like age demographic? Or is it typically right out of college a year or two out of college starting into Optometry?
Becca Starks: Yeah, So typically, it is kind of a typical route straight out of undergrad and to optometry school. There is about of the 16-1700 graduates there are about 150 of those that are considered you know, like other avenues whether that would be part-time or returning back in at a later point in time.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay, so out of 1500 you’re talking about? Very typically, right? 1000 young, female, probably non-white doctors.
Becca Starks: Yeah.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: If you had to say this is what’s typical. This is the majority.
Becca Starks: Yeah.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: With debt?
Becca Starks: Yes. A lot of it.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay. So, when you talk to this typical doctor and are getting into the field of matching into a career of their dreams, what are they telling you that they want?
Becca Starks: Yeah. So it’s been interesting to learn that so the things that I came into this thinking people would want my background was actually at LinkedIn for five years before coming on to help launch this division of KMK and I thought it would be very different. I would think pay would exceed everything else. But, interestingly, location is the top deciding factor for these new graduates in determining which practice they want. Obviously, that is the hardest answer because no one can do anything about the location of their practice. But we can touch on this later. Kind of some ideas and tips for those to try to recruit folks into harder locations but definitely the location. Again, before and above pay even this work-life balance coming into play that is much more of a topic. Then I think it has been in years past. Not necessarily meaning, Hey, I want to come in and I want to never work. But this generation is much more just passionate about having that work-life balance of the work to live not live to work mentality. And so location, work-life balance, obviously pay, and structuring pay in a way that is understood to the candidate as well too. So being very upfront about what that pay is so that they know before even applying and putting that in a way that they understand what they actually can make because sometimes it can be hard with percent of production, knowing what that means.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So let’s go into those a little bit more and I want to just go back one to work-life balance because I think that’s probably the biggest misunderstanding between a doc maybe in their 50s and a doc in their 20s. This idea of working to live instead of living to work and it’s respectable and it’s necessary and mental health is important and it’s and life has to work for you. But these older docs, that was not their world. And so when I hear it, it’s complaints. They won’t work weekends, they don’t want to put in 40 hours. They’re asking for a four-day workweek. They’re like it’s coming across as we’re lazy. We’re not dedicated to the practice. We don’t want to be here we’re not going to work as hard as you and it. It creates a disconnect from the start like somebody interviewing, who says I don’t want to work every weekend. All of a sudden has all these judgments thrown on them that they probably don’t deserve. Do you see that with the docs that you’re talking to and you’re matching?
Becca Starks: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it’s the same thing I hear to have. You know, that’s typically the demographic of employers that I’m talking to all day long to have, you know, they came out and maybe cold started or they came out and bought a practice and they’ve been doing it for 20-30 years and like. What?
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Right and they remember, or maybe they’re still working 70 hours a week and they’re there, you know, every day in the practice and their day off there when the cleaning themselves because that’s what the owners do. How do you coach of 50-something and 60-something-year-old practice owners into understanding that it’s not laziness and it’s not to they don’t want to work?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so that is it is a big misconception of the students that it is laziness, and specifically, most students are expecting to work at least one to two Saturdays a month. So it’s not that they’re coming in and saying I only want four-day workweeks, and I’ll never work a weekend. They are expecting a true full work week and one or two Saturdays per month. To your question about how to coach an owner in that situation. I think it’s just taking a step back and looking really high level at your practice as a business and I’ve had this conversation with many owners of I don’t know why we are open Saturdays, honestly, we’ve just always done it and so determined are we doing this because it’s just always been done or when determining this because it is a true business need. And so same thing with later hours or that sort of thing. If it is a true business need 100% voicing that to a candidate that’s a friend and that’s that’s great, but there may be situations where again, it’s just we’re doing this because it’s been done forever. And actually, our patients wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have a late night or we had a late night instead of a Saturday or vice versa.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think docs have like a little bit of that? It’s like that hazy mentality? Like I went through it I put in my time therefore you you need to.
Becca Starks: I think it could be a little of that. Me not being an optometrist. I have to tread lightly because I have not earned my dues. But in the conversations that I’ve had, I think it is a little bit of that at least.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, I worked weekends for 23 years. I’ve never missed it Saturday. I’ve never called out sick. And now I’m going to change my whole practice because this 24-year-old kid doesn’t want to work, like there’s that so what are the students are the new grads thinking about these practice owners, doctors who are in a different demographic from them because there’s got to be misconceptions going that way also.
Becca Starks: Yeah, I don’t get to hear a ton of the misconceptions from the student side. But I think there’s just both sides can teach each other something right like maybe that student can come in and show this business owner who’s been doing this forever, like, wow, I could totally do this differently. And, wow, I’m kind of relieved that you came in and brought up the idea of work-life balance because I as the business owner, really needed that, and wow, my life is different because of it and vice versa. There’s obviously so much that the practice owner can teach and pour into these new grad optometrists. But as far as misconceptions from them, I haven’t heard any to be honest.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I hear that they look at a private practice. They think they’re not going to be paid as much. So they’re thinking that not necessarily that the owner is cheap, but that it’s not. It’s not as profitable, therefore there’s not as much money in it for them. You didn’t mention the mode of practice. You talked about location, work-life balance, and pay. Are students coming out looking for commercial opportunities? Are they looking for private practice or looking for MD offices? I mean, obviously, students are looking for each of those, but what are you seeing most frequently?
Becca Starks: Yeah, great question. So motor practice is very important and private practice remains. Top of the list for I’d say close to 90% of the new grads.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Serious?
Becca Starks: Yeah, because I hear the same thing. I hear a lot from private practice owners that say that almost come to the call with me very nervous, like “Becca, what’s going on? Why might all the new grads want private equity and why do they want retail? And can I really afford to hire them? Because it sounds like they’re throwing all the money in the world with them.” And then it’s interesting because we have that ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice. So there’s just a handful of folks that have said all maybe look at private equity or retail, but the vast majority say I truly, truly, truly want to private practice and there’s even a really good group that says, “Not only do I only one a private practice, but I already know that someday I want to partner slash buy this practice as well.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think though that it’s, it’s like self-selecting a little bit because retail opportunities are so easy to come by? That they might not even consider needing to work with a company like yours? They just need to go on Ziprecruiter, Indeed, and type in optometrists job and the geography they want and they have their choice. Are you talking to them before they’re job-seeking?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so we actually start a process with them a year before they graduate. And so we have them fill out a profile with us it looks just like a LinkedIn profile, but it’s specifically for KMK, and go in and select all of the different types of practices that they’re open to. And so, we have both from the data from what they input on their profile and then they all have a one-on-one call with a career advisor as well. And so that’s where those points come from, both in the data they enter and then the conversations they have with a career advisor.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And is that when a student should be starting their job search is early in fourth year?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so we were really surprised in the timeline as well that a lot of students start having conversations about the fall before they graduate. So this class of 2023 they were starting interviews, October timeframe, and then a lot of them were during their Christmas break, timeframe holiday break, going on visits to practice owners. And then as soon as the New Year transitioned over there were many that were in contract. So definitely, Fall time is like you can feel good. About yourself being ahead of the game, wintertime is still very safe, you still have a lot of opportunity to be reaching out to candidates, and then as we enter into more of the springtime, a lot of I’d say probably half if not more of those that we’re working with are 100% in contract ready to go.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: When you start working with them. Is there any issue with students who are starting the search and still haven’t passed their boards or won’t have the credentials to work when they graduate?
Becca Starks: Yeah, Yep. There is information from ASCO also about passage rates. And it goes into detail even of school by school, but it essentially shows year over year the decrease in passage rates, and I think we’re at about 70% passage rate, right now. 73%. And so there’s a huge population of students that don’t pass typically it’s part one where the struggle is and so there are some students that will even graduate and still have not passed boards. And another misconception there is, “Oh, these students are lazy or they’re not understanding the information, and I don’t want those students because they won’t be good doctors”. And completely not true. Those are students that could either be not very good test takers. These are also the population that came into optometry school right in the heart of COVID. There are some that have just had really rough life events around the time that it is to take boards and so but they are all great people that will be great doctors, they simply just need to pass this test. Many of them have had really great GPAs some of them have other degrees that help them with the practice management side and so it’s just a matter of getting past that one test or many of them.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And how does, how did they navigate that with the job contract like, will an employer sign something with a student who hasn’t yet passed boards?
Becca Starks: Yes, we are running into that actually part one. Board scores were just released this past week. And it was a lot of that there was a lot of celebration and there was a lot of sadness around those that didn’t pass. And the good news is, I don’t know that I’ve come across a single employer partner that we work with that isn’t at least open to the idea of bringing on someone that’s graduated in kind of a super tech role. It’s kind of how we position it to practice under that optometrist owner until they graduate and we even have some that say, “Hey KMK I know that you, as an organization, do great at coaching them and helping them after they fail boards.” I will even invest in that side of the house to ensure that they can pass boards not only to show that, hey, I believe in you and the hardest time in your life student but also that gains them a really loyal employee that again, is going to be a great doctor has just had trouble taking this one test.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Coming in as a super tech though, obviously, they’re coming in at a lower pay scale and they would come in as an optometrist, and they have those student loans. So let’s talk about compensation of obviously it’s going to vary around the country and regionally and how many hours and all of that but what is it that a new OD is looking for as far as the ability to earn money?
Becca Starks: Yeah, good question. So, specifically with this new grad population, the way that I kind of coach, the employer partners that we work with private practice owners is, a lot of times they’ll come into the call and say why pay 16% of production, but with this new grad population, they aren’t able to really wrap their brains around what that is, you could have a $1.5 million, your practice and they still just don’t, they can’t really understand that. And so the recommendation that we give is to at least have some sort of salary and we have information and concrete data on specific areas of the nation. So by all means, if, if we can support you in any way with that, I’m happy to to make sure that you’re competitive, but having some type of salary listed up front is what’s going to entice these new grad population because they can wrap their brains around 140,000. They can’t necessarily wrap their brains around 16% of production. And so totally understand, then obviously the argument private practice owner, I hear you what’s going on in your head is. “Well, I need to motivate them to work hard. Like if I just give them a salary, then what’s the motivation to work hard”, and so there’s been kind of this really nice avenue that we’ve taken with a lot of partners that’s worked well in that advertising a salary a little higher than you probably would have normally, but then decreasing to a really low percent of production, so that there’s some salaries that’s there that’s enticing to a new grad, but a lower percent of production. So for the first year only, so year one higher salary and lower percent of production, and then having that shift for year two and year beyond your two to a lower salary, higher percent of production. And so what that does is again, entices this new grad to apply, and even want to learn more about your practice because there’s a salary, but that little bit of percent of production will get them to realize in their first year of working well. I’m doing the math, and if I would have went on the percent of production, I probably would have made more than my salary. This is making sense this is motivating me to work harder. And then again, you can even have it in the contract that upon year two that shifts to a lower salary that’s guaranteed and a higher percent of production. So as they’ve gotten their feet wet, they’ve learned they’ve been mentored that first year shifting then into percent of production.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re coaching your doctors to do a salary plus a percent of production?
Becca Starks: Yeah, that’s pretty typical.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about benefits and stuff like that is that important? Yes, it is important. Is that something that a brand new grad is going to give enough importance to that it’s going to help them decide one place versus another?
Becca Starks: Yeah, such a good question. So I’ll give both sides just agree very important. I would say the majority of private practice owners that we’re working with are offering some sort of benefits, whatever that might look like. Some are very comprehensive, some are very “Hey, we will pay 50% of your medical and leave it at that.” But now that we are in this lane of there is competition from private equity and from retail. Those are just a no-brainer. In those avenues. And so to remain competitive from that regard. They will get a full package of 401K’s with matching with benefits with PTO, all of those things, if they’re considering a retailer or a private equity opportunity in comparison to your private practice opportunity. And so, again, I think most I talked to very few that say “Hey, I’m just percent of production and I don’t give any days off you just you if you’re here you make money if you’re not, you don’t but you can take whatever days you want type of thing”. I have a handful of those but for the most part, most private practices are offering the salary with percent of production, at least something towards medical, and then most do have a 401K whether there’s a match or not with that.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are there other intangible benefits, other things that would make a practice more attractive?
Becca Starks: Yeah. So I think the thing that’s so such a great opportunity with all of the listeners that would have that are trying to hire than our private practice owners that have been doing this for years to a new grad specifically is mentorship. And so those that are willing to do that are excited about that. Well, maybe “Hey, I haven’t really even thought about that. But I’m gonna share over the last 20 years, I really have learned a lot that I could pour into this next upcoming generation”. And so being very vocal with that, even in a job description, or whatever it is that you’re creating, to entice candidates to come your way and some people put a really extensive plan behind, “Hey, we have a weekly meeting, and you get lunch hour with me every week and we will cover XYZ and some it’s kind of informal of just “Hey, I’m going to be with you I’m alongside you. You can call me when you want”, whatever that looks like, or even if you haven’t, some team members that are fairly recent grads, being able to vocalize that to have hey, we’ve got folks that I brought on board as new grads and couple years later looking them go and so the mentorship side is again that intangible free opportunity that I think a lot of people don’t even necessarily recognize they have the ability to give.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Is it mostly clinical mentorship they’re looking for? is it practice ownership? like when you say mentorship, what are they hoping to learn from you?
Becca Starks: Yeah, definitely medical at the top of that, but there are again, those those candidates that just know that they know that they want to be very involved in the practice management, the business side of the house. And so for those candidates that are interested in it, being willing to say “Hey, here’s I’ll show you all of our programs and all of our software and how I design the day and this is how I designed the business side of the house”, and so in those situations for folks that are interested in that side, I think it’s important to have just kind of an open door policy of “I’ll show you all that. I’ll show you that number. So I’ll let you in on this.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So for practice in a particular geographic area, if you can get your salary and benefits close, but they don’t necessarily have to be higher. They just have to be within range and you can kind of check off all the other boxes. Is there a type of practice like heavy medical versus refractive versus specialty that people are looking for?
Becca Starks: Yeah, so definitely looking at highly medical. And then what I would also say is kind of another somewhat intangible, but if practice owners are open to new specialties that maybe you don’t have in your practice right now. But hey, if there’s somebody who comes in and is passionate about whatever it may be, and they want to bring that into my practice, that’s a really enticing thing for a candidate to really see themselves. They’re in the long haul of “Wow, I’m passionate about myopia management and this practice says, by all means bringing that on.” That’s such a great thing to be able to offer to a candidate and so definitely, medical and specialties are really where the candidates are wrapping their brains around of how do I see myself there.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what if you’re in rural Wisconsin, where there’s just not a huge population of optometrists looking to settle? What’s the best way for a practice like that to set themselves up to find somebody to join because so many of those are great opportunities to become part of a community to ultimately partner buy a practice have a really low cost of living like it’s how do they make themselves attractive or show how attractive they are I guess I should say.
Becca Starks: Yeah, and I think that so often because I get the luxury of talking to these practice owners in some of these more rural areas. And every time I’m just like, Wow, if I could just record this and let all of these candidates see this owner care about the type of patients they get to see a lot of times it’s the smaller communities that because there’s not a nearby ophthalmology or another office like those are the most medically focused practices.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Absolutely.
Becca Starks: Yeah. And so, so often I feel better. Oh my gosh, if I could just package this up and get a candidate to truly wrap their head around it. So one of the things that we do on the candidate side is our current advisors do as soon as a student comes in and says, “I only want Miami in New York and LA”, we try to mentor as well and show your kind of cost of living and let’s truly take a look at this and let’s look at your lifestyle and look at
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Miami, LA, how about rural Wisconsin?
Becca Starks: Right? Yep.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And consider Minnesota.
Becca Starks: Exactly. We play that game all day long. Yep. And then to the practice owners, a lot of what I tell them is, they’ll tell me I say they get to brag. So give me your brag book, when they come on as a partner to me, tell me what’s so great about your practice. And then they’re typically ready to end the call and I say, “Okay, based on your area, we also want you to brag on the geographic location just as much as the opportunity and so getting a candidate to truly understand what their life is going to be like, not just when they’re at work with you all day, but once they leave work, and what does this community look like and what can I do there? Is it great for hiking, is it great for the music scene, and the art scene? Is it great to raise a family and maybe I’m not thinking about that right now. But in the next couple of years, I will be.” And so I always say “Somewhere in your job description, however, you want to do it. It’s a post that you’re putting on to kind of an Indeed or an AOA. Having information, just typed information about your geographic area and what makes it so great. And then also, the other added thing you can do is you can always create videos.” Videos are I feel like that’s kind of how we’re all digesting content at this point. And especially this generation of these new grads, and so if you can even do a quick it doesn’t have to be professionally shot but videos of you just speaking informally, almost as if you’re speaking to a candidate who wouldn’t be right in front of you talking about again, envisioning their life there, the more that a practice owner can make a job description or job post about the candidate instead of themselves. The better that that’s going to relay to the candidates have just really getting to understand “Okay, this isn’t what I thought I was thinking Miami, but now I can kind of envision how my life could be in Wisconsin.”
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s a really strong and valid point. Because when I think about a job ad, it’s all about what we need and what we want. We’re looking for an optometrist to work these hours to do this and when I’m interviewing candidates for Associate optometrist, but really for any position I’m always sensitive to an applicant, who all they’re telling me is what this job is going to do for them. Right. So I’m very critical of it as an employer when they’re like, I’m looking to build my clinical confidence in myopia. I’m looking into, you know, whatever. And I think what are you going to do for me? But in the ad, maybe it should be the other way off, Here’s what I’m going to do for you so that they’re interested and intrigued by the post enough to then come in and want to tell me what they are going to do for me so
Becca Starks: Absolutely
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Cool.
Becca Starks: We even have one it’s a Power Practice member that wrote a personalized it looks just like a letter you would receive from your grandma in the mail and it was so different and so eye-catching and so engaging. It was truly just a personalized letter, Dear Candidate, and then it just spoke really informally like, Hey, I get it. Words are hard, school is hard, but here’s what it would be like living here. Imagine if you could leave work and go out and do this, this, and this and your two hours within this big city so you can go catch a basketball game and be back home at night. And so it was just very, again trying to get that candidate to envision their life not only with that practice but in that geographical location. And so that was an incredible example.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Did it work?
Becca Starks: We’ve gotten some interest. We don’t have anybody signed on yet, but it has enticed interest.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And talked about KMK a little bit again, just before we close. So if a practice owner is looking for an associate, they can reach out to you or how do they go about tapping into this database network matching service that you guys have?
Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. I would be the point of contact Becca Starks. And I’m sure you can put my email in the show notes, but it’s just Becca@kmkodcareers.com. And yeah, we typically just do a really informal introductory call and learn about the practice, learn about what they’re looking for. And then go over kind of our offerings. We’ve got two different offerings to choose from, just depending on what the practice owner is looking for. And then yeah, we just go from there. It’s really simple. It’s free to be in agreement with us and having us promote a practice. And so basically, we get that agreement going and then our current adviser starts promoting any of our partners that we’re working with. And then essentially once we have a student that is a great fit, we play the matchmaking game.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I love it. Thank you. I think this is valuable information for new grads to help them understand what they’re going out into and some of the misconceptions they might be facing. But hopefully, we did our part today to try and reduce some of those and really give today’s employers a more real picture of new grads who are looking for jobs. So thank you so much for taking the time to do this and give this service to all of the optometrists out there.
Becca Starks: Absolutely. My pleasure, Bethany. Thank you. So much.
Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Thank you
Read the Transcription
Jennifer Hudye: You know that you’re in confusion if there’s a lot of emotional turmoil. You’re frustrated, you’re anxious, you have overwhelm and usually there’s that clatter because there is a sense of you that does know but doesn’t want to admit the knowing because sometimes there’s a fear of the responsibility of the knowing and all that will come along with that.
Bethany Fishbein: Hi, I am Bethany Fishbein, CEO of The Power Practice and host of the Power Hour Optometry podcast and the conversation that I’m excited to have today has kind of been a long time incoming. My guest is Jennifer Hudye, who is the founder of Vision Driven Global, a company that helps entrepreneurs connect to clarify and create their next big vision for their business and for life. She was a speaker at our client retreat a couple of years ago, really helped people clarify their own vivid vision for their businesses. And I’m really excited, Jen, for you to be back on the show again today. Thank you.
Jennifer Hudye: I am grateful to be here, Bethany.
Bethany Fishbein: And what really started this was an email that you sent back in July, it might have even been June, it was a couple of months ago. And I understand that I got the email because I was on your big list and you weren’t sending it to me, Bethany, personally. But it was one of those that just kind of came at the right time and hit in the right way. And it was called My Painful Lesson with Confusion. And you’re just sharing some thoughts about what happens in a business when the owner or the leader is in a confusion state. So talk a little bit about that, what confusion looks like at a leadership level and how it affects an organization.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah, so in relation to business, I view confusion as oftentimes the words that will come out is I’m not really sure of the direction of where we’re heading next. I don’t know exactly what the future looks like for company. And there’s a lot of mental chatter that creates this stall in leaders of being able to move forward in the direction in which they want to go.
And so to back up a little bit, I want you to imagine that there’s a spectrum, so like a horizontal line. And on the left hand side is the unknown. And on the far end of the right hand side of the spectrum is the known or clarity. And then right smack in the middle is confusion. And I define confusion as thinking that you should know something and you don’t. And so it’s actually the pull between clarity, thinking that you should know and the unknown. And confusion is often a mental construct that will paralyze leaders from being able to move forward in a direction because they think that they need more information. They think that they should know more than they do. But usually it’s a set of blocks in their belief system around what it is that they want.
Bethany Fishbein: It’s an interesting thing as you describe it, because I’m thinking of my own journey as a leader. And I think that there are times where confusion comes from, I truly don’t know. I think for me personally, it more often comes from, I do know, but I’m not quite ready to acknowledge it or say it yet. Is that something you find as well?
Jennifer Hudye: Yes, that’s exactly it. And so often what I believe is that the unknown, say that left hand end of the spectrum in the unknown, the example is, I don’t know how to speak French. But I don’t get tripped up on the idea that I don’t know how to speak French. I just don’t know. And there’s no emotional turmoil around it. There’s no frustration. There’s no anxiety. There’s just a, I don’t know. I don’t have all of the information. And I’m OK with that. I’m going to go look for the information. I’m going to go get more data.
But confusion, you know that you’re in confusion if there’s a lot of emotional turmoil. You’re frustrated, you’re anxious, you have overwhelm. And usually there’s that clatter because there is a sense of you that does know, but doesn’t want to admit the knowing because sometimes there’s a fear of the responsibility of the knowing and all that will come along with that. And there’s actually a handful of blocks that I see show up for leaders in as particularly in business, but probably the primary one is the fear of responsibility.
I actually know what I need to do. I do have clarity if I’m really honest with myself, but I don’t want to fully admit that yet because it’s going to require a lot of changes. It’s going to require having to let go of several team members. It’s going to require having to make a pivot and have a way heavier lift as far as workload temporarily so that we can do what we need to do. It’s going to require saying no to that person and having to let them down. And so I often say confusion is a very convenient cover up for avoidance. It’s not always the case, but oftentimes is the case.
Bethany Fishbein: So before we start talking about how to get through that and ultimately get out of it, talk about the effect that it has on the other people around the leader when the leader is in that state, because it’s noticeable.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah. So I’ll share a story with you. My own experience in this because the way in which I discovered this was through my own journey, through my own leadership and my company. In early 2021, well, even a little bit before that, at the end of 2020 into 2021, we were setting our upcoming annual plan for the company. And we had our team, I flew my team in from all over and we met in Palm Springs and we spent two days just mapping out what our game plan was going to be for the upcoming year. And everything that we were mapping out, logically made sense. Like I got it, it made sense. But there was this stirring feeling in my belly that was like, I hate the plan. The plan makes sense, but gosh, I don’t know if I want to do this.
Bethany Fishbein: And you had that while this was going on, while the plans were taking shape, just something about it wasn’t feeling right to you?
Jennifer Hudye: And it was such a subtle feeling. Like it was so subtle, but I was able to go back to that moment and realize I was already starting to feel a whisper of like, I want to go a little bit of a different direction, but I’m not willing to admit this yet to my team. I’m not willing to say, I actually want to make a very big pivot and it may not all logically make sense. And so I continued to go along with the logical plan and we built out the strategy for the upcoming year. And one of my responsibilities that year was updating some of our offer structures. And throughout the whole year, I kept telling myself, gosh, I just, I don’t know what to do around this area. I’m stuck. I don’t know. I’m frustrated.
I was so frustrated every time I’d sit down and try to map it out so that it fit into that plan. I was just blocked. And I kept just telling myself that I was confused. And that was the story that I was telling myself. I was starting to feel more and more angst and more and more frustration around the business. And even when I would look at the strategy and the game plan, I just didn’t…
Part of me did not want to build the business that way, even though it made sense. And the whole year, I could feel the frustration from my team because they were sitting there waiting for me to just make a decision. They were just like, Hey, Jen, we really need this piece because once we have this piece, then we can build out all of the marketing. Then we can do this, then we can do that. And I was the bottleneck. I was stalling them. And I even had a team member come up to me and she was like, Hey, we really need the short term strategy around this piece. And it really is stalling us to be able to do it.
And internally, I knew that was true. And I was also frustrated with myself because I knew that they weren’t getting what they needed in order to be successful. But I was also in this stuck loop myself. And it actually… That July of 2022, it was the most counterintuitive thing that I could have done. But I said, I’m gonna go and I’m gonna take a few weeks off and just clear my head and be able to actually set the direction of our shorter term strategy.
So I went off and because one of the first steps in my own process of gaining clarity around the next vision is making the space for the vision to come through. Overly wound up and overly committed entrepreneur can’t really clearly come up with that vision when they’re so stuck in the day to day. And so I carved out two weeks, and I just gave myself the space to gain clarity. And it was actually in that first week that I got really, really honest with myself. And I realized that I actually knew exactly what I wanted the whole time. But I hadn’t been willing to allow myself to be honest, because in my case, it was going to require a pretty substantial pivot and shutting down an aspect of our business that had been a very lucrative part of our business for the past seven years.
And it was going to require me letting go of a lot of team. And it was going to require a lot of heavy lifting in the interim to update everything and rebrand and shift. And our long term vision was that. And my team knew that that was the direction. But I was in the standstill of like, okay, when are we going to jump and actually make that move fully? And then when I finally was able to be honest with myself and say, okay, I’m going to go for this, it took about six months to reorganize everything. And it was a heavy lift. And it was really challenging. And those conversations were hard. But I realized that I wasn’t doing anyone any good by stalling everyone out, the business, myself and my team.
Bethany Fishbein: What is that two weeks look like? As that entrepreneur caught up in the day to day with so much going on, I feel that sense that you can’t get clarity in five minutes between meetings and you can’t get it or it hasn’t come to me yet in a one hour, even two hour walk in nature, trying to get out a little bit. But what does making that space for clarity even look like? I guess it’s hard for me to imagine.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah, so this can look many different ways depending on the person. But the first thing for me was completely disconnecting from everything work related. So not even checking my email, or my slack, and communicating to my team that I was going to be fully off the grid, which felt very uncomfortable. And it wasn’t the most convenient time either. We had just hired on a couple of new people, and they were being onboarded. But I even remember some of my close team members in our inner circle were like, go. We want clarity. We want you to go and work this out. And so we want you to go.
Bethany Fishbein: So they’re ready to support you. They just need to know what direction you want to go.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah.
Bethany Fishbein: I so feel this.
Jennifer Hudye: They’re like, let’s do this. Yeah, OK. Well, we just need the plan. So again, this can look many different ways. I’ll share the way in which I did is I actually went down to a beautiful tropical place in Costa Rica. But you don’t have to go. But just somewhere I prefer where you can be in nature, where you can be unplugged, where it’s not your norm.
Bethany Fishbein: You go by yourself.
Jennifer Hudye: So I went with my fiance. And so it was the two of us. And the first week, we actually went to a retreat center. And so everything was planned as far as there being different facilitated yoga and breath work and a lot of wellness aspects. And then the second week, we just had nothing planned. But we stayed in that location of Nosara, Costa Rica. And we had a had a beautiful spot. And I just allowed myself to then on the back end of that retreat journal every day, do some meditation, do some breath work. But the biggest piece was, how can I do things that get me out of my head?
Because what I realized for myself is where I was getting caught up was I was in my head and I was looping over and over and over again around the same ideas. And I think for all of us entrepreneurs, if we look back at our best ideas did not come when we were thinking so hard about what the solution is. They usually come, quote unquote, out of the blue. When we are in the shower, when we went on a long walk with our dog, when we’re maybe driving a long distance and there’s no distractions in more of like the kind of scientific terms around this. It’s getting from a sympathetic operating system to a parasympathetic.
So the sympathetic is that get stuff done, motivation, drive, kind of push energy. And then the parasympathetic nervous system is when we rest and digest. And when you can get your brain state in a theta brain state or even alpha, where you’re more relaxed, your right brain, your creative brain and your left brain can work together very well. And that’s when those big ideas come. It’s not just when we’re analytical and trying to make sense of something that I found for myself. I’ve tried so hard to come up with the best ideas that way, but it never works.
Bethany Fishbein: In that same direction, I guess when you’re journaling, are you setting yourself up in a direction like you talked about honesty and one of your suggestions in this email was to ask yourself and journal around, where am I not being fully honest with myself right now? So that was a guided question. Are you guiding that journaling or guiding that thought or is it blank page and see what comes up?
Jennifer Hudye: It’s a good question. So one of my natural gifts is questions like I love coming up with a really good question. One of my favorite quotes, I can’t remember exactly who said this, but it’s, our world is shaped by the questions that we ask even before we know what the answers are. And so for myself, sometimes I will just percolate on, okay, what is the question that I need to ask myself in order to come up with the solution? And sometimes I will have a guided prompted question in some of our trainings and our retreats so much of it is providing the questions to bring things up for the entrepreneurs in order for them to answer it themselves. But specifically with that question around where am I not being honest with myself in my kind of alone time that week during those two weeks, I was just sitting in inquiry and curiosity and I saw this visual within myself and it reminded me of Aristotle’s, he has the three points of persuasion and there’s the ethos, the pathos and the logos. And the ethos is so much around values and what we value.
Pathos is more about heart or your story. I kind of signal this as what would I love? And then logos is logic and reasoning. So being able to logically make sense of something. I almost imagine this where the logos, that logic was in my head, the pathos is in my heart, my story, what would I love? And then the ethos is in my gut area, my belly. If we think about making a gut decision, part of it too is, are we making it from our values? And so as I was in this inquiry with myself around, okay, I’m realizing I’m not fully being honest with what I wanted.
I’m like, why am I denying myself of that? What I started to realize within myself was I knew what I would really love, my heart. I knew that I wanted to fully double down on the vision, division of our company and build that out in the highest expression. And there was part of my values that were resisting that because they were saying, hey, well, how do we do this in a way that is honoring of our team, honoring of all of our clients that are in the other divisions? I hadn’t fully seen how can we do this in a way that there’s high integrity of how we end this so that we can make sure that we’re still continuing to have trust with our clients as we make this pivot.
And I realized that was in the underbelly where I wasn’t even seeing it. And then there was the logical part of me that was tracking the timeline. Well, how are we going to do this? What are all of the steps? And I saw that those three areas were kind of misaligned. And that’s where I was having the confusion and the conflict with myself because I didn’t see how they all matched up. In that process, I started asking myself, okay, well, what would I need on a values level in order to move forward with this decision? And what came up for me was having an elegant ending, being so proud of how we made the transition in the business that it was honoring of everything that we had built up until that point in the past seven years.
I was like, okay, well, what is the timeframe that I could realistically give myself in order to move forward with this? It was like six months. If I took six months, do I believe that I could do all of the steps required to make this? Yes. Great. And I started to get all of those pieces in alignment. And so for anyone listening here, I think that these are some questions that you can start asking yourself immediately of where am I not being honest with myself? What do I value most in moving forward in any direction? And then what would I really love? What matters to me? If I could have it all my way when it comes to the future, what would that look like? And then what would need to be in place in order for me to make that decision? And even asking those questions, stay in the possibility of it, because that’s where things will start to line up.
But I think with entrepreneurs, especially many don’t allow themselves to want what they want. And so that piece of what would I love? They’re like, I don’t even know. Because of all of the things that come along with that, it feeling like they’re not deserving or who am I to do this? Or how is it all going to happen?
Bethany Fishbein: Or something we’ve talked about here and in other places is the sense that sometimes they get from other people, this is what you’re supposed to want, which is not always aligned with what they themselves want. And that’s a layer of complexity as well.
Jennifer Hudye: Yes. Yeah. And so, so much about the process around getting clarity is noticing where some of those blocks in your beliefs are hiding out.
Bethany Fishbein: So once you get this, there’s a hard piece to it. You’re the clarity person. How do you go back and explain to other people, but to yourself also, that you went on this journey for a year, or as long as you did, ignoring that gut feeling? How do you bring everybody else in that pivot in a way that still aligns with your own values, like being honest and being transparent and things that you are and always have been as a leader?
Jennifer Hudye: I think it just starts with honesty. Self-honesty, when we’re completely honest with ourselves, then we are able to show up as that leader that even when things are messy, and people appreciate it, because you’re being honest. So for myself, once I had that clarity, I called an all hands meeting with my team once I was back. And I just explained the situation.
I said, Hey, I know that many of you have been waiting on me for answers. And it’s been really hard to not be able to give you those answers. It’s not because I didn’t want to. And what I realized while I was away was that I’ve been denying the direction in which I know that we’re to go moving forward, and the vision that we’re here to realize, and the client that we’re here to really serve. And moving forward over the next six months, we’re going to go through a transition and we’re going to go through a reinvention. And I’m not going to have all of the answers immediately.
But this is what it’s going to look like, from what I know so far. And it may not be ideal for everyone. But I know that as the leader of this company, this is the direction that we’re going to go moving forward. And it was a very hard conversation. Some people were a little bit pissed. Others were relieved. And I remember in a lot of ways, with some of my team members, they were like, we already knew. Because again, we had set our three-year vision. And it was the direction that we’re going to go moving forward.
But we weren’t going to have this one piece attached to it anymore. And then it’s staying the course. In my case, there were so many shifts in which needed to occur in order to roll things out for the evolution of the business. And it was incredibly hard. But I knew for myself that if I just… I knew that this was the direction moving forward, because I got to that true place of clarity.
Bethany Fishbein: I think you have to trust yourself in that clarity so much. Because from the outside, especially to somebody who disagrees with your direction and your decision, it’s like, all right, you went away for a week, you went to a retreat center, now you came back, you’re changing everything. It feels like you did this on a whim. To somebody looking in, you know, the struggle that you had for all the time before that. But people will challenge you when you’re doing that.
How could you make this, what to them seems like a sudden decision? How can you give up everything we’ve been working for in this one area that suddenly is not important to you? And I think that’s something that we see optometry owners, practice owners struggle with when they make a big decision like, we’re not going to be able to take this insurance plan anymore. The first pushback they get is from their own staff, in some cases. How could you do that?
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah.
Bethany Fishbein: How do you get that inner strength or how do you channel it? I guess it’s in there.
Jennifer Hudye: Mm-hmm. One of my favorite quotes is by Dan Sullivan. And he says, fear is wetting your pants. Courage is doing what you need to do with wet pants.
Bethany Fishbein: I like that.
Jennifer Hudye: So it’s not that the discomfort isn’t there. It’s that you’re choosing to move forward anyways. And by no means am I saying that the way to go is by making like a rash quick decision out of mere, like a mere flash of inspiration. I know for myself and my own journey, as you mentioned, it was an incubation of almost a year and in a lot of thinking leading up to that time of spaciousness and also sharing that with my team. But as a leader, this is a common thing that’s always going to come up is we incubate on things for a very long time and then the team hears about it for the first time. And it isn’t fair to then assume like, okay, the team’s just going to gobble this up and be on board.
Bethany Fishbein: Right. Because you had months to incubate. They’re hearing it sometimes for the first time in that conference room.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah. And so I believe that it’s important to give that time and space for the team to digest it and realize that it may take some time for them to get on board and to have that open door policy for them to ask questions and maybe challenge it a little bit and know that that’s healthy in an organization for the team to say, but what about this? And what about this? And be able to work with this new model and how it’s going to unfold because they probably have a lot of value to bring as well. So I think it’s more of a conversation that will continue to unfold over time.
Bethany Fishbein: So you’re kind of defining here’s the path, here’s the model and inviting feedback on how you get there more so than here’s the path, here’s the model. What do you think of that? Because at that point, you’re clear. So having a conversation for somebody to say, I don’t think that’s a good idea, like you’re past that at this point.
Jennifer Hudye: Yeah. But I think there’s still value in having people be able to share their voice. If someone comes to you and says, hey, well, I think this is a shitty idea, especially in team, hear them out on it. And that may not change your decision or it likely won’t, but at least giving them a voice around it, I think is important. And this is something that we actually run into a lot with our clients. And I believe in this whole experience for myself, even while I was going through it, I knew that it was a lesson for me and getting greater levels of empathy for our clients.
Because a lot of our clients that were coming to us around crafting their next three-year vision for the future, some of them were coming in very unclear. And then once they did have the clarity, they’re having to go to their team, sometimes a 50 or 100 people and share the new direction of the company. And they were really nervous for it.
And so it gave me greater levels of empathy of what they were going through in this whole process. Because I had been relatively clear, most of my business journey on where we’re heading next. And so it was very humbling to see and all of those inner workings. But I actually had a client that I’ll never forget. I got this call. I think it would have been, well, it was either 2020 or 2021. But it was the day before Thanksgiving. And I was in Las Vegas with my fiance because that’s where his family’s from. And I was in our hotel room. And I got this call from an entrepreneur and he said, Hey, Jennifer, I need your help.
I need to lay off over 50 of my team members in the next couple weeks. And I’m so nervous about it. What I’m most nervous about is having to tell all of the other team members that are staying on board. And I need your help in being able to communicate the vision for the future so that they can all latch on to that. And that’s the energy in which we can build from moving forward because I know that so many of these new team members are going to be terrified when they see that many people go.
So we ended up helping him work on his vivid vision. And I remember having a call with him getting ready to have his presentation in which he was going to share the new vision. One of the things I always share with my clients is even more than your ability to communicate the vision moving forward is your own energy around it.
Do you really believe that you’re going to get there? Do you really believe that and are excited about what it is that you’re about to create because your team’s going to be able to sniff out if there’s any aspect of hesitation or fear. And he was able to confidently share the new direction of the company. And I think that’s the important piece is when you go and you make a pivot, a transition, anything is you got to cast the next vision for the future. And clearly, and in a way that gets everybody on board to see the future and be excited to want to visit it, because if not, then people are going to come up with their own imagination of what they think the future is going to be. And usually it’s not as bright as what you see as the leader.
Bethany Fishbein: Once people hear it, they understand the new direction. You are certain. So you have that confidence, that certainty, that positivity. What does the team look like then? It’s a much better picture.
Jennifer Hudye: I believe that there’s going to be the process of getting the whole team on board, usually.
Bethany Fishbein: It’s not just immediate. Like you have this one great meeting and everyone’s like rah-rah and they just do everything you want.
Jennifer Hudye: Nope. Usually people in sales will be excited about it. Maybe people in marketing, the people in operations, or maybe customer service where it’s going to require them to share hard news with the clients. They’re going to be a bit resistant. And so having follow ups on the back end of that, and usually it’s about a quarter, so 90 days of getting familiar with that new model and that new vision for the internal team. And then once you get as many people on board from there, then you start to share it externally with the rest of the world. But I would give it about 90 days with the internal team.
And we found with the Vivid Vision process that on average, about 10% of the team members, once they hear the new vision, especially if it’s quite different, won’t continue on. And that’s actually good news. And that’s actually okay, because you’re being transparent with where the company is headed and they get to opt in or opt out. And so better that than them decide that they don’t want to be part of that vision, than them feeling dragged along or you dragging them along.
Bethany Fishbein: Right. To a place they don’t want to be. Right. Yeah. Better that you know. And Jennifer, you’ve been so generous with your time today. So appreciate you. Last question for somebody who’s in that stuck phase, in that confusion. We mentioned the question, where am I not being fully honest with myself right now? That was a good one for me. What are a couple of other little gems you can share that might spur the kinds of thoughts people need to get out of that state and onto a better path of clarity?
Jennifer Hudye: One of my favorite questions is, what would I really love? And if that’s too fluffy for you, you can ask, what do I really want? And where am I denying myself what it is that I really want? Or where am I not giving myself permission to want what I want? And just real quick here, I know we talked about this at the event that I spoke at a couple years ago for y’all, but there’s the different blocks, right? It’s getting stuck in, I don’t know what I want, but then there’s, who am I to have what it is that I want? There’s the fear of responsibility around what you want. There’s the fear of judgment of others, if you go after what it is that you want. There is the fear of thinking too big, what if what I want is too much? Or fear of capping yourself, what if what I want, this isn’t enough? Is this enough? So there’s all of these mental blocks that can get in the way of that. And that’s where you want to really get after is being able to transform those so that you can get clear of being able to answer, what is it that I really want? Or what do I love? What would I love?
Bethany Fishbein: And for people who want to hear more from you, or want to see more of what you’re doing, share your contact information, your website, where can people find your work?
Jennifer Hudye: Yes. So you can head over to visiondrivenglobal.com. That’s visiondrivenglobal.com. And you can learn more about how we help entrepreneurs not only clarify the vision, but connect to it and communicate it.
Bethany Fishbein: Thank you so much for more information on the power practice. You can reach us at powerpractice.com. Thank you for listening.