Robert Deck was young when he developed a strong interest in healthcare and business. An excellent student, he majored in chemistry and minored in biology at Northern Michigan University before attending optometry school at Ferris State University. After a few years of employment gaining valuable optometry experience, he was ready to open his own practice. In the 1990s, Robert expanded his practice by purchasing an existing practice from a retiring optometrist. He actively managed and expanded the practice before selling it to another optometrist in 2015. Robert Deck continues to be actively involved with the optometry profession through his management of My Optical Life.
Always interested in learning and gaining business ideas, Robert began to focus on sales, recruiting, and training skills. He worked for Performance Communication Technologies and became their top sales producer as well as a trainer. With that success behind him, he transitioned into sales within the burgeoning industry of solar power. As a field energy consultant for Powerhome Solar, Robert is involved in recruiting additional consultants as well as being a top 10 producer for the company every year.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I had always been interested in healthcare, but I had always been interested in business, too. What drove me into optometry was that it is the most unique field, in my opinion, because it marries a healthcare service with a product. As a result, by practicing optometry, you can be business-oriented, as well as healthcare oriented. If you’re a dentist, you’re really only providing a healthcare service, or if you have a clothing shop, you’re really just providing a product. So, that was the driving force that motivated me to go into optometry and ultimately start my own optometry practice.
With the solar industry, I kind of fell into it because I wanted to get some sales experience. I thought about maybe going into equipment sales or pharmaceutical sales along with practicing optometry. It turned out I needed some sales experience and I just actually came into that job by accident. It’s been fun because it’s really an up-and-coming field. Being a part of it is exciting.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m working on my solar business right now, probably about 75% of the time and optometry about 25% of the time. I typically split the days between the two jobs. I might have morning appointments for optometry patients, and then afternoon appointments for the solar consults, or vice versa.
When I’m in the office seeing optometry patients, the patients are pre-scheduled, though we do fit in emergencies if needed. With the solar power consults, those are always booked from the marketing department and we just go and consult with the consumers at their homes and do site evaluations to see if their location is conducive to putting solar energy in.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I do not have a knee-jerk reaction to things. I like to think things through. Over time, if something seems like a good idea, then I will implement the idea, whether it be a marketing idea for my solar business or a treatment modality for the optometry practice.
I’ve been involved with businesses where somebody says something and immediately wants to implement that into the day-to-day operations, which oftentimes does not work out very well. I try to be more thoughtful and consider how it will impact things before I decide to implement a change.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are definitely exciting trends happening within both of my industries. In optometry, there are new medicines on the horizon, new surgical techniques, and new diagnostic procedures to diagnose diseases at earlier stages. These improvements will help with various eye diseases and conditions.
In the solar industry, the battery technology is moving from lithium ion to lithium metal. It’s going to increase the longevity and the storage capacity of the batteries used for solar power. That had previously been a big limitation on consumer adoption because the old batteries are expensive and inefficient. So, the availability of improved batteries is an exciting trend.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
When I owned my own practice, and even as an employee, but more so as an entrepreneur, I would always follow up on customer complaints. This is an important habit to cultivate because a happy customer maybe tells one person about a business, but an unhappy customer will tell 10. So, I would always try to address customer concerns or complaints early on in order to rectify them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to be more aggressive venturing out into the business world. Even if you fail, you gain valuable knowledge and experience for the future.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Voice your conviction. So many people today are afraid to say what they believe for fear of criticism or retaliation.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Having gratitude is number one. Be grateful for what you have. You can always complain about things, but things can always be worse. So, be grateful.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My practice was always careful to provide consistency in the quality of care we provided. Also, we developed an internal referral program that has proven to be a good strategy. We give out a referral bonus or a discount to any customer that refers new clients to us.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I experienced very little growth in my second and third year of business. I bet on myself and took a loan to hire a management and consulting firm. Every year thereafter we experienced double digit growth.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve found that the best way to succeed is taking the best ideas that people have and refine them. I always say “steal and refine” ideas. There are a lot of great ideas out there. Figure out how you can tweak them a little bit and make them even better.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I would have to say the money I spent on a plane ticket to visit my mother was very well-spent. She is 82 and resides in Florida. You never know how long loved ones will be around, so I made that trip recently.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The software Salesforce helps me to be productive. It helps me keep track of all my clients. Being that I own a small business, Quickbooks is also very useful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend 1984 by George Orwell. Everybody should read that book.
What is your favorite quote?
“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.”
● Always have gratitude.
● Don’t take things or people for granted.
● Hard work is a big part of success.
● Don’t be afraid to take chances.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.