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Pros and Cons of Corporate Optometry on the Industry

Corporate optometry has expanded greatly over the years.  It is currently estimated to make up about 30% of the industry and will continue to grow as young optometrists make the decision to go into this sector.  With this expansion come both benefits and costs to the industry, which we will discuss below.

Pros:

1. Employment opportunities for ODs

Corporate optometry creates opportunities and jobs for optometrists looking for employment.  In addition, it is a great option for optometrists who don’t have a lot of experience as business owners and are looking for a turnkey model. ODs don’t have to wait for another OD to retire to become a business owner. Many Corporate ODs have had the ability to have multiple subleases which has been beneficial for those ODs. The ability to open practices in locations where there are not many other optometry practice can help ODs have more opportunities and provide more access to patients seeking other alternatives.

2. Increased pay rate and benefits

Corporate optometry can provide higher starting salaries and pay rates than average along with better benefits for some ODs.  The days and hours an optometrist works likely will affect the rate in which the optometrist is paid; for example, optometrists are sometimes paid higher by corporate opticals on Sundays.  In addition, corporate optometry offers generous bonus structures.

3. Loan repayments

Some corporate opticals will offer loan repayments to young ODs who are burdened by student debt.  This is great incentive for young ODs to start a career in corporate optometry. Most often, corporate opticals will offer loan repayments when trying to recruit ODs to more remote locations where it is difficult to find doctors in order to spark greater interest in new ODs.

4. Innovation and Competition

Corporate optometry has revolutionized the customer and shopping experience in the industry; for example, the one-hour eye glass service has completely changed the customer’s eye care experience.  The innovation of corporate opticals to better cater to their customers leads to competition and helps to keep practices top-notch. New ideas created within corporate optometry therefore bring the industry forward.

5. Global impact

Corporate optometry has allowed the industry to have a greater impact globally.  Many corporate opticals work with charities to use their business for the greater good; for example, Warby Parker’s “buy a pair, give a pair” program is a system in which, for every pair of glasses purchased, a pair is given to someone in need, and many corporate opticals supply underprivileged companies with glasses and eye exams.  In addition, Luxottica provides onesight global clinics to provide eye care for people in underdeveloped countries.

Cons

1. Exclusions from insurance panels

Being with a specific corporate optical can exclude doctors from certain insurance panels; for example, Walmart doctors are unable to take EyeMed.  Because of this, a doctor may have to turn away some patients. In addition, closed panels can funnel patients into a certain corporate optical, which can be a disadvantage for other practices in terms of creating a patient base and providing continuation of care to your patients as their benefits change year to year.

2. Vertical integration

Corporate opticals may have ownership over a variety of stages of production and may sell their own products, frames, lenses, etc., which can result in a reduced price for their customers.  This creates a disadvantage to private practices or other corporate opticals that can’t compete at a severe discount. In addition, the possibility of pushing a company’s own products rather than alternative products might not always have the best outcome for the consumer in the long run.

3. Exam Fees that haven’t changed with Inflation.

Providing affordable care to patients is essential. Many corporate opticals have offered affordable eye care services and products for many patients, yet with inflation and changes in scope of optometry exam fees have remained stagnate. Free eye exams have impacted the industry as well.

4. Consolidation

As more companies merge together, only a few large players in the industry are created, making it difficult for smaller practices to have a voice.  In addition, consolidation of companies limits the customer’s options when it comes to eye care. Consolidation needs to happen though if companies want to compete with online retailers and how customers want low prices with fast service.

5. Movements

Corporate opticals are more easily able to create big movements or waves of change in the industry compared to smaller practices. Global changes can be made. Many corporate opticals operate globally and many times movements that may work in another country might not be best in the USA.  While these movements are created in the corporation’s best interest, they may not necessarily be in the patients’ or the industry’s best interest as a whole. Among these movements have been an increase in managed care plans, telemedicine and an expansion in private equity.

In conclusion, there are both pros and cons of corporate optometry on the industry that should be considered.  Whether working under a corporate optical or not, doctors have the ability to be a voice for other ODs and for their patients to make positive changes in the industry and create a better future. 

How Corporate Optometry allows ODs to focus on Patient Care

Corporate optometry is a great option for ODs who want to practice optometry but do not want to feel overwhelmed by the business aspects of the job.  It is ideal both for optometrists who do not feel they have enough business experience to start their own practices and for those who simply want to focus more on the patient-centric aspect of their career.  Here are some ways that corporate optometry may allow you as an OD to focus on your patient care first and foremost.

1. Your job is to focus on the patient.

As a corporate optometrist, your main focus is to see patients without the distractions of the optical and managing staff. Focusing on the patient is what we went to school for. We don’t have to worry about competition, we can focus on our patients and use the extra time to stay up to date on the latest clinical trends. Corporate optometry allows you to see different types of patients because the volume is usually greater, thus enhancing your clinical skills seeing a wide variety of patients. his is a great way for you as an optometrist to see a wide variety of conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, and gain experience recognizing and managing these conditions. 

2. Technology

Corporate optometry will provide you will have easier access to resources and discounts from corporate partners.  You will also be able to purchase technology a lot sooner if you are a sublease or the latest technology will be offered to you as an employee. Many young ODs are learning the latest in the eye care. Why not be able to utilize that knowledge by working in a corporate setting? Many offices have digital refracting lanes, optos, octs. Different corporate opticals have different approaches. Don’t lump all corporate opticals as the same!

Corporate optometry may be right for you if you are not interested in the daily practice management struggles that many ODs face with the optical side of the business and managing staff turnover. Retail optometry will continue to grow over the next 10 years. Find which corporate optical is right for you and your career goals.

3 Solutions to Optical Staff Issues in Corporate Optometry.

Working in the corporate optometry has its own set of challenges that many Corporate ODs face. If you are leasing space from the corporate optical, you may run into some complications with your regional manager and the optical staff.

If you are not careful, some form of miscommunication can lead to issues like mishandling of appointments, mismanagement of patients and not getting your insurances verified regularly.

These sublease issues coupled together can really affect your performance and cause patient dissatisfaction. Follow these simple steps to overcome these problems and make sure nothing comes between you and your patient.

Hire Your Own Staff

As a sublease OD, you have to let go of some control when it comes to administrative and managerial work. If the staff works directly under the corporation, scheduling errors may occur because you haven’t had the chance to train the staff.

In such cases, you can always request to hire your own staff and train them according to your needs and objectives. This requires some time and effort from your end. But once you’ve managed to train your team, you’ll have more administrative control and you can make your own rules keeping patient care as the topmost priority.

Schedule a Meeting

If you are not able to hire your own staff, you can always schedule a meeting with your managers and staff. During the meeting, you can raise your concerns in detail. Understand their objectives and expectations, and figure out a strategy to keep yourself and the staff satisfied.

Communication is extremely important. You need to let them know that the problem at hand is affecting the quality of patient care, and as a team, you should work together to enhance the patient experience.

Check Your Lease

Checking your lease may be one of the simplest ways to solve your problems. Your lease has all the requirements and role expectations stated clearly. If your staff has been mismanaging your patients and their appointments, then you can print out your lease and inform them of their tasks.

This will help clear up the confusion of who’s in the wrong and you will be able to get to the bottom of the issue more quickly.

It is important to know the roles of employees working for you to make sure everything runs smoothly and no one falls out of line.

One precautionary measure you should take is to have access to your own phone line (unless your sublease agreement doesn’t allow you, in which case, make sure to negotiate before

signing the lease). Many times the phone line given to you is a property of the corporate optical and, if you decide to end things with them, you can lose all contact with your patients.

As patient demands and expectations are increasing, you need to make sure there are effective business processes in place fulfilling those needs. You need to give immediate attention to any problems you face because with every mistake you make, you could potentially lose a patient forever.

Is Private Equity another form of Corporate Optometry?

Is Private Equity another form of Corporate Optometry?

Private Equity has become very popular in our industry. Many older ODs find it have found great benefits with private equity as an exit strategy. Many ODs can sell their practices and not worry about the administrative tasks and still be able to practice the way they want and focus on what they love the most and that is patient care. There are many similarities and differences among practicing optometry in a private equity firm and corporate optometry. Ophthalmology went through it before and maybe the same can be said about labs being bought out over the years. PE is a tough conversation. Some might differ on this comparison, here is what some ODs think about this question.

There are the pros and cons of private equity in optometry

Some Private Equity are investing in new technology in their practices, from EHR to diagnostic equipment. They are building a practice to help with increased costs with low reimbursements. The new investment in technology allows ODs to practice the highest scope allowed. It can be a good employment opportunity for many young ODs that are tied down because of high debt and can still have that private practice feeling with higher than average salaries.

With the pros come the cons. Some of the negatives that ODs expressed were that there would not be any practices for the next generation of ODs to purchase and move the position forward. Some concerns were that these private equity firms would purchase these large practices hold them for a short period of time and sell them to a larger entity in the industry. ODs were concerned that optometry was being lead the way that pharmacy was taken. Being employed might be something that young ODs would like at the beginning of their career, but after a few year many desire to have their own business.

We asked the industry what they thought about if private equity was good for the future of optometry.

Dr Joshua Woodland from Dyerville, Iowa

“History doesn’t repeat, My point isn’t about current status of VCPs but, it’s about allowing something to take hold that allows for short sighted gains but is bad for the profession in the long term.”

Think about how other factors have affect our industry over the years. Use that information to help guide you on new trends and disruptive technology for the future of optometry.

Survey taken in the corporate optometry FB group, many of the members feel that private equity is another form of Corporate Optometry.

From this survey many ODs feel that private equity is another form of Corporate Optometry

It is not Corporate Optometry

Not all corporate opticals are the same, why would private equity firms be the same? There are different models and strategies. Leadership styles can vary in the direction they want to take that company. It is hard to make direct comparisons.

Stan Peacock- Walmart sublease holder in Marianna Florida.

“Not really, it depends on ones definition of what corporate optometry is. And also now there are different types of PE. So different definitions of PE also, especially how the OD is treated-in different PE settings.”

Private Equity is an alternative form of Corporate Optometry.

There can be a blur in being able to differ ante between the two in optometry. When the owner is not an OD sometimes it can be classified as form of corporate optometry. Usually in private equity ODs are employed by the firm. Private equity firms make the decisions on OD schedules, hiring, products for the optical, equipment and other decisions that ODs are not involved with.

John Wiener Costco leasehold in Cincinnati, Ohio

“It is meta corporate optometry. Equity is buying up everything. OMDs included. If you are working under a private equity firm, you are clearly not private. Your livelihood is at the mercy of market forces and corporate decisions that might be far removed from optometry.”

Only time will tell on what specific companies will do and what their strategy is. What is your opinion? Join the conversation on Facebook Corporate Optometry group!

Red Flags in Your Corporate Optometry Employee Contract

You can always seek the opinion of professionals within the industry. They will tell you what is reasonable to expect and what isn’t.

Another thing to note is that you need to be patient and let your employers bring up the contract themselves. Don’t get ahead of yourself; wait for them to start the conversation.

You need to be honest and straightforward when you’re making an agreement. Remember, there is no reason to be hesitant or embarrassed because it applies directly to you.

Ask questions every step of the way if something is unclear to you. Ask about the frequency of reviews, compensation, bonus and factors that will influence promotion.

Similarly, when you’re becoming a corporate OD, there are some things you need to watch out for things like the number of patients you will see an hour, hours of operation, holidays, weekends, staff support etc.

No Transparency

You need to know that in a corporate setting, it is completely normal to talk about growth opportunities, raises and bonuses, among other things.

If the employers at your workplace of interest are not keen on going into details about their business procedures, chances are that it is not a good sign.

Some element of transparency should be there when you’re negotiating a contract, and withholding of relevant information on any end is a huge red flag.

Ambiguity

If the contract language and the context aren’t completely understandable, you should always ask for clarification. You can easily misinterpret ambiguous statements and the organization can hold you accountable. It is best to avoid signing something you’re not sure about.

Certain language as, “it depends on the store and region”. There are protocols from the corporate level. Make sure all your requests and agreements are in writing. Some other ambiguity could be that anything that you develop during that time that you are an employee is property of the company. As an employee, doing eye exams intellectual property is your own property not the company. If you have this clause it needs to to be removed.

Non disclosure agreements in an employee contract can be a red flag. If you are an employed OD at the store level many times sensitive information is not provided to you. If you are in this position you should not sign an agreement that is not specific to a certain situation or doesn’t have a time frame.

Verbal Agreements and Cues.

Anything that you and your employed have agreed upon needs to be clearly stated in your contract. If you’re denied this, then you should take this seriously because when something isn’t contractually binding, it is easier to get out of. What was verbally agreed upon needs to be in the contract. Many times if a contract is being “sold” as it is a great opportunity that you don’t want to miss because there are other ODs, don’t rush into it. Take your time to review, you don’t want to rush into something that might be hard to reverse.

Long Notice Periods and Restrictive Covenants.

Beware of notice periods that are extraordinarily long. There is something to take notice about any organization that requires you to have a notice period longer than 60 days or if they require to help find a replacement.

Restrictive Covenants are very common in Corporate optometry. A typical covenant is 1-3 miles over a year. Beware of vague covenants without an address to start with and longer than a year. If you are a traveling OD make sure that you are not required to not work 1-3 miles from all the locations because that can limit you to certain locations in your state.

Now that you know some of the warning signs in a contract, you will be able to negotiate in a way that benefits you in the long run. It is necessary to go over the best and worst-case scenarios that can happen during your term of employment and request for amendments accordingly.

When you’re signing a contract, you need to take your time and understand every clause. Consult a lawyer to help guide you. Very contract is negotiable.

Understanding the Different Models of Corporate Optometry

Whether you’re a recent graduate with big plans or you’ve just left a job to start up your own corporate optometry sublease, it’s important to remember that the industry you’re trying to enter is well-established and competitive. There are some basic concepts you need to clear up before you go about setting up your own optometry practice.

Understanding the Market

Based on where you are in the country, you need to have a strong understanding of the number of optometry patients in the area, the projected number of patients down the line and the modern practices of optometry (including information of technological advancements in the industry). Get information on how many other corporate opticals there are in the area.

Select the Right Business Model

Based on your financial standing, potential employees and expertise, you can choose from a list of different business models:

Franchise

Franchising will help you cross the phase where you’re still trying to establish a brand name. Setting up a well-reputed franchise will help you bring in customers who trust the name. This is useful to have optical merchandising, marketing, frame lines set up for you. Some examples are Pearle Vision, MyEyeLab and Cohens Fashion Optical. Many franchise fees are minimal but include discounts on equipment and frames and the company provides marketing for your location.

Sublease

Subleasing will provide you with the same benefits and disadvantages as those of a franchise. The difference will be the startup cost you’ll need. For a franchise, you need a higher budget. Sublease is turn key with the equipment and office set up. The OD would go in set up their own business adjacent to the optical. Many companies will sublease space in Lenscrafters, Target Optical, LC Macy, Walmart and For Eyes.

Independent Contractor/ Fill in

Independent Contractor is a great way to do part time work or fill in work while you work full time as an employee or sublease owner. Independent contractors enjoy the flexibility to practice what hours they agree upon and able to write off expenses and travel for that day of work. Corporate optometry has many great fill in opportunities and the benefits of fill in are more than just income.

Employed

Employed model in corporate optometry has many benefits that many ODs enjoy. There are no administrative tasks or excessive paperwork. You would simply go in and see your patients and do what you do best and that is being an OD.

Employed ODs enjoy paid time off, a competitive salary, bonuses, benefits package and much more. Many companies will have this option as permitted by state law. Many times ODs will be employed by the sublease owner. Some companies in corporate optometry that employ ODs are Warby Parker, National Vision, Luxottica and Stanton Optical.

Why Being The Lowest Priced Eye Exam Won’t Bring In More Revenue for your Sublease

It is common for individuals to get attracted to things that are priced at lower rates. However, when it comes to spending on more important things like dental checkups, purchasing medicines, or getting eye exams done, individuals do not always get drawn to the cheapest priced options.

Cutting the prices down drastically can make your practice look less appealing. It could draw in more patients that are not as loyal to your practice. In the long run you need to understand how much your chair time costs. How much effort and time will that patient take on your practice and will that patient refer other patients to your practice.

Patients usually go to the higher priced eye exams because they are independent practices and they expect close personal attention and good customer service. Patients want a good value and the latest technology. Many patients have insurance and are not looking for the most affordable eye exam.

There are certain factors that can help make a practice more attractive for the patient even if there’s a high price tag attached to the services. The physical environment should be comfortable, the staff should be educated and friendly, the working hours should be convenient, and the brands you offer should be of top-notch class. With so many better things to look forward to, price always becomes a lesser important consideration.

Set low prices for the excess/old items

If you over-ordered certain products that did not get sold, place them on sale. If these items are about to go out of style, place discounts on them so they can get sold for lesser money instead of no money at all. Materials should be discounted but not services. Many corporate opticals have “burst events” that can attract a patient that wants value eyewear.

Make seasonal sales

Just by placing seasonal discounts on products, you will notice how there is a significant increase in the sales. It is important to sell out seasonal products during the season. Usually in corporate optometry, we will see an increase in patient value based on marketing trends. Styles change and new trends are always being introduced which is why it is important to make room for products that are aligned with the latest requirements.

If you sublease in corporate optometry, make sure that you are practicing at the highest standard of care that your license requires. When it comes to health, individuals do not look for the cheapest alternatives; rather, they look for the option that will provide them with the best results. Utilize the resources that you have in corporate optometry with technology to be able to present a quality eye exam to your patients and not have to be the cheapest eye exam to bring in patients, because many times it doesn’t bring in more volume.

Improving Your Contact Lens Capture Rate.

It’s time to start tracking the exam frequency of patients who wear contact lenses. You can use these numbers to improve your services and improve your contact lens capture rate in corporate optometry.

Industry Trends

If you want to be in the industry average, you need a contact-lens capture rate of more than 70%. You don’t want need patients to be walking out with a prescription ready to purchase online. And not just as a one-time purchase, tailor your services so well, they choose you every time! Doctor driven dispensing is a way to do so. Many corporate opticals will offer a discount on glasses if a patient buys a year supply of contacts.

Online Strategy

Online contact lens sales have increased over the years and will continue to rise. But with 40+ million contact lens users in America, practitioners still have a chance of capturing a significant share of the market. Think of opportunity that is out there. Patients are searching the web about contact lens information make it a strategy for them to land on your website. Consider taking the approach of scleral lenses or a medical model approach to contacts that is not presented by online retailers.

Offer Great Customer Service

As with all businesses, your customer is the livelihood of your business. Patient education is important to having the patient understand what services and quality you are offering. Provide discounts for yearly supplies with the rebates that the manufacturers offer. Break down the math to have to patient see what they are paying for when bought as a year supply what each box costs.

Make purchasing lenses easier for them. Offer a contact lens subscription for patients that want to have their expenses divided over months. Take care credit to have they pay their medical bills over longer periods of time. Providing more options with great customer service and convenience can help increase your contact lens capture rate.

Whichever strategy you choose, make sure it caters to the constantly changing customer purchase patterns. It should be your goal to not only have a high contact lens capture rate but also be the main provider for eye-glasses. In order to come out on top, you need to be number one in all categories of eye wear.

Corporate OD Myths: Take 2

Starting a sublease in corporate optometry may seem like a daunting venture.  Based on what you’ve heard from friends, colleagues, and the internet, you may have heard a variety of conflicting opinions, leading you to doubt whether you are ready to start a career in corporate optometry and whether it is the right fit for you.  Here, we address some corporate optometry myths to eliminate some of the doubts you may have.

1. Patients will not follow you if you leave your current practice.

You may be afraid to leave the company you are currently working for due to fear that you will lose all of the patient relationships you have built.  That being said, the majority of patients are loyal to the doctor, not the brand. Having built a foundation of trust through continued visits and recommendations, you may be surprised how many patients are willing to move with you.

2. ODs rely on optical to keep their own business alive.

Another common myth is the idea that corporate optical supplies ODs with their patients in order to keep the business running.  Now, it may be true at first that corporate will supply some of the initial client-base, but it is the OD who keeps the patients coming.  The quality of care, comfort you provide, and relationships you build with your patients are what truly affect whether they continue to provide you business.   In other words, the doctor makes or breaks the business, and you don’t necessarily need corporate optical to survive.

3. It is too difficult to start your own practice.

While it is certainly a challenge to start your own practice, there are a variety of initiatives you can take and personal skills you can use in order to kickstart your business.  Once again, the possibility of success is truly in your hands. You need to be an entrepreneur in corporate optometry and use your resources to grow. Starting your own practice will not be easy, but it is certainly not impossible, especially with a good work ethic and business mindset.

4. The lowest-priced eye exams and vision plans will bring in more patients.

It may seem that, in order to gain patients, you need offer the lowest-priced eye exams and vision plans amongst your local competitors.  This method, however, is neither the only strategy nor the best strategy to bring in patients. Word of mouth and the power of recommendations from your current patient-base is crucial, and whether you are receiving this praise will depend on the quality of your care.  In addition, the convenience in scheduling, such as being able to make appointments online, will attract new patients searching for an optometrist.

5. Adding more hours and days creates more patients and income.

While you may assume that increasing the amount of hours in the office will, in turn, increase the amount of patients coming in, this is a huge myth.  Working 7 days a week won’t necessarily bring in more patients. Rather, you should consider what an optimal schedule for both you as the optometrist and your patients may be, as well as how many hours you need to be in the office to accommodate your client-base and to profit.  

6. The income potential in corporate optometry is tremendous.

Income potential is corporate optometry is highly variable depending on a variety of factors, each of which you can look into when considering starting a sublease in corporate optometry.  For example, the location in which you will be working highly influences your income potential. In addition, whether you are working with a new vs. established brand will affect the amount of revenue you are able to bring in.  

7. Contracts are absolutely set in stone.

Simply stated, everything is negotiable.  If there is a part of a contract that you are uncomfortable with or that you feel should be changed, express this and work to make a agreement that benefits both sides.  Don’t settle for less than what you believe you deserve!

Becoming the Ultimate Multi-Tasker: Advice for New Corporate OD Moms

It’s hard enough being a new mom and becoming responsible for an entire human being, now you have to juggle that with your career too? We’ve all heard of those “unicorn moms” who manage to have a great career and spend quality time with their children. But the truth is: they’re not that rare. While it is a bit of a balancing act, with the right planning you can also become a super mom. We’re here to share a little advice for new working mothers.

Going on Maternity Leave

Once you’re on maternity leave, it’s time for you to focus on pampering yourself and preparing for the new baby. You don’t need to be available for work calls and emails 24/7. Check them occasionally when you feel like it, but spend the rest of the time doing whatever you feel like.

Going Back to Work

New working moms tend to “freak out” because they’re new to being a parent and they need to start working again after being on leave for a few months. The key is to not be too hard on yourself.

Stay Calm

It’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes, but don’t let it get to your head. Just take a step back, give yourself time to refocus and get back up again.

Stick to a Schedule

You will temporarily have to give up some of your extra-curriculars and doing more than normal and focus on giving time to your child and getting used to being back at work.

This will mean that both parents will have to share responsibilities. Divide tasks such as who picks and drops the baby to and from the day care, who is in charge of dressing the baby in the morning and so on. Babies tend to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night so make sure you divide that to make sure both of you get some sleep.

Nursing the Baby

The choice is yours whether you’re breast-feeding, pumping or weaning the baby to get used to formula. Whatever you feel comfortable with is also likely to be the best option for your baby. You can even choose a combination of feeding methods if that’s what makes you happy. At the end of the day, if you’re happy, so is your baby.

It’s also important to see what fits your work schedule and how you intend to follow the feeding schedule during work hours.

Postpartum Problems Are Real

New moms may feel disoriented or experience postpartum depression, and it’s perfectly natural. Your entire life including your body has undergone a major change! Even just giving yourself some time to get used to all the changes can help you get back to feeling okay again.

Super Moms Let’s Get into Formation!

New corporate moms have a lot to take care of, but just stay calm, hang in there and overtime you’ll settle into your roles as a parent and as a career woman.