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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.

3 Ways to Ensure Patient Loyalty in Corporate Optometry.

Corporate optometry offices are successful in many ways on of them being by retaining customers. As a doctor, it is your job to ensure that patients return to your practice. You need to be their first choice every time they need a medical complaint addressed. Here are the 3 points in service where you can engage their attention and maintain patient loyalty:

1. Educate the Patient

Eye check-ups are not just a one-time thing. Regardless of whether your patients have serious eye injuries, wear glasses or have 20-20 vision, at some point in time, annual eye exams become essential. It’s up to you to explain to your patients, the necessity of this yearly exam. For the elderly, it is a way of combating early signs of eye diseases.

2. Stay in Touch

You don’t just need to educate your patients while they’re at your clinic. A phone call or a text message can alert your patients when they’re due for an eye test. They can instantly confirm their appointment. Use this communication throughout the year to promote your personal brand. Social media is a great tool to create brand awareness and present an authentic view of your practice to create patient loyalty.

Send monthly newsletters about your practice and valuable information about eye health. Personalizing emails to target a certain patient population can help create loyalty in corporate optometry. Using your ehr information to target dry eye patients and notify them of new technology in your office is a great way to impress patients and keep them loyal in your corporate setting.

3. Marketing is Key

It’s one thing to reach out to patients who you know will come back, but how do you reach out to those who never respond, or those who haven’t been to your clinic at all?

A great way is to spread the word about a promotional offer. Team up with your store manager to see what promotions can be created to help re activate patients to your practice and boost optical sales. Patients that purchase from the optical will continue to be loyal to your practice.

Newsletters, social media platforms (such as Facebook and Instagram), mass emails and automated phone calls can help spread the message about your new promotional offers.

A monthly newsletter can be circulated online with new information about research in the world of optometry. Articles by renowned doctors can also be shared. As long as you’re putting out consistent and relevant content, you’re on the right track. Personal branding is very important with patient loyalty, create a campaign that illustrates how you are different than other practitioners .

Stay Updated

Whatever your ways of keeping in touch with the patients, ensure that you keep up with your patients’ demands. Patient surveys and interviews can help you identify what sort of service patients seek and then you can provide it to ensure that your patients return to your office.

How to Stand Out from Other Optometrists

The optometry world is changing dramatically, especially with the increase in competitors. It is essential for practitioners to find new and unique ways of growing their practice and setting themselves apart from other providers.

Like any other small business owners, an OD has to be liked and respected by their customers. If you are an independent OD who is looking to give yourself an edge, here are some simple tips to consider for standing out from the crowd:

Use the Power of Technology

This might come as a surprise to you but most patients are impressed and amazed more by the advanced instrumentation that an OD has set up in their exam room more than the OD themselves. They consider all optometrists to have the same level of skill and expertise. Therefore, a good way to differentiate you is by using the power of technology.

Tools like retinal camera allow you to impress the patients, provide them with premium-quality care and give a boost to your revenue at the same time! This kind of technology doesn’t only let you stand out but also allows you to get faster, efficient, and more error-free results.

Communication is the Key

While advertising your practice, always remember, communication is the key. You really want to communicate with your patients and make them understand the work you do. Get the right message across; use pictures to illustrate the value of your practice, be transparent about the hours you are willing to accommodate to your patients. Make sure that your advertisement is catchy enough to grab the attention of a potential customer.

Even the most ideal location won’t do you any good if you fail to get your point across to your prospective patients.

Customer Satisfaction

Have you heard that in the business world a customer is always right? Same goes for your optometry practice. You need to hire staff that is friendly and considerate of the patients. As an optometrist, you should be very easy to talk to. Patients never like to be rushed, especially when the matter is about their eyes. Try to ease the patients into a conversation. Ask them how they are doing and make them feel as comfortable as possible.

The most important thing you can do to satisfy your patients is to listen to them and their needs carefully. Provide them with all the possible, safe options and treatments available to them and answer as many questions of theirs as possible.

Give Suggestions

Give suggestions where required. This practice will not only make your patients feel that you are going the extra mile to provide them the best service but will also be beneficial to your revenue. Moreover, this conversation won’t take up much of your time so it’s a win-win solution!

Use the above tips to grow your practice and stand out from other optometrists in your community!

What Good Leadership looks like in Corporate Optometry.

While being a leader comes naturally to some people, for others it’s not that easy. 71% of companies don’t feel like their leaders have the ability to help their organization reach new heights. So what are the traits that distinguish a manager from a leader who has the ability to influence the people around them and engage the ODs?

1. Be Passionate

You can’t fake your interest in your work. Global legends like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos didn’t amass corporate empires because they liked their work. In order to take your company’s name to the top, you have to be willing to stick with it through the tough times. Leaders are passionate about their jobs that they know different aspects of the business and are willing to continue to learn.

2. Communicate

People in leadership positions tend to talk more but not listen to their team enough. Communication is a two-way road. Listening to your team’s ideas, providing constructive feedback and allowing them to express their creativity is essential. Give the people around you the comfort that you’re always available to help. Good leaders in corporate optometry listen to their ODs. Decisions are based on best interest of the ODs and their patients.

3. Be Ready to Make Decisions

Leaders may display hesitation when making decisions, especially if there are risks involved. But that’s what makes a true leader: the ability to make a decision, no matter how high the stakes are. Corporate Optometry leaders should not be afraid to question the norm or do something different.

Indecisiveness leads to endless discussions and by the time your company implements that decision, your competition may already be ten steps ahead. This can affect Corporate OD subleases.

4. Empower Your ODs

Gone are the days when companies followed a hierarchal structure and employees not at the top followed orders blindly. It’s okay if your team occasionally colors outside the lines. Empowering your ODs will strengthen their sense of loyalty towards the company and help them perform above and beyond what is required of them. ODs should be empowered to explore their strengths and be able to openly discuss issues that need to be addressed.

5. Be Charismatic

Be the leader in corporate optometry that aspire ODs to grow and to become successful over their career. With your words alone you can move mountains and take your organization to the top of the ladder. After hearing you speak, your employees should be motivated to take initiative and think of ways to deliver more than just what will keep the company stable.

6. Be Competent

It’s not enough to know the basic skills of your job. Those technical skills need to be combined with the right people skills to make you an inspiring leader. Be the leader your organization will remember for a lifetime by understanding every aspect of the company. Know how to get the best out of every OD and make the cogs of your company run faster and rust-free. Understanding the optometric side of the business to help sublease and employed ODs is very important, being a leader many ODs look to that person in that role to mentor them and guide them to personal growth and career advancement.

7. Be Accountable

Being a corporate leader won’t always be smooth sailing. In fact, after having spent a few years in the industry, you’ve probably dealt with your fair share of disasters and failed concepts.

Rather than ignoring them, it’s important to learn from them and make sure they don’t happen again.

If you were the one in charge, don’t thwart responsibility. Take the failure head-on and be a role model for your team. Show them how well you handle the failure and how you use it to push even harder towards success. Blaming others and not following up with solutions didn’t make you a leader just because you have a title.

Being a leader doesn’t mean keeping an organization stable. Stability means stagnancy which will eventually make you obsolete. The aim is to constantly aim to reach new heights. Leaders in corporate optometry have the trust of the ODs.