How do you find an optometrist who wants to be a partner?

web searchFinding a partner can feel like searching for a misplaced, unnamed file on your computer. Which search criteria will bring up the right one?

Associate optometrists who desire to own and manage their own practice are a dying breed. Over the past 10 years, more optometrists have decided they prefer employment over being the owner. Owning and managing a practice while still allotting time for patient care has also become much more difficult. So if you are an owner-optometrist looking to employ an associate who wants to buy in to the business, where do you look? And where do you look anonymously so that your current associates or surrounding optometry practices are unaware?

With an unlimited budget this problem could be easily solved. However, most ODs do not have an unlimited budget, and if they do they are too frugal to spend the money.

Here are three ideas to find the perfect associate who desires to own and manage a practice with other ODs.

  1. Placement Services – Companies like The Eye Group will recruit an optometrist who meets your associate-to-partner needs. These companies are effective, but costly, charging as much as 10-15 percent of the associate’s first year compensation. For a practice that produces $1 million a year and wants to pay an associate $80k, that translates into a significant chunk of change.
  2. School Placement Services – Most of the optometry schools have some form of a placement service that matches practice owners with associates. To ensure success, clearly specify you are looking for a future partner. Example of said service.
  3. Direct Contact – Meeting with different optometrists takes time and requires patience, but it can cost much less than a head hunter. Schedule yourself or your child with an area optometrist of interest. When you go to the appointment, take the time to visit with him or her about the opportunity. Remind them of patient-doctor confidentiality. This approach requires humility and some risk. However, if the payoff is a future partner it’s well worth it. This works best when visiting ODs in commercial settings.

Job postings on sites like Optometry’s Career Center is always an option, but most optometrists I visit with seem to assume the “classified” ads option. Whether you are looking to add an optometrist now or considering one later, finding an optometrist interested in and capable of owning a practice is less common than one might think.

New Year’s Resolution: Update your CV

curriculum vitae or resumeMaintaining a successful optometry career requires certain disciplines. An important yearly discipline for every optometrist is updating a curriculum vitae (CV).

With the right planning, an update can be completed quickly with simple copying and pasting in editing software. Most ODs have some form of electronic note taking or record keeping. My chosen software is Evernote, which works like a traditional notepad. During the year, when I serve in a volunteer position or have an additional leadership position, I make a note. At the end of the year, I transfer all notes to my CV.

LinkedIn, a professional online network, also works as a CV that can be updated immediately for users to review. Get in the habit of updating your profile at least yearly.

However you choose to list your professional accomplishments, here are three good reasons to keep your CV current:

  1. Plan B – Many beginning optometrists assume past performance guarantees future success. Veterans know the ebb and flow of optometric practice can sometimes leave you drifting near the rocks. Having a “plan B” is never a bad idea and being prepared with a current CV is a great way to grab an opportunity that presents itself.
  2. The Unhealthy AthleteAppearances can be deceiving and it is no different in optometry. Practices that appear to be doing very well have poor financial health. Some optometry practices are literally three months away from bankruptcy or a significant downgrade of staff. If you as an associate OD are not privy to the internal finances, give the practice your best, but keep updated CV ready if needed.
  3. Competitive Advantage – Most professionals who do not update their CV until necessary will forget key aspects that should have been added over the years but, due to poor record keeping, have been forgotten. If two optometrists are competing for an associate position, the one with the most comprehensive CV will get the early lead.

The start of a new year is a great time to update your CV. Tomorrow is a whole new day and it may be the day you need your updated CV. Be ready by fine-tuning your CV yearly.

Selling your practice may require mentoring a new OD

Selling an optometry practice is not like it once was. Decades ago, when a solo optometrist approached retirement he would put his office up for sale and within 12 to 18 months the practice would sell. The buyer might have requested the seller remain working in the practice for a year or two, but most likely the seller would hand the keys to the buyer and walk away.

Welcome 2015 and the new normal. Most graduating ODs are looking to work as associates so they can maintain an active lifestyle outside of their optometry career. They are prime candidates for the employing OD, but they are not potential buyers.

Business DealAs a seller some day, I worry about the pool of potential buyers continually decreasing. Optometrists are consolidating to create increasingly larger practices while more and more solo practitioners are closing the doors without a sale. To ensure that this is not my fate, my partner and I have worked to find ODs who have expressed a long-term goal of owning a practice. Once they become associate optometrists of our practice we begin mentoring them to develop an owner mindset.

Three fundamental practices of mentoring an associate:

  1. Meet regularly – Make a weekly commitment to meet for 30 minutes and discuss the week. Talk about clinical care cases and staff management issues that you have dealt with. Let them know you are available and willing to answer their questions.
  2. Lead by example – Most of what is caught is not taught. Your associate OD is watching how you handle situations and wondering, “If I were the boss, would I be capable of managing day-to-day operations successfully?” Your associates are trying to decide if they would succeed owning a practice.
  3. Work to make them successful – As an optometry CEO, you will need to lead your associate in the process of becoming a leader within the practice. Most students did not apply for optometry school with aspirations of leading, they wanted to practice medicine of the eye. Your initiative to walk alongside them and make them successful will be the key. This may mean using their ideas in the practice. They need to see that they can lead. They also need to see that they can achieve buy-in of the senior staff. You can help this by building up the associate OD’s leadership characteristics in front of the staff.

If you own a practice and are worried about potentially selling your practice, it is never too late to get started in the mentoring process. The above practices not only develop great future owners, but it gives them the confidence to move forward in the purchasing process. I’ve mentored many optometrists looking to purchase practices, and I have found they all share one common characteristic–an underlying fear of failure. You as the owner can understand and recognize this fear of failure in your associates and help them to alleviate it. Doing so will not only provide you with a committed buyer, but it will ensure that your long-time patients are still in good care.

Which optometry practices will thrive in 2015?

Let’s face it, optometry practices are a lot like different offerings on the stock market. Some stocks do well in both bull and bear markets, and others seem to perform poorly no matter what the climate. The similarities in the optometry business are shocking. Why do some optometry practices seem to grow year after year while others struggle to net 25 percent and seem to be dying a slow death?

双葉とビジネスマンThe optometry practices that will thrive in 2015 do not have a secret formula, nor have they cracked a code for generating new patients. Instead, they have become adept at self-evaluation. At the end of 2014 these practices are reflecting on what areas of the practice have grown and why, they will be looking at what marketing investments paid off, and they will be looking at what risks paid rich dividends. These thriving practices will then repeat the good and throw out the bad.

Here are 3 habits of thriving practices at the turn of the new year:

  1. Staff – Pruning unproductive staff members is a necessary habit. If it takes more effort to manage a team member than that team member produces, it is time let him or her go. Necessary Endings are a part of being the CEO of your optometry practice and key to assembling a great team.
  2. New Patients – People will always be looking for new eye doctors. Capturing these new patients could be the difference between a mediocre year and year with explosive growth. Online continues to be an amazing space for generating new patients. Investing in a website produced by a high quality company to maximize your marketing dollars makes all the difference.
  3. Patient Advocacy – Most medical practices are caught in the middle of the changing tide of insurance, ACOs, meaningful use requirements, and electronic medical records. We are all complaining about the destitute culture of health care. The practices that will thrive in 2015 are those who become patient advocates. Forget about the negative issues facing the health care industry and focus on helping your patients. You might be surprised with exponential practice growth.

If you are leading your practice and have not taken the time to reflect on 2014 and plan for 2015, then you will find yourself playing catch-up throughout the new year. Be proactive in preparing your team to have a successful 2015 no matter what comes your way.

Are you easy to do business with?

As an optometrist you may find it easy to schedule your week around your preferences. You may close the office over lunch for an hour and a half and not open until nine o’clock in the morning. You may only schedule contact lens checks on Friday to insure you’ll make it home early to begin the weekend.

Opposite directions towards difficult and easyMaybe you are the optometrist that refers all potentially complicated acute care cases to the local ophthalmologist, or maybe you only schedule patients until three in the afternoon so that you can for sure lock up and go home at five. Whatever the case maybe, is it possible that your optometry office is difficult to do business with? Have you ever had patients stop by Wal-mart to get an adjustment because it was easy for them?  Are you unknowingly losing patients over time?

Had I not had the privilege of working with buyers and sellers of optometry practices over the past couple of years, I would think that the above scenario would cause optometrists to rethink their approach to business. To my disbelief, there are numerous optometrists that live the above scenario and do not think it effects the way their practice operates.

Is your optometry practice growing?  Are you easy to do business with?  Here are 3 ways to make your business attractive to patients.
  1. Communicate the way your patients prefer to be communicated with. It has become mainstream to communicate with patients through texting and email. Patients appreciate an optometry practice that alerts them by text that their eyeglasses or contact lenses are ready to be picked up. It does not become obvious that this is the case until your practice utilizes the software to make this happen.
  2. Have great hours where patients can stop by your place when they are not at work. If you want to have professionals as patients then you will need to have evening and weekend hours. If you want to have a growing practice of young families then your hours of business must be conducive to their schedules.
  3. Allow patients and referring doctors to schedule appointments with you anytime. This means that you utilize some form of online appointment requests or patient scheduling. Did you know that referral center offices, like your cataract surgeon, love the ability to schedule the post-op care with you at any time of the day. This is easy to use and easy to control your schedule through the right software technology.
The take home point is simply this:  If you are difficult to do business with, patients will take any opportunity to leave the practice even when that opportunity is unintentional.  Looking ahead to 2015, how can your optometry practice be easy to do business with?

Top 10 reasons to sell your optometry practice and retire

funny man portrait real people high definition grey backgroundSports fans rarely get to see their icons retire in their prime. Unfortunately, many athletes near the end of their careers as their dedicated fans are praying they will give it up. Holding on for too long can be as detrimental to legacies as never winning a championship.

In optometry, holding on too long might mean you will have to bury your practice. The best that you can hope for is getting a reasonable price for your patient charts.

When you are the owner of the practice, no one tells you it is time to take the severance package and retire. Relying on yourself alone to determine when it’s time to stop practicing might be a bit dicey.

Here’s a funny and not-so-funny Top 10 list to determine if it’s time to go.

You need to sell your practice and retire if . . .

  • You think Silicone Hydrogel lenses are new.
  • The refraction takes longer than seven minutes.
  • Most of your patients are in conventional lenses.
  • Your practice has a full page ad in the Yellow Pages.
  • You believe a practice website is unnecessary.
  • Your youngest patient is 72.
  • You routinely fall asleep during exams.
  • Patients have to yell for you to hear them.
  • Your social security check is more than what you make practicing optometry.
  • You consider one exam per hour busy.

No one wants to be told it’s time to retire. Facing the end of a career is difficult and possibly depressing, but there’s more at stake than an optometrist’s pride. Just as it pains sports fans to watch a game in which their favorite player struggles, it is increasingly painful to watch an optometrist whose patients are not receiving the standard of optometric medicine they deserve.

If you have a partner or associate who needs to retire, do the patients a favor and have a difficult conversation with him or her. If you are an optometrist and only you know that many of the reasons on the Top 10 list speak truth about you, have the courage and strength to think about your patients first and retire.

5 Offline Marketing Tips that Still Work

Salesgirl assisting senior female customer in selecting glassesAn effective marketing plan for your optometry practice will include both online and offline messages. When creating your marketing strategy for 2015, you need to coordinate your online and offline efforts to ensure consistency and maximize both marketing methods. While online marketing has tremendous results, there are several often overlooked offline marketing methods that still work when executed properly.

1. Timely Print Mailings

Well-timed mailings to your contact list can be an effective way to put your business in front of your existing patients or potential patients. Consider sending out a holiday special mailing or a back-to-school promotional postcard. Personalized cards for birthdays and anniversaries are another great way to connect with patients and remind them it is time for an eye exam.

Link the mailing to your online marketing efforts by including the URL for your website and social media pages. Include a sentence asking them to follow you on social media for specials and online-only discounts.

2. Referral Programs

A strategic referral program is a terrific way to encourage your existing patients to refer their friends. In many cases, the referral bonus doesn’t need to be large to be effective. Local eye care providers have offered $10 coffee cards or 10% off your next frame or contact lens purchase to patients who send in referrals.

Promote your referral program on your website with a simple message, such as “Ask Us about Our Refer a Friend or Family Member Special.

3. Participate in Local Events

Local events in your community like street fairs, small business events, and networking occasions are an excellent opportunity to build up your reputation as a trusted eye care professional and share eye health information.  Have business cards, educational brochures, or promotion flyers on hand, depending on the type of event.

Publicize your participation in these events and invite your patients and followers to attend by posting to your social media.

4. Local Team Sponsorships

Sponsoring local youth and adult teams in your area are a tried and true method of building up your reputation in the community. Often, the sponsorships only require an investment of a couple of hundred dollars and you typically get to have your practice’s name on the team’s banner. Additionally, you can showcase your sponsorship in your optometry office and create stronger bonds with your patients.

Highlight your sponsorship on your website and post occasionally about team events or successes.

5. Customer Service

Face-to-face customer service is one of the most important, often ignored offline marketing methods. Marketing your business online with a professional website, engaging social media, custom video, well-executed pay-per-click, and advanced SEO is all wasted if a patient or potential patient has a poor experience with your office. Always coach your team on great customer service and lead them by example.

An easy way to create a great patient experience is by ensuring strong team communication. Make sure your team is aware of any online specials or promotions you are running and empower them to take whatever steps are necessary to keep patients happy.

Consistency, coordination, and communication are essential to running a successful online and offline marketing strategy in the New Year. Maximize the results of your online and offline marketing efforts by creating a clear, cohesive plan that uses advanced online marketing and traditional marketing methods.

RachelRachel Cunningham is Content and Social Media Manager at iMatrix, a provider of affordable web marketing solutions for small, practice based businesses. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English from CSU Long Beach and a Bachelor of Science from Boston College in General Management. Rachel is experienced in writing content optimized for search engines and users, creating engaging content for social media, and crafting articles about SEO and social media marketing for small businesses.

How to reward staff based on team performance

Employers and employees most always disagree on compensation. Optometrist owners feel they are paying fairly–or even generously–to keep staff members happy and motivated. The optometry staff members believe they are working harder than ever, and deserve to be paid for extra effort.

hands holding togetherA bonus system that rewards increased team production can alleviate this tension. A team approach replaces the “us vs. them” mindset as everyone works together for the additional compensation.

Below is the formula for an incentive where staff members are rewarded for increased production for the optometry office.


Production Incentive Formula

1. Calculate your annual staffing costs

  • This would be all costs for staff in 1 year (hourly wages, taxes, social security, IRA, health insurance, etc.)

  • Example: $240,000

  • (Staffing costs 2013) / (Total Collected for 2013)

  • Example: $240,000 / $1,200,000 = .20 (20%)

  • Use 20% as your constant (keep staffing costs at this %) to determine the production incentive.

2. Calculate baseline from last year’s monthly gross

  • October 2013 = $100,000

  • After the practice gross reaches $100,000 for the month the production incentive starts

  • Everyone in the practice should be aware of the current month’s collections

  • $100,000 is the collected amount, not the charged amount

Each eligible staff member gets a percentage of the difference as extra money above and beyond his or her normal pay.

Example

  • The month gross collected totaled $110,00; ($110,000 – $100,000 = $10,000)

  • Staff share = 20% of $10,000 = $2,000

  • Production Incentive = $2,000 /# participants

  • If 10 staff members are eligible for Production Incentive, each will receive $2,000 / 10 = $200

The Equation

End of month gross collected* – $100,000) x 20% / # of staff eligible = Your Production Incentive

  • *If this amount is less than $100,000 then the total is defaulted to zero (0)

  • Each month will vary, you need to average your months

  • % will vary by # of employees eligible (CEO determines eligibility)


Creating incentives for your team to work together and win together encourages group effort. Too often traditional bonuses divide the office into partitions because they are seen as subjective or unfair. The production incentive allows the owner to motivate the team together during staff meetings. When the office wins, the staff members win. Rewards are directly related to team production.

Does your optometry practice really need YouTube?

Happy couple looking at something on the laptopIndustry experts say businesses need to be active in social media, but with so many different channels and platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to decide which forms of social media give a good return for your investment. Is it even necessary for Optometry CEOs to spend the time and money to create an online social media presence?

It depends on the level of competition around your optometry practice. If you are in a small to medium-sized town of 5,000 to 40,000 people, social media is probably less important for your success. In contrast, if you are practicing in a city of 150,000 or more, not only is having a social media presence important, but dominating that presence to stand out among the crowd is extremely important. And YouTube is one key to dominating the social sphere and online space.

YouTube is necessary because. . .

  1. Expectations – Potential patients are searching for their next optometrist and would like to get a glimpse of the personality and demeanor of him or her. People like video and good video persuades people to choose your office.
  2. Separation – It is very difficult to set your practice apart from the other practices that are around you. Patients are looking at websites to determine if they are going to schedule an appointment for an eye exam. To be different is risky, but it can also be extremely rewarding if done right. A great YouTube video produced by a professional company will set your practice apart from a stationary website with no video and pictures that look like they were taken with a 5 year old phone.
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Websites compete with each other to come out on top in internet searches. The goal is to consistently have your practice website high on the list. Now that Google owns YouTube the formula for SEO, which no one supposedly knows, is speculated to be partially tied to traffic on YouTube.

From personal experience, I can testify our website received an exponential amount of increased traffic, and subsequently referrals, when we started using iMatrix. Recently we increased our level of our commitment to them by going from the Social package to the Media package. The higher monthly fee has more than paid for itself in the increased traffic we have received. In the first month after adding YouTube video to the Wichita Optometry website url www.eyedoctorwichita.com, we had 1,110 impressions where people saw our video and 199 views where it was clicked on and played.

Keep your best: tips for staff retention

Full length portrait of smiling business woman pointing on blank billboardThe sun is still rising on a Monday morning as you walk through the back door of your practice. As an experienced optometrist, you have a full schedule and you immediately prepare yourself for your first patient. Then your assistant takes this opportunity to let you know she is turning in her two weeks notice. She found a position in the ophthalmic field with greater benefits and higher pay.

You take a deep breath. You try to say something congratulatory, but inside your mind is reeling: “How am I going to replace her?” you wonder. “I’m tired of going through the hiring process. Not again!”

So many of you have found yourself in the shoes of the optometrist in the above scenario. You’ve successfully hired a staff member who is now fully trained and executing the assigned duties exactly to your specifications. You did all the right things, didn’t you? You followed the guidelines set forth in optometric practice management journals. So how do you protect your investment in staff?

Three ways to keep great staff:

  1. Ensure they are having fun. – The culture of an optometry practice is a reflection of the leadership. If you are not having fun, your staff will not have fun. In an office that creates a fun atmosphere patients are more likely to feel comfortable and cared for. Having fun during the work day doesn’t mean you are not serious when situations call for seriousness, it just means that you and the staff laugh, smile, and genuinely enjoy life.
  2. Demonstrate appreciation. – Budget $500 every month to buy gifts for your staff. It can be as simple as bringing a bag of M&Ms to fill the office candy bowl on a Monday morning. If you don’t like chocolate, order flowers and have them sent to the office for the staff. Promotional products websites have great ideas for useful employee appreciation gifts like engraved desk accessories, drink ware, and company logo apparel. Do the little things and their emotional buckets will be full.
  3. Pay enough to make it hard to leave. – Once you have identified a great staff member, make sure you know the average pay that optometric staff get paid in your area and significantly exceed that. The additional money that you pay your top staff will reap long-term rewards in practice loyalty and patient care. Remember, staff compensation is more than dollars per hour, it includes health insurance, profit sharing, bonuses, etc.
Keeping your best staff members is never guaranteed, but with forethought and sensitivity you can increase the chance they will want to stay. Great staff members are the key to sustainable growth, not to mention an improved quality of life for you. If you do not do what it takes to keep great staff you will most likely end up with mediocre staff and the continual headache of staff turnover.