Nightmares become even scarier when you realize you are paralyzed by fear and can’t run away from danger. Unfortunately, fear paralysis can also sidetrack your career if you are unable to make sound decisions while facing risks and the unknown.
As a new graduate who carries $125,000 or more in student debt and whose job outlook is short of promising, buying your first practice can strike fear at the core. Maybe you have been practicing for a while, but your current work situation has sent you home at night wishing you were the boss. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your dreams to buy your first practice. Instead, be encouraged. Even the most savvy risk-taking entreprenuers have to deal with fear.
There are a few steps you can take to take hold of your fear and prepare your mind for sound decision making. Fear is an emotion inside yourself. With intentional planning and a great strategy, you can successfully set your fears to rest as you prepare yourself for purchasing your first practice. To begin the process follow these initial steps . . .
- Practice preferences – Take the time to list all the expectations that you have in a place you want to live and a place that you want to practice. Decide if you want to practice where you want to live or live where you want to practice. If you choose the latter you will have more options regarding a practice available to purchase. This potentially could limit your family options in schools, churches, and activities. The list should consist of patient demographics, size of staff, work hours, scope of practice (size of town/city will affect medical patient management), risk level by practice size, competition, EHR capability, managed care impact, and many others. The list will be a great asset when you are at risk of making rash decisions influenced too heavily by emotions. I recommend Evernote as my software of choice for doing this.
- Need to Know – This is the list of items that you “need to know” about the practice to make an informed purchase. You will want to know exam totals by doctor (last three years), yearly production by doctor, practice debt, age and type of equipment, patient demographics by percentage, patient demographics by zip code, staff demographics (age, length of employment, extent of training), insurance panels and percentage of revenue of each, daily schedules for past year, fee structure (services and hardware), dispensary capture rate, and actual expenditures by budget categories. This list is not all-inclusive but should be a good start on preparing you to assess a practice.
- Potential Practices – Start by pulling up a map of the area of the country that you would like to practice in based on #1 above. Take a selected screenshot of the map (on a Mac it is Command+Shift+4 then select area) then mark potential places on the map (Skitch works great) from your advanced search done on Optometry’s Career Center - Search Opportunities. Many optometrists make the mistake of eliminating opportunities too fast. Keep open to the possibility of exploring options that you may not initially consider. There are golden opportunities within an hour or so of major metropolitan areas. Many small practices in rural America net so high that you could work three days of the week and spend four days with your family in the big city.
This may not be the most exciting part of purchasing a practice, but a quick decision laced with fear will lead to many more quick decisions that can result in business chaos. You can be very successful as CEO of your own practice. Those who have gone before you did not become successful by accident. They knew what they wanted, put aside their fears, and went after it.