4 Ways to Build a Rock-Solid Support System to Ensure the Profitability and Sustainability of your Private Optometry Practice
By Courtney Dryer, O.D. August 26, 2021
Owning and managing an eyecare business can feel like living on an island of one. Physicians become a jack-of-all-trades in our practices from diagnosing internet routers problems to unclogging sinks. We often forget we don’t need to do it alone and are unable to succeed alone. Your optometric practice will remain sustainable and profitable if build with a solid support system of relationships. An optometric physician can guarantee a solid foundation for success by employing a great optical team, nurturing vendor relationships, hiring optometric consultants, and leveraging buying group resources.
1. Employing Excellence in Your Optical Team
Finding and retaining key staff may be the most difficult part of practice management. Well-trained staff can satisfy customers and ensure they return. A strong practice culture increases practice profitability and patient satisfaction. Staff should share your mission and core values. An effective strategy for team involvement is to use a team meeting to write out the mission statement. Your practice’s mission statements help to define your core values. Core values are the qualities that represent the priorities of your business. Your team members should be evaluated on their performance to ensure they are meeting expectations and daily fulfilling the practice’s core values. A practice owner’s job is to support your staff with encouragement and the tools necessary for their growth. Be a good listener and communicator. Team-building events and team meetings cultivate an environment of effective communication.
2. Nurturing Vendor Relationships
Building relationships with your vendors is key to your success. When evaluating new products, quality of goods should be considered first, and vendor relationships should be second. Ophthalmic lens and lab reps, frame reps, and contact lens vendors are your insight into the industry. They are the first to know about industry products, trends, and practice resources. They are the best source for finding new staff, advising on products, and setting product pricing structures. There are many ophthalmic products of quality on the market, but it’s important to do business with companies that support independent optometry. Vendors are also knowledgeable about insurance benefits and will train your staff on benefit utilization and new product offerings. Though it sometimes seems like a hindrance and an interruption to patient flow, taking the time to meet with your vendors ensures practice profitability.
3. Hiring the Best in Optometric Consulting
There are many optometric consulting companies, and it may be difficult to decide which is best to work with. Whether buying a practice or opening cold, there is much to learn. Surrounding yourself with a team of experts will ensure your success. Your advisory team should consist of a small business banker, accountant, marketing consultant, and lawyer.
Attorneys should advise you on lease agreements, trademark issues, and structuring your business to protect your assets. Finding a small business healthcare accountant is vital to maximize your deductions and minimize tax payments. Many accountants are financial advisors to help with financial investments. Optometrists discovered the value of a small business banker in 2020. Those who had relationships with small banks or credit unions had their Paycheck Protection loans fast-tracked. Local community banks may be preferable to large banks for tailored solutions and personalized service.
Marketing consultants are best utilized in the search engine optimization (SEO) of your website and management of Google AdWords. I suggest hiring a consultant with an optometric background versus allowing google to manage your account. There seems to be significant employee turnover at Google, and it can be frustrating to work with new people. Consistency is important when learning what works and investing money monthly.
The eye care business becomes more complex each year. Optometric consulting is beneficial if you are a new graduate or new to practice management. Typically, new practice owners lack an understanding of billing & coding, optical strategies, and staff training. Consultants improve your efficiency, train you to understand practice metrics, in turn, increase your profitability.
4. Leveraging the Resources of an Optometry Buying Group
There are many buying groups that exist and which to join should be dependent upon the needs of the practitioner. Some groups only offer group discounts on certain products at bulk rates, while other groups may offer practice management, continuing education, location-based OD meetings, and help with buying or selling practices. Buying groups can be a flat fee per month, no fee, or a percentage of your monthly gross. Each group should be evaluated on the products with discounts. Are the discounts substantially better than you receive currently? Do you receive discounts on the contact lenses that you fit? Are the discounts you pay greater than the monthly fee? Maybe the relationships with other local private practice owners are more important? Local OD advisory groups that meet and share information are vitally important to your practice’s foundational success.
Though managing an independent practice can be difficult, relationships with your staff, vendors, consultants, and your buying group are vital to providing your practice with a solid support system for sustainability and profitability. Check out the independent, optometry consultants on practicegrowth.com. You can also network on Facebook and Linkedin Groups, and your professional association’s annual and regional conventions and meetings.