OPTOMETRIC BUSINESS INNOVATORS
JERRY HAYES, OD
HMI Red Tray Network
Prima Eye Group
“A practice owner’s net income will never exceed their business expertise.”
A 1973 graduate of Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn., Hayes has been a leading speaker and writer on the business side of optometry for over three decades. During that time he also founded or co-founded several seminal businesses in the industry, among them Hayes Marketing, which he sold in 1997; HMI Buying Group, now the HMI Red Tray Network and still one of the largest OD buying groups in the US; and E-dr.com in 1997, which was the first online ordering portal in optical industry.
He retired from private practice in 1986 to devote all his time to consulting and helping other ODs become more successful in private practice. He now devotes his time to running HMI Red Tray Network and Prima Eye Group, which were founded in 1983 and 2011, respectively.
“There are no new concepts,” says Dr. Hayes. “All the information an optometrist needs to achieve, including higher net income and greater personal satisfaction in practice already exists. It’s just a matter of finding the information you need and applying those concepts in the right way in your practice.”
He co-founded Prima Eye Group to help do exactly that. “Our job at Prima Eye Group is to help practices fill in the knowledge gap in the areas of team leader, customer service and business expertise. Once we do that, growth will come both financially and personally,” says Dr. Hayes.
Of course, that path didn’t exactly come without some challenges.“With Prima Eye Group,” he points out, “our challenge is and continues to be helping clinically oriented optometrists realize that the path to higher net income and greater personal satisfaction can be achieved by doing a better job of managing the business side of practice.”
DONALD R. KORB, OD
Korb & Associates
“I love doing research, but I also need to walk into a room of patients and have the opportunity to observe and have insights.”
When you tell Donald R. Korb, OD, that he has been an innovator and an influencer to colleagues over his four-decade career, he is quick to point out two things that attest to his humility and intellectual process.
“I have always collaborated with experts in trying to solve problems,” he says. His location in Boston, a center of medical and scientific research, provides a wealth of pathologists, polymer chemists and experts in infectious diseases with whom he collaborates. “I could not have been Donald Korb without being in Boston,” he adds.
The second point Dr. Korb eagerly cites: Throughout all of his innovative successes, patents and the co-founding of several companies, he continues to see patients each week, for 30 to 40 hours atop 40 hours of research.
Dr. Korb’s wide influence among colleagues stretches back to his development of the CSI contact lens in 1972. This thin, membrane lens was approved for the market in 1978 and is credited as the model for the vast majority of all soft contact lenses that followed. And while the success of the lens was remarkable, allowing for contact lens extended wear, it was the lack of success in a minority of wearers (due to discomfort) that launched Dr. Korb on a 40-year pursuit to understand why.
That discomfort was due largely to dryness, and understanding and treating that condition has taken Dr. Korb (along with collaborators) through landmark discoveries, countless lectures and the publication of over 100 peer-reviewed papers describing the root of the problem: meibomian gland dysfunction. His discoveries in this area led to the development of eye drops (including System Balance) with a lipid component that address evaporative dry eye due to gland blockage.
Dr. Korb is neither surprised nor frustrated that he has spent 40 years basically working on one problem of the human body: “There has never been a year or two when we haven’t made a great discovery about this fantastic system.”
STUART J. THOMAS, OD
Thomas Eye Center
VSP Global Board of Directors
“Do the right thing, do it the right way, and do it for the right reason.”
Upon graduating from the Southern College of Optometry in 1984, Stuart J. Thomas, OD, like many independent ODs, joined his father in private practice. Gerald Thomas, OD, who opened Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga. in 1951 and retired in 2004, has had a big influence on his son. Like his dad, Stuart has provided optometric care for the University of Georgia athletic teams for more than three decades.
“He was one of the first team optometrists for a major athletic association,” Dr. Thomas says proudly. Additionally, both father and son have served as president of both the Georgia Optometric Association and SECO. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Dr. Thomas.
About nine years ago, Dr. Thomas’ involvement with SECO brought him to the attention of VSP Global. After serving on the company’s board, he was elected chairman for a two-year term that began in 2012.
One of the key initiatives Dr. Thomas has championed since taking office is the inclusion of standalone vision plans such as VSP Vision Care in state health care exchanges, which are now being considered under the Affordable Care Act. “It’s been a huge focus of VSP Global, because it will give our members greater access to quality patients,” he says. He is also enthused about other VSP programs and services such as OTTO, the company’s new measuring and dispensing app; Unity, its line of proprietary free-form lenses; Viztech, the in-house finishing lab located within Marchon, and Eyeconic.com, VSP’s optical e-store.
Thomas credits a support network that includes his wife, Sharon, who is a research optometrist for Alcon, and his practice manager, Ellen Goad, with helping him function at his best in his clinical and administrative roles.
DAVE ZIEGLER, OD, FAAO
Ziegler Leffingwell Eye Care
West Allis, Wis.
“Our mission is to create an eyecare experience that is like none other. Service to you [our patients] is our highest priority.”
In addition to his duties as the senior partner in a group private practice in a Milwaukee suburb, Dave Ziegler, OD, FAAO, has a long list of responsibilities. As a member of the Management Business Academy (MBA) faculty he lectures extensively on practice management. Ziegler also sits on Essilor’s advisory panel and has served on advisory boards for VisionWeb, AMO and Vistakon. Education, it seems, is in his blood–he’s been an associate clinical professor to the Southern College of Optometry and Pacific University College of Optometry teaching fourth-year students at his office.
Ziegler has also found time to fill the roles of team optometrist for professional cycling teams, Milwaukee Wave Professional Soccer Teams, the Milwaukee Bucks, and he is currently part of the medical staff of the Milwaukee Brewers.
In an effort to improve day-to-day interactions with patients, Dr. Ziegler says, “We continue to look at businesses that are outside of eyecare to find ways to improve the patient experience. We emulate companies like Disney or the Ritz-Carlton.”
Ziegler runs an optometric consulting company called Visionary Resources that creates personalized marketing tools for the private practitioner. “It starts with recall cards that have age-specific messages and the patient’s name embedded in the photo utilizing digital variable printing. The doctors hand-write their personalized recommendations to the patient on informative brochures that give the patients a reason to purchase from us,” he says. “We also do personalized eyewear styling using an iPad app called the Eyewear Stylist to create a fun frame buying experience and to differentiate us from online and discount sources. Then we give the patient a personalized portfolio called the Eyewear Educator when they pick up their glasses that addresses them by name and describes the specific frame and lenses that they bought. This adds value to their purchase and increases patient loyalty.”