Staff Management

Is Optometry a Good Family Business?

By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD

Perhaps now more than ever optometry offers a great opportunity to create a multi-generation family business. The expanded medical eyecare model and optical retail growth are just a couple things that make optometry a growth profession ideal for the next generation. I recently read an article in the NewYorkTimes on a father and his three sons trying to decide the fate of his family business and if any one of them was interested in taking it over. Succession plans in the business world are one thing, but deciding what happens to the family optometric practice is somewhat different.

For instance, the father, who ownedfive small businesses in Chicago, did not want his sons to live in his shadow. That said, he knew also did not want them to live in the dark. His business was established, thriving, and would provide an excellent opportunity for the right person to have a fulfilling position and stable income.Also,the right person couldbring unique talents and energy to the table, making the existing business grow even bigger. Could that ideal, innovative new blood brought to the business also happen to belong to that of his offspring?

In optometry, I think there may be even more of an opportunity for parents to work alongside of their offspring.The father inChicago was worried about his sons finding their own path instead of defaulting to his. However,in optometry, father and son are already headed down the same road, both choosing the same career, wanting to become eye doctors interested in providing patients with topnotch care. It then isonly a matter of what type of setting they will eventually work in, hospital, private practice or clinic? And who they will work for–corporate, another doctor or themselves. If the offspring possesses the same entrepreneurial spirit as their parent, a symbiotic, successful partnership can enhance the practice of both parties.

This topic intrigued me so much that I interviewed five practices that act as shining examples of parent and offspring ODs across the nation who have made the decision to pair up and have achieved higher heights because of it. Each practice will be profiled in an article to be featured in the coming months in Review of Optometric Business.

You will learn the history of the practice prior to the parent-offspring partnership, the offspring’s decision to become an OD, how they established their partnership and the impact it has had on their business. We will hear from a father and son team who used technology and hard work to double their gross in just four years, from a fifth-generation OD working with his first-generation OD father who started cold, from a father-son team who think that strong relationships and good communication with each other is the key to success, from ODs who believe volunteering for their profession and community is part of their responsibility for practicing there and from a fresh, new graduate who joined a practice just 10 months ago owned by his father and another non-family member OD.

Each family partnership has its own unique and personal story to share on how, by working side by side, they are able to make their practice flourish.

First up are Drs. Bruce and Adam Clarin of Palmetto Bay, Fla.Brucetook hisalready successful and well-established practice and doubled its gross in justfour years by adding Adam to the team!

Are you currently in practice with a parent or one of your offspring? What challenges have you experienced and how have you met those challenges?

Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices at an independent optometric practice in Holbrook, NY. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @murphyod. To contact her:

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