Practice Management

Private Equity: How One OD Found the Right Buyer

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By Morris Sheffer, OD

May 16, 2018

Selling your practice is always a big step; it’s an even bigger step if you are thinking of selling to private equity, and plan to continue working in the practice.

In my case, the journey to selling my practice led to MyEyeDr., a company I have been a part of for the last five years.

Transition Planning Presents Many Obstacles and Options
In the spring of 2013, I began to explore options to sell my practice, EyeOptix Vision and Laser Center in Charlotte, NC. I had just completed the sale of one of my suburban locations to one of my associates, and had offered the same opportunity to other associates to purchase the primary practice location, which also happened to be where they practiced; but I had no takers.

The reasons I was unable to sell to those doctors ranged from either lack of interest in sole ownership, or they were too new in practice to obtain sufficient financing. At that point I knew that my initial transition strategy would need to alter to include selling to a larger entity capable of acquiring the entire practice. I was ultimately introduced to MyEyeDr., and became the organization’s first partnership in North Carolina.

Know What’s Important to You
At that juncture, my transition goals were to continue to practice full-scope optometry, retain my staff, but offload the day-to-day management headaches regarding payroll, inventory and vendor management. With MyEyeDr., I was easily able to attain those goals, and so much more.

Maintain, or Enhance, Level of Patient Care
I am pleased to report, that after five years with MyEyeDr., there was no change to my schedule; no restrictions on the types of patients seen, and no compromise in equipment or staffing. In fact, the level of instrumentation and staffing grew after the sale because the size of the practice grew.

Ensure Realistic Plans for Your Staff Post-Sale
Upon the sale of my practice, all of my staff were offered employment, but not necessarily in the same job function they previously had. Employees in back-office functions, such as insurance billing and payroll, were offered by MyEyeDr. to be cross-trained to new patient-facing roles.

Boost Administrative & Marketing Capabilities
A full suite of operational resources in human resources, marketing, merchandising, accounting, managed care and IT are available to MyEyeDr. practices. These are functions which a large company like MyEyeDr. has more experience in, and understands better, than the average OD.

For example, through the access and leverage among frame vendors that MyEyeDr. has, the organization expanded the number and mix of frame vendors my practice carries. We even needed to bring on additional eyewear consultants because our optical sales have significantly increased.

By coming into an area, and affiliating with multiple practices, MyEyeDr. is able to spend more on marketing, which benefits all of the doctors in the group. We now see gains from traditional marketing efforts like direct mail and radio to more sophisticated digital channels like search engine optimization, and more extensive patient recall efforts. I, and other photogenic (!) doctors, have participated in photo shoots where our images are used for in-office marketing and other advertising vehicles.

Unanticipated Benefits to My Practice: A Network of Dedicated ODs
Post-sale, one of the best things that I discovered about being part of a larger network was the access and partnership across the broader community of MyEyeDr. professionals. There are quarterly local doctor meetings on topics such as ICDM 10, and social gatherings at state, regional or national conferences. And these doctors are great about intra-professional referrals. For instance, I get many referrals from MyEyeDr. colleagues for specialty contact lens fittings. One doctor may be especially skilled at working with advanced glaucoma cases, while another is adept at handling low-vision consults.

Enjoy Enhanced Quality of Life
I used to spend a lot of time at night, or weekends, on administrative duties, but partnering with MyEyeDr. has given me back my free time! I still work five days a week as an OD because I enjoy seeing patients, and have enjoyed doing this for over 40 years. But my management responsibilities are now only those that I like and choose to do; for example, being involved in decisions affecting our doctors in various states, and helping to make sure my office is a success.

Think of the Long-Term Big Picture
It’s never too early for a doctor to consider a viable transition strategy, and realize that it is not necessarily about “exiting.” If a doctor enjoys providing patient care, but is increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of running a practice due to factors like implementation of EHR, third-party regulations, decreased reimbursements and competition from online retailers, then it’s time to consider new options in transitioning their practice.

If the path forward is selling to a larger company, that doctor needs to look at the available resources and longevity of that potential partner. Do they have experience integrating optometric practices into their group? Are they focused and dedicated to making your experience a positive one, or are they spread too thin or too new (and thus prone to mistakes)? Are they committed to meeting your individual goals?

I was fortunate that selling to an organization with a great track record in eyecare was an option that was available to me. It’s an option that may be available to you, too. I highly recommend having a conversation with MyEyeDr. to see if this is a partnership that would be as profitable and satisfying for you as it has been for me.

 

Morris Sheffer, OD, is Clinical Director of MyEyeDr. North Carolina, based in Charlotte, N.C. To contact him: msheffer@myeyedr.com

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