By Peter J. Cass, OD
July 18, 2018
When I purchased my practice 15 years ago, I became the fourth owner of a practice founded in the 1920s. Here’s how I managed the finances, needed changes, and how my staff and I have fueled patient growth and profitability.
How Did You Swing It Financially?
After being turned down by several practice finance companies “specializing in optometry,” I ended up borrowing from a local bank, which turned out to be a better solution for me, as I formed a good long-term relationship with the banker who loaned me the money to start the practice.
It was not an easy process, being fresh out of optometry school, and having no business history and little practice history, but the effort was worth it. I researched business plans online, and found a template to work with. I then spent several weeks researching, documenting, calculating and projecting until I had a thorough and complete business plan. I had it professionally printed and put in a tabbed binder.
I asked a local banker to meet me for lunch, and we discussed my business plan. The thoroughness and professionalism of the plan convinced him to take a chance on a new grad, and I got my loan.
What is the Mission of the Practice?
To provide the best quality eyecare, and best quality eyewear, with the best customer service. We try to let that guide everything we do, and we talk about it in staff meetings. It really helps guide decisions.
We often ask questions like “Does this new piece of equipment improve care for our patients?” “Is this new contact lens better than what we are currently using?” “Does this new policy improve customer service, or is it simply for our own benefit?” We let the answers to those questions guide our decisions on making changes.
How Did You Update the Office?
When I purchased the practice, it was in an older building behind one of the local hospitals on a road with little street traffic. It was not a great location, and I knew that I would eventually need to relocate the practice to a newer area with better visibility. I knew that I wanted a high-end practice with full-scope eyecare, high-end frames, specialty lenses and exceptional customer service.
Moving immediately was not an option, so we did some remodeling. Basic remodeling was inexpensive, and I was careful to only make essential modifications, so that I could set aside as much money as possible for a new location.
Within about three years I had saved enough to buy land in the desired area, and within about three more years, we were able to begin building. Basic remodeling was inexpensive, but the new location was a larger investment. Land was about $100,000, and the new building was about $600,000.
How Has The Evolution of Your Patient Base Fueled Growth?
When I moved, the patient base changed significantly. We moved to a much more upscale area of town, where income levels were higher, and families were younger. I was able to grow the practice by 100 percent in two years, and by almost 400 percent in seven years.
The practice was established as “Family Eye Care,” so we see patients of all ages and demographics. We have aggressively expanded into specialty contact lenses and dry-eye treatment. These are two areas that are under-served, and give us a niche in our market.