Staff Management

Part IV: Optometric Business Innovators 2011

Practice Pearls & Slideshow: Practice Management Doc Stars

Alan Glazier, OD Shady Grove Vision Care Rockville, Maryland

Meet 35 optometric business innovators, who have each created a robust practice through their creativity and ingenuity. Review of Optometric Business and Vision Monday present a special, first-time collaborative project: Optometric Business Innovators 2011. This week, in our final installment, we share practice pearls and a slideshow featuring Influencer Innovators.

Practice Pearls from this Week’s Featured Innovators:

Tommy Crooks, OD, president and CEO, Eyecare Associates, Inc., Birmingham, Ala., Influencer Innovator:
Since 1996, Dr. Crooks has served as president and CEO of EyeCare Associates, Inc. (ECA), which consists of 19 locations, 33 doctors and 165 staff members spread throughout Alabama. Unlike some other groups of private practice optometrists that provide services to their members, ECA is based on a business model in which doctor-owners hold an equity stake in the company. “The overall business model is unique in that the entity that is the ‘corporate office’ was never intended to make the money,” notes Dr. Crooks, who has headed ECA since 1996. “The corporate office exists to help make the doctor owners more successful. The overall goal, from the beginning, was to perpetuate private independent practice. Moreover, we wanted to create the full circle. Existing doctor owners have a clearly defined and funded exit strategy and new aspiring doctors have a clearly defined way to become an equity partner.”

Glenn Ellisor, OD, president and CEO, Vision Source, Kingwood, Texas, Influencer Innovator:
Starting in 1991 in Houston, Texas, Dr. Ellisor grew Vision Source from its first location to over 2,300 current locations in all 50 states and Canada, composed of the leading optometrists in the profession. Collectively, Vision Source practices produce in excess of $1.3 billion in gross revenue. Praised by colleagues as “innovative, entrepreneurial and forward thinking,” Ellisor says Vision Source remains centered on its mission of networking independent, private optometry practices to collectively share best practice strategies and provide cooperative marketing resources and cooperative buying power. He believes Vision Source has had a positive influence not just on its members’ practices, but on independent optometry in general. “I’m afraid if our organization hadn’t been formed, private practice optometry might have gone the way of the pharmacy industry.”

Mark Feder, OD, president and CEO, Independent Doctors of Optometric Care (IDOC), Norwalk, Conn., Influencer Innovator:
As president and CEO of IDOC, Dr. Feder is responsible for directing all facets of business for the organization, which currently has over 900 members in more than 40 states. He has established partnerships with over 65 companies serving the optometric industry. These companies offer IDOC members unique programs on products and services they purchase, resulting in increased revenues and profits. Still a practicing OD, Feder is also the founder of Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn. Feder said he established IDOC 12 years ago because at the time, independent ODs in Connecticut were faced with the “overwhelming issue” of managed care. Independent practitioners still face considerable challenges as a result of vertical integration and increasing competition from online and big box retailers. Consequently, Feder believes it is more important than ever for independent ODs to run their practices like a business. “They need to make decisions based on their understanding of business intelligence and be able to identify new profit centers and untapped revenue streams in order to grow their practices.”

Mark Jacquot, OD, vice-president, Pearle Vision Eye Care, Cincinnati and Chicago, Influencer Innovator:
Since joining Luxottica as a practicing optometrist in ’91, Dr. Jacquot has been associate vice-president of optometric relations for Luxottica and regional VP of operations for LensCrafters. He currently leads the eyecare team for Pearle Vision in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and also serves on the board of directors for OneSight. Jacquot’s passion lies with helping patients understand the importance of regular exams. “I think that we as a profession can do a better job in sending a broad message for an annual eye exam,” he said, citing that the AOA recommendation is double the number performed in the U.S. last year. He points out, “We have really listened to our patients about what they like and dislike about their current eyecare and eyewear experience. Sometimes the focus is on prophesies or product, but the most important ‘p’ is the people,” Jacquot said. “They are the ones who give you results: they come in, they buy the product. It’s really important to listen to our patients and adapt. We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect success in a down economy.”

Jerry Lieblein, OD, co-founder and CEO, OD Excellence, Healdsburg, Calif., Influencer Innovator:

In practice since 1958, Dr. Lieblein started OD Excellence (ODX) with partner Jerry Sude, OD, in 2007. “Having been very much involved in the profession until that point, my goal was to be able to take the average optometrist and help them be more successful,” Dr. Lieblein says. Starting ODX enabled Lieblein to work with optometry schools, helping senior classes set up practices, apply for loans and put in place business models at no cost. ODX also works with existing practices to advance management ideas. “The idea is to help optometrists grow while helping optometry grow as a profession,” he says. Published more than 100 times and having lectured around the world, Lieblein considers apathy his, and optometry’s, biggest challenge. “Many doctors feel that they cannot grow in this market and are not ready to make the move forward.” Dr. Lieblein insists that the ODX model, which combines education, buying, marketing and retooling of the practice to allow for medical eyecare expansion, “delivers a winning strategy.”

Michael Rothschild, OD, founder, LeadershipOD, Carrollton, Ga., Influencer Innovator: “We had to tweak our business strategy due to the economy, but not our overall vision of offering the highest quality products,” says Dr. Rothschild. The staff monitors trends more than numbers. “I cannot tell you how many frames we sold last month, but I do know that for the last five months, the numbers are increasing. We also track how many people are leaving without making a glasses purchase,” he says. In addition to accomplishments in his own practice, Rothschild is founder of LeadershipOD, a company dedicated to excellence in optometric practice. He is an international practice management speaker and presenter, most well-known for his innovative “Leadership Team” approach towards practice management. He is also a member of the faculty of First Practice Academy, a practice building program for those new to practice ownership, sponsored by CIBA Vision and Essilor. Dr. Rothschild believes two things—processes and systems—add up to legendary service and topnotch leadership. “We implement proven systems and methods to build and maintain relationships with our patients, our community and our staff,” he said.

Kirk Smick, OD, president, Clayton Eye Center, Morrow, Ga., Influencer Innovator: Dr. Smick knows how to survive and thrive, founding his stronger-than-ever practice in 1974. That practice now has eight ODs, 34 MDs and averages 225 patients a day in one location. Smick, who retired from the U.S. Air Force at the rank of colonel, started one of the first optometric referral centers known as OMNI. He is also a past president of Georgia Optometric Association and SECO. Dr. Smick has also made significant contributions to optometric education. He is the past president of the Georgia State Board of Examiners in optometry, and while at SECO, he served as Continuing Education Chairman. He continues, meanwhile, to be a leader in the field, as chairman of the International Vision Expo Conference Advisory Board. His practice continued to flourish during the recession, Smick said, thanks to an emphasis on customer service and proven business principles that focused on working smarter, not harder. The practice also re-evaluated the managed care plans it uses. Other success drivers, Dr. Smick points out, include full adoption of the medical model “with an increased appreciation and interest in our optical dispensary. The concept of ‘doctor directed dispensing’ has really increased our per-patient revenue.”

Brad Williams, OD, CEO and founder, The Williams Group, Lincoln, Neb., Influencer Innovator: For many years, Dr. Williams had one foot planted firmly in the business sector and another in the profession of independent optometry. In 1986, he started a practice management consulting business which grew into The Williams Group. He sold his practice several years ago to concentrate solely on The Williams Group. Throughout his 25 years of consulting, Dr. Williams has worked with hundreds of practitioners and staff in an effort to make private practitioners more business savvy. “The term Practice Management could be replaced with the term Business Care Management. Just like seeking financial management advice, good business care training can provide an excellent ROI,” Dr. Williams says. At the start of the managed care era, Williams recognized the complexity of running an optometric practice increased dramatically “and I surrounded myself with people with degrees in marketing, finance and human resources. We then hired senior consultants and tethered them to our clients and their staff to help with implementation support. As a result, our success with getting clients and staff to make practice improvements has provided the reputation we enjoy today.”

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