One of our favourite things to do as Practice Consultants is to work with optometrists who are opening their own practices cold. This is an exciting, and stressful, time. There are many things to consider and decide on.
The very first thing to decide on is Strategy.
Will you be offering strictly primary care? Are you going to offer other services, like specialty contact lens fitting or vision therapy as well? Once you have the answers to those questions, you can start to think about what your dispensary should look like.
If you are catering to Low Vision patients, you will want to ensure that you have a good selection of value priced frames. If you are offering Vision Therapy services, you will need a fairly substantial children’s section with great multi-pair savings options.
With a solid understanding of what you will be offering in terms of services, you can begin the process of looking for a location. If you are planning on concentrating on primary care, consider a more remote location with less competition. While it may seem tempting to gravitate to larger centres with denser populations, you will have the greatest competition in these locations as well. If you do it right, a smaller community will offer you patronage and loyalty.
If you are offering other services aside from primary care, you are decreasing the amount of competition you will have. In this case, it can make sense to locate in a more populated area where competition is higher as you will be marketing and pulling from a larger geographical area for patients seeking your other services.
A competitive scan of the area where you want to practice will provide invaluable insight. Who else is offering primary care within a 5, 10, 25 km radius? What other services are being offered in those practices? If you are offering only primary care, the denser the population in the immediate area of your proposed location, the better. If you will be offering additional services, which are not found in the local area, you can extend the radius from which you will be attracting patients.
After you have chosen your location, determined which services you will be offering, and done a competitive analysis on the competition, you need to decide on the strategy for your dispensary. As competition in the optical industry continues to grow from online purchases and big box stores, it is critical to create an intentional plan for the dispensary. If branded product is being offered in all of the primary care locations surrounding you, consider an unbranded approach. A la carte pricing is common in many optometric practices so moving to a flattened price structure can be a fresh approach.
Do you want to be all things to all people? Do you want to be the person for one thing? Do you want to be the low cost provider or the transparent practice?
Taking the time to understand what you want to be known for and developing a solid strategy at the beginning of your journey into practice ownership will make other decisions easier to make and guide you down the path to successful business ownership.
is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.