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6 Things That Make My Private Practice Different

In the optometric journalism world, there are many articles on how to build a successful private practice. Since opening my practice cold, I’ve focused on six concepts.private practice

1. Avoid the commodity trap

As discussed in my optometric dispensary article, a unique private practice experience is key.

Support luxury eyewear lines and independent companies to keep patients from “window shopping.” Showcase to patients why their frame is unique. Reiterate the fact that glasses are the first thing noticed about a person and represent who they are. In my office, I rarely re-order the same frames. We create excitement by letting our patients know we are always bringing in exclusive merchandise.

2. Develop a niche private practice

dr 4 eyes optometry private practiceDecide what is unique about your private practice. Is it speciality contact lenses? Is it sports vision?

I wanted to be a high-end luxury niche practice. My target market was young professionals, especially women. The idea developed from my own shopping experiences. I would find myself bored in local stores, because the merchandise always looked the same. I wanted unique and different, which is the goal of 4 Eyes. Tortoise sunglasses are just tortoise sunglasses until they become the sunglasses worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

3. State of the art equipment

Many new practitioners try to save money on their equipment.

I’ve heard horror stories on used equipment, you just never know what you are receiving.  I decided to purchase new electronic phoropters for the “WOW! Factor”. They are expensive, but I get comments daily about how high tech everything looks. In today’s world, everyone expects the latest technology, including our patients. We all know PD rulers are sufficient, but are they impressive? No.

private practice optometry

4. Enthusiastic and friendly staff

If you spend any amount of time around private practice docs, you will know we complain about staff, constantly.

Staff are your biggest advocate or biggest foe. Staff who take pride in your practice and your patients are hard to find. They are your patient’s first impression of your practice, starting with the initial phone call. The way they interact with a patient can convert a price-shopper to a purchasing-patient. My front staff has a speech prepared when patients with out-of-network insurances call to convert them to private pay. Friendly and enthusiastic staff is difficult to find.

5. Superb service

Our goal is to roll out the red carpet for our patients.

You want them to know we value their patronage. They could go anywhere, but they chose you. Go above and beyond. For example, we had a managed-care plan patient whose glasses took 6 weeks to arrive due to problems with the lab. Although, it wasn’t our fault, we offered the patient sunglasses of her choice to make up for the delay. The patient responded with a nice yelp review for us.

6. Thoroughness

All optometrists perform the same eye exam, but it’s the patients perception that matters.

We hear all the time “this was the most thorough eye exam I’ve ever had.” What did we do differently? We took height, weight, and blood pressure. Additionally, whether patients opt for fundus photos or not, I show them a picture of the eye, and explain what they are looking at and why it’s important to have an eye exam annually. I stress the link between signs in the eye and systemic conditions, and advise them if they have siblings with the same history to have their eyes checked. I recommend UV protection for themselves and their children, citing studies that conclude much of the damage is done as children or teenagers. None of the above is ground-breaking, but they will set you apart and increase referrals to your private practice.

I highly recommend the book “201 Secrets of a High-Performance Optometric Practice” by Bob Levoy for all new optometry graduates, whether future private practice owners or associate doctors. For future owners, it’s full of ideas on growing your practice. For associate doctors, a hiring doctor will LOVE a new associate who brings ideas of growth to their private practice.

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About Courtney Dryer

Courtney Dryer
Courtney Dryer is a 2011 graduate of SCO. She opened 4 Eyes Optometry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC in February of 2013. After 5 years, the practice name was changed to Autarchic Spec Shop to renew the practice's commitment to independent optometry. In addition to consulting with new graduate optometrists on start-up practices, she contributes regularly to New Grad Optometry and has guest blogged for Invision Magazine. The unique design of her boutique practice was featured in Women in Optometry. In 2015, Vision Monday named her a Rising Star, and one of the most influential women in optical.


  1. Dr. Dryer,
    I really like your practice philosophy about using independent labs and frame companies. I know you mentioned Salt in another article, but are there a few other independent frame manufacturers that you can recommended? Thanks!

    • Courtney Dryer

      Hi Brian,

      This is my favorite resource for luxury and independent eyewear, I highly recommend going to the Vision Expo in NY. All the up and coming lines show there. As far as lines I have and love, 141 is probably my favorite other then SALT. Its a lower price point then SALT, but its similar to the Toms idea. For every frame your patient buys, they donate one to a child who needs a pair of glasses. Europa is a great line and its soon to be made in America, which is a huge selling point! SHO Eyewear + Eyeworks is a great “classics” line. The quality is superb and the price point is great. You can even get it private label with your practice’s name if you would like. I also love LA Eyeworks for funky and colorful eyewear. The price tag is high, but it bring you high-end patients who are looking for something different. Patient’s who wear LA Eyeworks bring you more patients. Hope that helps and thanks for your question!!

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