At SECO, we had the chance to sit down with Eric Botts, OD, the past president of Energeyes, Inc., and the owner of OBC Billing Specialists. In this video, Matt Geller and Eric Botts discuss the evolution of corporate optometry practice opportunities and what corporate practice offers new grads today.
When it comes to corporate optometry, “I started 27 years ago, and it is so much easier to get started, it’s almost a turnkey format now,” Botts says. There’s a lot more support for young ODs getting started: “When I started 27 years ago, there was no support; I was on an island by myself! And now, today, as a corporate optometrist, I have lots of other corporate doctors I can call on; I have the support of the Energeyes Association, which is really designed to help corporate optometrists build a medical practice in a corporate location and help you build your practice.”
It’s never been better, Botts says, whether you’re looking to start a new practice or switch modalities. “I’ve never been more confident about being in a corporate location than I am now, especially since everything is going online. The sale of glasses—the sale of contacts has been there for years! So really, what do we have to offer? I sell an experience,” he says. “That’s all I have to offer, is an experience.”
What this means for corporate and non-corporate doctors, Botts says, is that everyone is going to have to focus on making the exam experience the best it can possibly be. “There’s no better way to grow a practice than with your service, especially medical services, which are easy to introduce to a corporate location.” Building a practice is the tough part, but growing? “It’s very easy to add other technology, and as you grow your practice, you can increase the amount of technology you have in your practice.”
For these reasons, and many others, corporate optometry practice opportunities are becoming more popular among young and experienced ODs alike. “You can be employed or you can be a leaseholder,” Botts says. “And leaseholding really gives you more ownership.” In his own practice, he says, he’s really felt like he was in charge from the first time he stepped through the door of his location. “I’ve treated it like I’ve owned it from day one. It’s grown, it’s become a huge practice, lots of medical care that I’m able to provide because I have that mindset that this is mine.”
Common misconceptions of corporate optometry practice opportunities—from productivity demands to top-down control of services and hours—don’t hold Botts back. “It depends on who your corporate partner is, as to whether or not you’re employed,” he says, but as a leaseholder he sets his own hours and fees. “I do whatever procedures I want to do; I do all the medical procedures that you’re going to find in any office. OCT, fundus camera, keratograph, DEP, ERG, MacuLogix- I do all those tests because my patients deserve the best technology I can give them.”
“It’s very fulfilling,” he says, “to be able to take care of my patients the way I want to take care of them. There’s nobody telling me how to practice optometry.”
Botts says he’s extremely impressed by the clinical training young ODs have today. “I’ve added new grads several times over the last few years, and they have a better education than I ever got 27 years ago! When they join me, their clinical skills are excellent.” But new grad ODs often lack the business skills that are needed to be a professional doctor. This is where professional support comes in, and where Botts makes sure to emphasize on-the-job training.
And of course, it’s important for new grads to be able to analyze the kind of practice they’re getting into. When applying for jobs, how do they know if the corporate practice giving them an offer is a good or bad place to work? “The things that I would be looking at is, are there any quotas for how many patients you have to see? Do you have to work such a high number of hours, or seven days a week?” Unless a practice or employer offers additional support to cover additional days, Botts says, those demands would be red flags for him personally.
“To me, the risk of being your own doctor, of being self-employed, has been well worth it over the years. Because my practice has grown so fast . . . that if I were at a salaried income, I would have been limited,” Botts says. “So for me, the right choice was definitely to do a lease, where I could call the shots.” And for optometrists starting right out of the school, the options of corporate optometry allow you to take on responsibility without taking on an enormous amount of debt.
Support is crucial, Botts says, and it’s how and why Energeyes came about. “So many corporate doctors feel like they’re on an island by themselves, which I did for many, many years.” The goal of Energeyes is to bring corporate doctors together so they can communicate and support each other.
“It’s time to unify corporate optometrists, bring them together so they can share ideas—or as I like to say, steal ideas,” Botts jokes. “Because some of the best ideas I have in my practice I’ve stolen from other doctors! And it’s usually from other corporate doctors that I sit with . . . and we talk about practice.”
Energeyes is focused on education, including their new dry eye initiative, which aims to coach corporate ODs on how to include dry eye treatment in their practices. They’ve also recently started a peer-reviewed journal, designed for corporate ODs by corporate ODs.
At the end of the day, it’s important to know that you’re happy in your career. Corporate optometry may not be for everybody, but it’s a place where ODs can absolutely thrive.