How to Grow an Optometry Practice to Multiple Locations

Join Antonio Chirumbolo, OD and Tony Clark, OD and CMO of Triangle Vision Optometry at Vision Expo West 2018. As the CMO of a group of nineteen practices across North and South Carolina, Dr. Clark has some tips for scaling your practice to multiple locations!

Prepare

“We knew we weren’t good enough to get bigger and not smart enough to get bigger. We were good clinicians but not really great businessmen yet.” Making massive changes to a business can be challenging for anyone, let alone clinicians without business experience. Taking the time to properly prepare for growth will set you up for success. Take business classes, work with business professionals and coaches, read business books, and do what you have to in order to feel confident in your skills as a business owner!

Once you have a more keen business sense, you have to decide how you are looking to grow your practice. You can either continue to grow the existing practice or expand to another. Keep in mind that growing to a second location will include a great deal more planning, including new staff members and a new lab (complete with new technology).

Opening Your Second Location

If you decide that opening a new location for your franchise is your next step, you’ll then need to decide whether you’ll open a completely new location or acquire an existing practice. While opening a practice cold can give you a great deal of freedom, you can also face the same challenges that always accompany opening a cold practice. Acquisitions, however, come with a slew of other advantages and disadvantages, many of which directly overlap.

If you’re ready to begin your business career today, to even begin to prepare, do one thing: recommit to excellence.

Advantages

  • Existing revenue streams
  • Existing KPIs and metrics
  • Existing systems

Disadvantages

  • Differences in company culture
  • Different hours
  • Different systems

Taking over an existing practice will mean that you can hit the ground running, but in order for an acquisition to be successful, the business has to become your own. This will mean replicating your vision, mission, and values through your training processes, even when you’re not around and will only be successful if you put “people in place who understand what you’re about.” Dr. Clark warns that “you’ll have to be more committed than you thought possible to that integration process.”

Creating a consistent brand for your practice and sustaining that brand across more and more locations can be one of the most challenging aspects of expanding your practice to multiple locations, and you have to prepare to “say no to a good number of practices that don’t share [your] philosophy of caring for people.” But once you have practice number two in place, there’s no reason to stop there! In fact, as more locations are incorporated into your brand, the economies of scale begin to tip in your favor.

So You Want More?

Practice Locations

For this reason, in many cases, if you’re growing to a second practice, you will also need to look ahead and prepare to grow to three practices, then four, and onward. Scaling up can lead to sharing resources, including staff members, across multiple locations, decreased overall costs for product purchases as you can purchase in larger quantities, and allowing your existing team members to specialize in their roles.

One key thing to be wary of during this expansion is the location of your new practices. The last thing you want is to poach patients from one of your existing locations. That said, distances will vary wildly based on your location and the population of your city. For example, Triangle Vision Optometry currently has two practices within 4.5mi of one another in a major urban area, but Dr. Clark says that “in a more rural area, I wouldn’t [put two locations] within fifteen miles of each other.” Ideally, nearby locations can share administration, marketing efforts, and some staff members if need be, so be selective with where you decide to plant down next.

Are you ready to start marketing your next location? Here’s where you should start!

Staff

Through your journey from optometrist to businessperson, you will quickly discover that managing a business can become a job all its own. With the rapid growth of Triangle Vision Optometry, Dr. Clark realized that he couldn’t run the business from the exam room, and he had to step away. If you establish strong systems early in your growth phase, when it comes time for you to focus on business development, you can trust that your individual practices will remain successful. But what do those systems look like?

The first step to setting management systems in place is to begin the construction of an organizational chart. Outline who does what at your current practice and what you would need to replicate that at scale. Then consider who each of those individuals would report to. You won’t be able to handle customer questions from 19 practices at once!

From here, you have to find the right people for the job. One position that Dr. Clark recommends filling is a CEO role; hire someone that knows business, and knows business well, to help guide you in your growth. A major roadblock to growth can arise when it comes to hiring the right doctors to represent your brand. Your best bet for finding great ODs can be going directly to schools, Clark says. “If you wait until they’ve graduated, gotten their degrees, and passed their boards then most of the really good ones have already gotten jobs.” Here are a few tips for getting the attention of young ODs:

  • Treat your employees well! That can mean pay and benefits but also extends to creating a great environment for them. Value them. Give them a voice.
  • Build your existing team up! Create a space where they feel like they’re really a part of something.
  • Let students follow you and your doctors in the exam room and build that trust early.
Looking for more tips for building up your practice? Here’s what we learned helping 4,022 practices to hire optometrists.

What to do today

If you’re ready to begin your business career today, to even begin to prepare, do one thing: recommit to excellence. You have to commit to learning more and working harder than you ever have. You have to know what resources you have at your disposal, so read, read, read! Dr. Clark recommends a few pieces including Category of One, E-Myth Revisited, and Good to Great.

Take even a single day off from patient care and dedicate that time to set yourself up for success. Schedule meetings with business professionals and colleagues. Set aside time to dive into your new library of business development books written by people that know what they’re doing. Understand that there’s someone out there smarter than you and ask them for help.

You have an entire career ahead of you as a successful business owner, so get out and get started!

About Dyllan Thweatt

Dyllan Thweatt
Dyllan is a UC San Diego graduate and the Associate Editor for NewGradOptometry and CovalentCareers. In his time out of the office he is also a full-time Dungeon Master, pet dad, and an avid tea drinker.

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