In this video interview, we sat down with Dr. Kristin O’Brien who shared her thoughts on opening an optometry practice cold.
Despite the very real challenges involved in cold-opening a practice, Dr. Kristen O’Brien — director of Marketing & Analytics at iCare Advisors, LLC — thinks that it can be done. “What I tell everybody is if you have your heart set on private practice, and you have your heart set on opening cold, you can absolutely do it and do it well.”
However, doing so requires careful consideration and planning, as well as external support. “I always recommend making sure that you have some sort of team of advisors on your side to help guide you through,” she says, “because you don’t have the experience that other people who’ve been out in the industry for years and years have.”
There are several things to avoid when attempting to cold-open a practice. First of all, one shouldn’t choose a location that is too large, because this will lead to prohibitive build-out costs early on. “If you go a little smaller and get creative with how you arrange your space, you can do much better,” she claims.
Another very common mistake is to buy overly elaborate equipment at the very beginning. It’s important that you purchase your equipment smartly, focusing at first only upon the tools and technologies that will best help you achieve your goals and fulfill your mission statement.
“One of the nice things is that you don’t have to have a rich uncle or an inheritance or a family member who’s willing to inject a lot of cash funds into your private practice. There are definitely multiple opportunities through different lenders to get 100% financing for your gold-star private practice.” These loans factor in such elements as working capital, expected salary, equipment, and cost of goods.
It’s also important for physicians who are cold-opening practices to have the correct approach to marketing and networking. It’s important to connect with primary care doctors, allergists, internists, pediatricians, chiropractors, and other health professionals, in order to build up an internal referral system.
Dr. O’Brien doesn’t think any specific specialization is better than any other in the context of cold-opening a practice. “The nice thing about a cold start is that you can make it whatever your passion is.” Any specialization will do, according to Dr. O’Brien, as long as one can develop an internal referral system that includes connections to practices with complementary specializations.