Treat your practice like a growing grandchild

By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcelTM Business & Career Coach

My grandmother recently passed away. She and my late grandfather never missed a basketball game through my middle and high school years. They also both sat in the frigid weather of the late fall in Kansas watching their grandson play football. They were like many typical grandparents—loving, devoted followers of their grandchildren.

Successfully grooming an associate for the transition to ownership will help ensure a future buyer for the practice.

I realize now I never appreciated them the way they appreciated and loved me. Did I love them? Absolutely. Did I keep up with their lives like they did mine? No. You cannot understand being a grandparent and lovingly following your grandchildren's lives until you have lived the life of a grandparent.

The same principle applies to the way we, as optometrists, manage our practices. Are we the grandparent who cherishes our practice, always investing in the future-or are we managing our practice like the grandchild who assumes life will always be the same?

The answer matters, especially if you own a practice and are approaching retirement. Here are three principles to follow if you want to avoid burying your practice when your own work is done.

1. Mentor an associate
Putting your practice up for sale is no guarantee that it will sell. Successfully grooming an associate for the transition to ownership will help ensure a future buyer for practice. Many practices avoid death by raising up the next generation.  

2. Purchase the right equipment
For a practice to be marketable at the time of sale, it needs to be able to offer current technology. The buyer should not see it as an "old, fixer-upper home." Most buyers do not want to buy a practice that requires the time, effort and knowledge to bring it up to date. The right equipment includes but is not limited to:

  • Scanning laser ophthalmoscope
  • An up-to-date electronic health record (EHR) system
  • Pachymetry equipment
  • Corneal topography unit
  • Fundus photography camera

3. Reach out to younger patients
The number of new patients coming to the office is a sign of a healthy, growing practice. Today's new patients are being driven by patient referrals, insurance providers and online searches. Many patients who pay cash are using search engines and social media to decide at which office they will seek optometric services. Focus your marketing accordingly.  

Physical death is inevitable—but practice death does not have to be. You do not have to be one of the 400 practices that close their doors every year. With the right attention, practices can be healed, and they can continue to grow from generation to generation.

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April 16, 2014

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