When I graduated from Optometry school one year ago, I would never have predicted that I would own a practice less than five months later. While many of us daydream about opening our own practices to remind ourselves why we are working so hard in school, we don’t expect to be able to do so right away.
Managing a traditional private practice with a dispensary and staff is something most new graduates are not equipped to do. We don’t know enough and we don’t have enough cash, period.
I was able to open my own practice because I am a corporate-affiliated leaseholder.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to this type of corporate arrangement.
- Low start-up costs. (Mine were less than $1,000.00)
- The hiring of staff is done for you.
- No need to train or manage any staff.
- Floor plans are already designed for you. No dealing with any contractors.
- Frame line purchasing decisions are made for you.
- Not having to establish relationships with optical labs.
- No possibility of generating revenue from materials.
- You are constrained to the size and layout of the examination space that some corporate executive saw fit to build.
- Rent must be paid to your landlord for use of the examination room and equipment they have provided.
- Your lease can be terminated with 30 days’ notice for any reason or no reason at all.
- The optical staff with whom you interact are not your employees, and you have no authority to direct how they conduct themselves.
Some other things to consider include:
- Will you be leasing space? Will you be a franchisee? Consider the pros and cons of these arrangements.
- What will you have complete autonomy over, and what does your corporate business partner retain control over?
- What legal structure should your business adopt?
- How will you manage your accounting, taxes, and insurance billing and coding? Will you need help?
- What staff will you hire for your practice, or will you rely on corporate staff provided?
- What additional equipment will you purchase for your practice?
The answers to these questions will vary from contract to contract, corporate partner to corporate partner, state to state, but there are great resources out there to help you figure this stuff out. Make sure you read Dr. Dryer’s recent article, The Ins and Outs of Corporate Optometry: Contracts, Legality, and Expectations.
Starting a corporate-affiliated practice is much less complex than opening a traditional optometric practice cold, but it is a legally independent business and there are a lot of foreign waters to wade through in selecting, contracting for, establishing, opening, and running your practice.
With that being said, I work for myself and for my patients alone, and at the end of the day, I reap the rewards of my dedication to my practice and to my patients.
If you are at all interested in corporate-affiliated optometry, as an owner or even as an employee, make sure you checkout the Energeyes Association, the national association representing corporate-affiliated optometrists. Membership is free for new graduates (graduated in 2012 or later), as is attendance to their annual national meeting. Take advantage of their mentorship program, which will hook you up with an experienced corporate-affiliated optometrist in your area who can personally guide you and teach you the ropes.