Luxottica Independent Practice Owners Share Their Success Stories

Jan 17, 2020
25 min read
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Three practice owners talk about their career journeys and how they found their niche as Luxottica Independent Practice Owners.

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Luxottica Branded Practices™ are built on the belief that it’s possible for optometrists to serve patients while enjoying success in their careers and personal lives. Luxottica supports doctors who want to own or lead an independent optometric practice by providing them with the tools, resources, and support they need to deliver the highest quality eyecare to patients.

With LensCrafters, LensCrafters At Macy’s, Target Optical and Pearle Vision, Luxottica offers different practice opportunities for optometrists across all of these recognized brands, each with a unique feel and fit.

When it comes to success in and beyond the exam lane, there are countless Luxottica Branded Practice owners who have enjoyed highly rewarding careers. In this article, three independent practice owners with Luxottica—Drs. Kyle Sexton, Benjamin Lickteig, and Pariya Shamsaee—share what career success means to them and where they are on their path to success.

Three Luxottica independent practice owners share their stories

We spoke with three independent practice owners with Luxottica with various backgrounds and unique stories, all who got their careers started with Luxottica, some immediately after graduating from school, and others after working in different settings to understand what they ultimately desired.

Hailing from the state of Washington, Dr. Kyle Sexton initially worked as an associate at a private practice while supplementing some of his time working at LensCrafters. He was drawn to the business model of LensCrafters during his time there and took on his own LensCrafters location in 2007, followed by two others in 2014 and 2015.

Dr. Benjamin Lickteig got started with his first LensCrafters sublease just one year after graduating from optometry school and moving to Boston, Massachusetts. His first location was in Dedham, Massachusetts. After a few years and a great working relationship that he built with LensCrafters, he expanded to four locations.

Dr. Pariya Shamasee got started with Target Optical after graduating from optometry school. It had always been a dream of hers to manage an independent practice at Target Optical throughout optometry school, and she achieved her goal in 2017 when she acquired her own independent practice in Chula Vista, California.

Read on to see them share their unique stories.

Dr. Kyle Sexton—Sexton Vision Group

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Opening my first practice

My optometric journey started by working as an associate doctor at a private practice and supplementing my time working for a LensCrafters doctor. I was ultimately drawn to the culture and work environment at LensCrafters. Their turnkey operating model allowed me to concentrate on seeing patients, as opposed to being bogged down in the complexities of running a business. After practicing and learning the ropes, I decided to take on my own LensCrafters location in 2007; followed by two others in 2014 and 2015.

I had a vision for my practice. That vision was for my practice to develop a system to differentiate myself from other practices by concentrating on the individual needs, challenges, and lifestyles of each patient, as opposed to offering generalized care. I wanted to become the subconscious (or obvious) choice for my patients’ eyecare needs so that they could not even fathom going to another practice.

The low-cost business model provided by LensCrafters allows me to practice in this patient-centric way. This was easily facilitated by the values inherent within Luxottica’s mission. We both value the patient’s needs above all else. Happy, loyal patients are the cornerstone to our combined success. The LensCrafters brand speaks to providing elevated eyecare and eyewear, which coincided directly with my own beliefs.

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Operating my own independent practice

One of the biggest misconceptions about affiliating with Luxottica is that we are not a ‘private’ practice. Many optometrists seem to think we work for LensCrafters or are controlled by them in some way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, we function as an independent business and sublease our office space from LensCrafters.

The low overhead associated with the LensCrafters sublease model allows me to invest more in technology to keep the practice state-of-the-art. We do a significant amount of medical optometry and have co-management relationships set up with the best specialty surgeons in the area.

We work with the VA system and show their residents the scope of our practice to try to show them how they can work independently. That way, when they choose where to launch a career, they know that they can practice full-scope medical optometry at LensCrafters.

Involvement outside the exam room

I believe in getting involved in optometry outside the exam lane, and Luxottica provides ample opportunities for that. I became a doctor mentor for new doctors as part of Luxottica’s onboarding program and through this mentor program, I try to give new ODs a fast forward button in business.

I try to impart on them things that I learned in five-to-six years through trial and error so that they can avoid the same pitfalls. My goal through the mentor program is to have their business functioning at the end of year one at a level most businesses get to in five, six, even seven years in—I find that incredibly rewarding.

I have also been involved in groups like the Optometric Advisory Council (OAC) which provides two-way feedback from Doctors to brand. The OAC has had varying functions throughout the years, but one of its primary functions is a direct communication conduit to doctors, and my goal is to ensure its potential is fully enacted. The OAC has a good structure in place to form solid communication trees for disseminating information rapidly and reaching every doc out there.

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Opening additional locations

The decision to open additional locations is a difficult one. As a business owner, you should not spread to an additional location if you cannot effectively replicate the success of your primary business.

Being successful means finding the right people, with the right belief system, training them to practice as you practice, and compensating them in an amount that makes sense for them to stay long term. It means understanding what people need to work and be their best and compensating them well enough to provide a good life at home. It’s easy to motivate oneself, but you must understand how to motivate and inspire others if you hope to open additional locations.

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The ideal candidate for this model

Being an independent practice owner with Luxottica has allowed me to achieve both personal and career success. I’ve been able to achieve work-life balance by finding associate doctors who embody similar qualities that I possess, and ensuring I have someone I can depend on who can represent my office and its ideals.

When it comes to these qualities, the most successful candidates in this model need to be self driven and have good common-sense around business building. Running a business is not for everyone, and ODs in this model need to make sure that they are mentally prepared for the give and take of the business world.

The ideal candidate for this model is anyone who wants to run their own optometry business. Luxottica affords them a business model that lets them jumpstart their career and make money right away, as opposed to traditional optometry business models that don’t see profit for some time.

Dr. Benjamin Lickteig—Lickteig Family Eyecare

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My wife and I moved to the Boston area in 2010. I was one year out of optometry school and still trying to get on my feet with my career. I knew that I wanted to pave my own path, so I was uninterested in becoming an associate in someone else's practice; however, I had very little resources to start a private practice.

LensCrafters was looking for optometrists in the Boston area, so I interviewed with a regional manager and visited a couple of locations. I absolutely loved the set up as it felt high tech, and the fact that it was turnkey made it even more attractive.

My first location was in Dedham, Massachusetts, and the first few years I learned a lot about the independent practice sublease model and running a business. The working relationship that I built with LensCrafters is what ultimately led to my expansion to now four locations.

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Why I’ve stayed with LensCrafters

To be perfectly honest, I thought the first few years with LensCrafters would be a stepping stone to owning a private practice, but the more I learned about building a business within LensCrafters the more I enjoyed it.

In fact, I can have a more focused approach to growing the practice because I can focus on the service side of the eyecare industry. I am not interested in selling eyewear and nobody can do it better than LensCrafters anyway. I would rather have them as an ally than a competitor in that arena. When LensCrafters rolled out their ClarifyeSM digital eye exam systems to their stores, I knew that I was truly aligned with them. That investment showed me that they wanted to give their doctors more tools to help us deliver the best experience possible in the exam room.

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My practice values

My practice is built on delivering the best eyecare experience possible for our patients. People can get an eye exam anywhere; however, it is their experience which will continue to bring them back to see you again.

To deliver that experience, my practice focuses on three things: patient education, utilizing the best technology available in the industry, and convenience to the patient. Luxottica, and specifically LensCrafters is very focused on delivering that experience as well. Their ClarifyeSM technology and being open seven days are examples of how our values are aligned.

LensCrafters prides themselves on being the leader in eyecare, and I believe that to be true. LensCrafters is the brand that sets the bar very high for other similar settings and private practices to live up to. I enjoy being part of a brand that is proactive and one that works hard to exceed the "status quo."

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Understanding the Luxottica Independent Practice Model

Of my four locations, three are LensCrafters (one at a mall and the other two stand-alone) and one is a LensCrafters at Macy's.

The LensCrafters at Macy’s model

My Macy's location in Downtown Boston was one of the first Macy's locations in the country. As the newest addition to the Luxottica family of brands, I have been able to witness this brand grow and evolve.

There are a few key advantages of LensCrafters at Macy’s. The Macy's model has a more forgiving rent schedule as well as smaller coverage obligations which provides a bit more flexibility. I think the LensCrafters at Macy's model is a great option for a young optometrist who wants to "stick their toes" into the independent practice sublease model to see if it is something they enjoy doing with minimal risk.

But low risk yields low reward. The busier a location is, the more financially rewarding it will be and naturally it will come with a higher need for OD coverage. Some established LensCrafters locations will require seven days coverage (with some additional double doctor days) because that is what the business will demand.

Standard Sublease (ODS) versus Modified Sublease (LFRT) agreements

Another key difference between LensCrafters locations is whether the agreement is an ODS or LFRT.

The ODS agreement is when the doctor's office controls the contact lens sales and is responsible for all staffing within their practice, including front-desk staff and technicians.

The LFRT model is a great option for a younger optometrist who doesn't necessarily want to recruit, hire, and develop their own staff. In this model, independent practice owners do not sell contact lenses and staffing support is provided.

I prefer the ODS model as I like to hand pick staff members who share my philosophies within the practice. However, the ODS model is a lot more work. The LFRT model, like the Macy's model, is much more turnkey.

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Misconceptions of practicing with Luxottica

Although some misconceptions still exist when it comes to partnering with large companies in the industry, I do feel that Luxottica, as well as other affiliated brands, are more accepted today than they were years ago. I feel these misconceptions are rooted in ignorance. It is easy to read something on social media or hear something from a colleague and call it the truth.

In my 10-year affiliation with LensCrafters, I have never had my professional judgement questioned and was never asked to do a refraction-only exam. On the topic of medical optometry, it is up to the individual doctor, not the name on the building, to decide whether they want to practice the medical model or not.

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Work-Life Balance

I equate starting and running a business to raising a child. Maybe some people won't like that analogy; however, there are a lot of similarities.

The first few years of life, a child needs their parent(s) 100% of the time. A business does too. You have to feed it, nurture it, and spend an exorbitant amount of time with it for it to survive. Your work-life balance is very skewed for the first few years. If somebody doesn't want to make that sacrifice, then owning an independent sublease practice (or private practice for that matter) is probably not for them. My wife was my number-one supporter during this time. She had to make these sacrifices as well, as I had to work a lot of weekends and holidays.

At some point, the practice grows so much that you hit a critical mass where you have to do something different to continue to yield growth. In an optometry practice, that is adding more staff and associate doctors to payroll. What that allowed me to do was continue to work on the practice and not in the practice. Now that I have a team of doctors working with me, my work-life balance is much more even.

Support from Luxottica

When starting out as a practice owner, your sphere of connections may be limited and finding optometrist coverage when you need to be away can be challenging. Luxottica tries to help sublease holders with this challenge. Every sublease doctor has a Senior Eye Care Director assigned to them. This person's role is to serve as a bridge between the doctor and LensCrafters.

Their influence is immense and they can easily source doctors who may be willing and able to help out with coverage. In addition, Luxottica Eye Care has a whole recruiting department that can help a sublease doctor post a job listing to all of the major career websites (including CovalentCareers) and help them find an associate OD when needed.

And the resources do not end there! One of the greatest tools that is given to us as sublease holders is Luxottica’s online scheduler, TAB. Fifty percent of the appointments getting booked in our offices are booked online. TAB is the tool that allows somebody to navigate lenscrafters.com and to book their appointment online. TAB also allows us to increase our search engine optimization (SEO) to funnel people into the practice. We also use TAB for patient recall communications which automatically reminds people of their appointment by either sending them a postcard, email, phone call, or text.

My relationship with Luxottica is highly collaborative. We want the same things: to provide the best care possible to the patients, deliver a great experience, and to grow our respective businesses. If I collaborate with Luxottica on a corporate level and on a store level, then I will succeed too. Both sides need to be fully invested in not only the success of their own business, but also the success in the other one's business.

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My experience opening additional practices

I acquired my second location in Natick in 2015. I had five years of experience running one location under my belt and I felt I was ready for expansion. The location of the second office was ideal as I lived in between the two offices.

Getting the second location up and running was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I was always present at the first office, so I knew everything that was going on there. Expanding to the second office was when I had to start trusting other people to do what was asked in my absence. I wasn't good at that at first, and I was probably the one holding the second location back initially.

Needless to say, the experience that I gained with picking up the second location helped me tremendously when I acquired my third and fourth locations. This may sound crazy, but I feel like the more locations that I have, the more in control I feel. The practice has become a function of systems. The staff and doctors are trained to follow these systems, and I educate them on why the systems need to be followed.

Success outside the exam room

Partnering with Luxottica provides ample opportunity to get involved in optometry outside the lane. I was selected as a Master OD as part of Luxottica’s Connect to Grow Program which is all about peer-to-peer connections and learning. This was a great experience and one that I am thankful to be a part of.

This program is another example of the resources that Luxottica is making available to their ODs and it is getting rolled out to markets as we speak. Last summer, LensCrafters selected 15-20 sublease doctors from around the country and flew us down to Clearwater, Florida to build the Connect to Grow program from the ground up.

While there, I realized that I still had a lot to learn as some of my peers in this program were brilliant doctors and business owners for way longer than I have been. In between our meetings, I found myself asking these fellow doctors how they manage their practices. I was a kid in a candy store gobbling up practice pearls that I could bring back to my own business. I hope the Connect to Grow Program that we built will inspire other doctors the way it inspired me during the creation process of the program.

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Qualities independent practice owners should possess

As far as the qualities coming from within oneself: flexibility is key. There are a lot of variables that need to be tended to and being too rigid can cause strain on everyone involved. Other qualities that are important to be successful (but not limited to) include a strong work ethic, being able to work with lots of different personalities, strong communication skills, as well as organizational skills.

With the rising costs of higher education today, young optometrists are riddled with significantly more debt than the older generation of ODs. Due to that, the younger optometrists are more hampered financially where it may limit them from starting or buying a private practice.

Optometrists who want to be in business for themselves need to look at independent practice subleases as the better option. You can have the practice that you want to run without the financial hardships! If an OD doesn't have to run an optical it can allow them to grow their services more, which can be a focus on dry eye syndrome, myopia management, ocular nutrition, and wellness, etc. I get a sense that is what the younger optometrists yearn for more anyways.

Some people can prevent themselves from doing extraordinary things because of their own insecurities. I have had colleagues pass up on great opportunities presented to them because they feared they would fail. If fear drives you, you may remain passive your whole life.

Dr. Pariya Shamsaee—Target Optical Chula Vista, CA

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When I first started practicing I wanted to dabble in different companies and test the waters so I had a few different part time jobs. The quality of Luxottica compared to the other companies quickly stood out.

I got started with my Target Optical practice in Chula Vista, California in August 2017. Since I can remember, I have always been a Target super fan. I remember seeing a Target Optical out of state when I was on my rotations and since then it has been my dream to have one.

I thought it would be at a later point in my career because Target Opticals were few and far between in San Diego. I recall partaking in an online chat with CovalentCareers about being interested in Target Optical in the future but never thought anything would come of it. A short period of time passed by and the CovalentCareers recruiting team reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in a Chula Vista Target Optical. Everything took off from there!

It was actually a goal of mine to open my practice in Chula Vista because of the large Spanish-speaking community; I went to Optometry School in Puerto Rico primarily to learn Spanish. I knew that I would be able to help that community greatly and this was extremely important to me.

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My practice vision

My motto has always been to give my patients the same care that I would want my family to have. Quality is very important to me. I knew that having my own practice was the best way to achieve that. I like to take my time with patients. I don’t want them to feel rushed. That is something I still dislike when I go to my own doctor’s appointments. Patients really appreciate being listened to and it helps them feel the quality of care.

I am and have always been a Target girl (some may say I’m obsessed) so I can really relate to my patients here. We appreciate the one-stop-shop in a community setting. I also feel like being in a Target allows for a more relaxed atmosphere and I feel that being a little more laid back puts patients at ease. Every week I have patients who come in who are nervous or are worried about answering questions correctly during the refraction and I feel that the environment and taking time with patients reassures them, which provides an enjoyable experience.

As a world-renowned brand, Luxottica is an expert on the business aspects of running an eyecare practice. They have some requirements as it relates to their independent practice partners but they give you all the tools and flexibility to make it your own. They make things easy for their optometrist partners from staffing the optical to providing equipment, an EHR, and marketing materials. Luxottica provides you with all of these tools because they want to give patients a great experience from the moment they enter your practice to the moment they leave the optical.

Target hangs a banner outside when looking to hire new employees that says, “work somewhere you love,” and I can honestly say I walk in to work every day and love the environment I am in. Target’s environment, employees, easy return process, products, and featured lines are all reflected in Optical.

We share the same policies as the Target store. Target team members are like extended family—they are excited to have us on their team and help market for us whether it’s talking to guests at checkout or handing out flyers at their register. Our Optical team is helpful and eager to help guests. So we all share the same mission of “creating an exceptional guest experience” and are “committed to the communities we share.”

Misconceptions of working with Luxottica

I had my own misconceptions about optometry in a retail setting. Obviously, when working for a company or another employer, you have to abide by their rules and how they set up their exams. That said, Luxottica gives us freedom and encourages us to practice to the full scope that we are comfortable.

In fact, I know several doctors who work for Luxottica and have integrated their own specialties into their practice. Whether that's dry eye workshops, ortho-k, or even vision therapy, the choice is up to you. Luxottica has never restricted or discouraged me from practicing to the scope that I am comfortable.

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Understanding the independent practice setting

In a Target sublease, the optical staff is hired by Luxottica. I am lucky to have the best Optical manager in the region. She hires her own staff. They help me tremendously by scheduling appointments and checking in my patients on arrival. From there, I pre-test the patient and perform the exam.

Upon completion, I collect the exam fee. I then bring the prescription to an optical team member while walking out the patient, and facilitate the handoff by going over my recommendations for glasses/contacts with the patient and optician. The Optical team member then records the prescription on their end and gives patients options as it relates to different lens materials.

We are separate entities but help each other a lot. I step in and help the Optical team as well, whether it’s dispensing glasses or helping a guest choose frames. We work as a team because in the end we share the same goals of wanting to provide the best experience for our patients.

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Work-life balance

This is something I’m still trying to master. For me, it largely comes down to accepting help. I tried doing everything myself at first and once I accepted help, I was able to enjoy both work and life a lot more. Having reliable fill-in doctors is a tremendous help. I also found it beneficial to hire someone to submit insurance claims. Claims are easy to file but they are time-consuming. For me, hiring someone was well worth the expense and freed up time on my days off.

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Challenges of this model and support from Luxottica

I didn’t have the slightest clue about starting or owning a business. Luxottica quickly connected me to colleagues in the area and I would not have been successful without them. Luxottica also had helpful conference calls for onboarding and an encyclopedia-like manual with checklists and contacts to prepare for opening.

I feel very free as an independent practice owner with Luxottica. We have a manager/corporate visits throughout the year and quarterly conference calls. Luxottica is always eager to know what they can do for us and they provide us with feedback on how we can improve.

During our calls, they share a lot of statistical reviews, which are highly informative and help us identify our strengths and weaknesses. I also have monthly reviews with my Optical manager where we go over the next month’s game plan, whether it’s scheduling or marketing.

Luxottica gives their ODs a lot of freedom. Our businesses both feed each other so you should be prepared to work retail hours. You’ll want to be available for patients; the typical target shopper will walk in during weekends and late evenings.

It’s empowering to have your own business and I’ve learned so much about it in every aspect. I’ve also learned that patients respond well to seeing a passionate and thorough doctor. So, in the end, you will get out what you put in.

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One of the largest ophthalmic companies in the world that provides eyecare professionals job opportunities across many well known brands in employed, sublease, or franchise opportunities in the United States and Canada.

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About Antonio Chirumbolo, OD

Antonio works in Client Marketing at CovalentCareers. His passions are everything and anything digital media.


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