This is a sponsored post by Vision Source, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎
It's October 31st, 2015. Everything seemed to happen so quickly that I hadn’t even taken off my jacket when my lawyer started to slide documents toward me.
I'm sitting on one side of a long table holding a pen. Just to my right is my childhood optometrist, the person who wrote my letter of recommendation to get into optometry school, who in a few strokes of his pen is about to sign over to me the practice he spent his whole career building.
I remember this overwhelming sense of not knowing what was going to happen next, but knowing my entire life was about to change.
In the next 2 months, I would have repeated this process another two times.
When I graduated from optometry school in May 2013, I didn't have a clear path for my career.
I didn't know what kind of optometrist I wanted to be.
I didn't even really know if I had a job.
All I knew is that someday I hoped to have a practice of my own.
It took a lot of support to get to this place. Lawyers, accountants, and an ownership team of two other doctors. My family played a major role as well, especially my accountant wife who had to come to accept an even larger amount of debt. However there was another source of support during this time as well—a group called Vision Source.
As a new grad optometrist, we are continually getting acquainted with our new surroundings. Whether it's gaining familiarity with the products and tools of the trade, managing staffs for the first time, or treating those difficult cases we’ve never seen in the chair before.
So for many of you, Vision Source might be a name you’ve heard of but don't have much familiarity with. Every practice owner needs to consider their own situation and make the best decision they can.
Here is why we chose to be a part of Vision Source and how it has allowed our offices to flourish.
First off, we have to start with the basics. What is Vision Source? Vision Source is an affiliation of private practice eye doctors that unite to make some business decisions together as a collective unit. What I think is important to distinguish (and what most members find most important) is that there’s is no directive on how each practice operates their independent business. That unification is often thought of as buying power (aka buying in bulk), but it extends beyond that.
Being a part of a team
I've be exposed to a lot of different pathology and complex cases so far in my career.
When you are just starting out, that can be extremely overwhelming and nerve-racking. So when I graduated from school, I kept up with my classmates with one massive group text message chain. We would post cases or questions to the group and everybody would add their input.
This was so important for me to have that familiar support when I was just starting out.
However, as the days went along, those posts became fewer and fewer. I found my support group was decreasing. Joining Vision Source gave me a new network to lean on. Instead of texting my classmates, I was texting my Vision Source colleagues.
This is the best part of Vision Source for a new grad - being part of a support system.
Vision Source doctors pride themselves on being innovators and leaders in the field. By being part of the same team, you have frequent interactions with those leaders which can foster the support, guidance, network, and opportunities that a new graduate needs.
Vision Source has even tried to facilitate these conversations with the new Vision Source Live.VS Live takes the usual Vision Source member directory and adds a social component to it – think of it like the Vision Source version of Facebook.
Take the hassle out of the haggle
The vast majority of us probably didn't also graduate from business school or happen to be business savants, which makes the operations, management, and marketing aspects of optometry daunting.
This is where you can leverage the collective strength of Vision Source to your advantage.
When you first enter a practice you have this vision in your head of how you want to practice to run. Implementing that vision, especially in an already existing practice, can be difficult. First, I needed patients to know I existed and to know I had something valuable to offer. Second, I needed my staff to believe in me and share in my vision. Third, I needed to create a sustainable business model to keep that vision going.
This is where I leaned on Vision Source to help my practices grow.
Here are some of the main ways Vision Source has helped in the marketing and management of our practices.
1) We have utilized the website development to gain a web presence for our practices we did not have before.
The search engine optimization built into the website design also helps get your name pushed up on web search results getting your information to the people looking for it. We also utilize the Vision Source marketing tools for Facebook as we try to connect with our patients on a more social level.
2) Training staff.
I find the staffing and management side to be one of the more difficult aspects of the optometry business and where I look for the most outside help.
We were able to do staff trainings on Vision Source learning to give our staff (especially new hires) the tools to succeed. The Vision Source Optical Dream program can be utilized, especially for new offices, to create a systemic approach to contact lens and spectacle sales. To repeat a point from earlier, Vision Source is not monolithic. We have taken some of these management ideas and spun them into our own way that fits for our practices.
3) Negotiating better prices.
Vision Source provides us with negotiated, discounted rates on frames, lenses, and contact lenses, which allows small practices like ours to better compete with large retailers.
There is also special pricing not only with equipment and practice management vendors as you would expect, but even companies like FedEx and Office Depot. Those incentives and pricing are even better for brand new offices.
One of the partner vendors we utilize in our office is DemandForce, which helps us with patient retention, scheduling, recalls, and reviews.
Our offices, like many others, believe that we provide an elite customer experience that provides value. When we can combine that with competitive prices against any competitor, we feel like our practice has a strong business model going forward.
The Exchange is Vision Source’s annual meeting. It's where Vision Source doctors from across the country get together to learn and exchange ideas on the brand as well as hear about leading edge innovations and products.
Here's the thing - it's actually kind of awesome.
Companies give product speeches about what new products they are going to be unveiling, but instead of a nice PowerPoint, they go for it.
It's like a scene out of Silicon Valley. Loud rock music starts blasting through the speakers. Fireworks explode on the edges of the podium. NFL cheerleaders run onto the stage followed by the company’s intrepid CEO who shouts “Who’s excited to hear about Ultra Wide-Field Digital Photography!” Which is met with restrained polite applause from the room (this is still a meeting after all).
This is really a meeting that's focused on the business aspects of optometry - what do you need to know to run a great practice and what are the tools that can help you get there. This meeting, like no other I have been to, is where the exhibit hall with the vendors thrives. You get a lot of hands-on, one-on-one time with each product you've ever heard about, been interested in, or are considering for your office.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, Vision Source is just a choice for your current or future practice. It’s a question to ask yourself - is my success improved by utilizing the resources outline here or am I better off without it. Vision Source may not be right for everyone and it may not be right for you.
However, for myself and for many practices out there - Vision Source is the right fit.