By Dr. Trevor Miranda. 

Dr. Miranda contributes his thoughts and perspectives on the topic of Independent Eye Care Practice in Eye Care Business Canada. This post is his first contribution to the series. Check out all of Dr. Miranda’s articles in Independent Insights category.

Today’s term “Independent Optometrist” has been hijacked by almost every form of practice.

Practitioners next to Lenscrafters, inside of big box stores and practicing in solo and group practices all have seized the phrase “independent optometrist” to describe their mode of practice. I would like to think I am an independent optometrist. Free to practice how I see fit with the equipment, products, staff, fees and culture that I feel suits my practice preferences.

What does it mean to be “independent”? What are the benefits and risks of being truly independent?

Dealing with Complexity
As a parent of three adult children, my goal has always been to raise independent kids. Today’s world is intricate and complex, full of nuanced relationships and global challenges. Might a better goal be to raise children that are capable of independence through interdependence? By this, I mean being stronger as an individual by learning and collaborating with others.

Can we apply the same goal to our optometric professional careers? Learning, collaborating and networking are basic tenets of excellence. In my career, I have learned processes and skills from those practitioners that have consistently shown excellence in their practice and personal lives. Learning is important but implementation is even more important to benefit from the learnings.

How to Collaborate
There are many ways to collaborate within the profession. Join your provincial and national professional associations. Be an active member and take on committee chair or Board positions. Join a buying/training network; I am part of Eye Recommend and have consistently gleaned practice management nuggets from my peers during an ER conference or get-togethers. Join a small business optometric group; I am part of a “mastermind” type group called Quantum where we share professional and personal challenges and collaborate with best practices and share the “group mind”. I am also part of our regional “BIG” (Business Influence Group). This group discusses all matters of optometry from HR and staffing issues to tricks and tips to maximize opportunities and practice enjoyment.

Today’s uber-competitive retail environment requires independent practitioners to collaborate with manufacturer suppliers. Choosing such partners requires careful consideration. Does an independent optometrist fit all contact lenses? Does the clinic deal with multiple spectacle lens companies? Does joining a buying group reduce the cost of goods and improve choices? These questions need to be answered but the most important question is what is best for the patient?

The Role of Bias
 It has always amazed me when one clinic can sell one brand of glasses and a clinic across the street feels like that frame line “doesn’t sell”.

Even at the same store, different opticians may have a bias towards certain products which can result in vastly different styles and designs of optical products that are sold.

Most professional sales personnel don’t usually have such a wide choice of similar products to choose from. For instance, a car salesperson for Lexus has a limited product offering and must understand and highlight the features and benefits of Lexus, not Mercedes.

Choose Your Supplier Companies Carefully
Limiting the product offering to excellent products and allowing very occasional ‘off menu’ choices in exceptional circumstances can improve staff product knowledge, increase supplier investment in your clinic and reduce costs in shipping and reduce costs of goods.

Choose your contact lens, spectacle lens and frame manufacturers carefully. Which companies support your independent practice ideals? Do these companies compete with your clinic at a retail level? Do they have products available online at a retail level? Do they help keep repeat orders through your independent OD channels?

The inter-dependence of suppliers and independent optometrists relies on careful consideration on choosing your supplier partners. Every purchase you make from a supplier is a proxy for your future success.

I recommend picking two suppliers in each category and deepening your partnerships. This existential dilemma will only increase as manufacturers continue to supply optometrists on the wholesale side while attempting to compete for our patients on the retail side.

Next Level Collaboration
Might the future survival of truly independent practices rely on cross-equity partnerships where independent clinics own pieces of other independent clinics? Might this joint ownership model allow for better pricing through a master account so independents can compete on a level playing field with corporate accounts to lower product acquisition costs?

I am a big believer in the future of independent optometry. Independents can truly keep the patient’s best interests at the top of the pyramid while curating partnerships with industry and partnerships with other like-minded clinics. Independence through interdependence!

 

DR. TREVOR MIRANDA

Dr. Miranda is a partner in a multi-doctor, five-location practice on Vancouver Island.

He is a strong advocate for true Independent Optometry.

As a serial entrepreneur, Trevor is constantly testing different patient care and business models at his various locations. Many of these have turned out to be quite successful, to the point where many of his colleagues have adopted them into their own practices.


Share:
Rate:

5 / 5. 1

Are you considering starting or buying a new optometric practice? Being an independent eye care professional doesn’t mean you’re alone trying to figure out the day-to-day challenges of running a practice.  By leveraging the power of numbers, today’s buying groups have evolved from providing ‘just a discount’ to offering a full array of resources and tools for the new independent optometric practice.

With so many diverse groups to choose from, the choice (and exactly which group to join), can be a challenge. To determine the right group for your practice, ask yourself the following questions:

  •  What do I want from my group? What is it I need the most help with? Discounts? Marketing? Financial management? Education? All of the above?
  •  What type of group do I want to join? One that offers just good discounts? Or am I interested in education and networking opportunities with other practice owners?
  •  Who are the vendors in my group? Do they align with my offerings?
  •  How is the group managed? Do I still make the purchasing decisions? Will my practice remain autonomous? Do I need to report my earnings?

Let’s take a closer look at the key buying groups available the country – each offering programs to support your business, save you money and help you succeed. The question is – which one is the best fit for you?

The Optical Group

For 33 years, The Optical Group has been servicing eye care professionals across Canada. With over 600 clinics, this group offers discounts, consolidated monthly billing, marketing, private label product and education. Recently, The Optical Group has partnered with New Look Vision Group to offer members a broader range of services.

“Not only do our members enjoy great discounts and programs, but they also receive industry leading customer service and care. We also believe in giving back. We support Seneca and Douglas college opticianry programs in addition to our Business Enrichment Grant,” says Ruth Priebe, Director of Operations, The Optical Group.

The Optical Group negotiates with over 110 vendors providing members with exclusive discounts and programs.

Members will benefit from the group’s multiple programs including website and digital marketing, social media and SEO (search engine optimization) to help promote members’ practices. In addition, accredited education including events and webinars are also part of the offering.

Members have access to a new and improved website that provides more in-depth information on available programs.

Founded: 1988
Division of Private Canadian Corporation
Membership: 600 clinics
National
$300 annual fee for first location only
www.theopticalgroupcanada.com

OSI Group

OSI is the original quintessential buying group in the Canadian landscape, having originated over 35 years ago.

OSI Group offers a wide range of training and services (financial, marketing, technology, for example). It also strives to prepare for the next generation of professionals, supporting young professionals who are starting their own business and helping those who are retiring to hand over their practice to another member.  Younger ODs looking for a practice mentor and have an interest in migrating to ownership of an existing practice may find this option of interest.

“One of the major benefits of our buying group is of course the possibility of obtaining advantageous prices from certain suppliers and access to our private brands of contact lenses and our collection of Avenue Eyewear frames,” says CEO Patrice Lacoste.

OSI Group helps independents compete with the big chains. “What sets us apart is our Optosys® clinic management platform, the latest version of which we launched last November,” adds Patrice Lacoste. This all-in-one system makes it possible to streamline the management of areas such as appointments, orders, patient relations, inventory, and sales.

“In a context of labour shortage, the automation of certain tasks frees up a lot of workers’ time,” says Lacoste. Members can choose to use a number of modules of the platform, depending on their needs.

Founded: 1982
Private corporation
Membership:  1,600 members in over 850 clinics
National
No membership fee
www.opto.com

Eye Recommend

Eye Recommend

With a focus on training networking, technology, and shared resources, Eye Recommend (ER) was founded in 2001 in Alberta but has since expanded to over 1,300 optometrists coast to coast. Their mission is to support independent optometrists by providing freedom of choice, business management and personal resources to ensure practice success.

Lee Raffey, newly appointed CEO says that Eye Recommend is member focused. “We encourage networking and sharing of ideas amongst our members and leverage the power of our network to bring the best technology, resources, and services in order to enhance the business performance of each practice. Before making a decision, we always ask – ‘How will this benefit our members?.

ER members benefit from choices with a variety of business solutions, consolidated monthly billing, suppliers’ discounts and, exclusive access to Doctor Recommends (D|R) lenses. With over 500 clinics across Canada, ER has considerable power to provide members with the resources needed to be successful.

Each practice has a dedicated certified business coach and trainer who, as a combined team, provide hands on support. These optical industry experts work to help identify opportunities and challenges to assist in the overall success of the practice.

ER conducts one of the most comprehensive training events for practice owners and staff called National Training Event. These events are led by industry professionals who have years of training experience. Two events are held yearly– one in the West and one in the East – featuring guest speakers, accredited continuing education, and team building.

Founded: 2001
Membership:  Full scope optometry only
Registered Alberta Co-operative
1,300 ECPs, 531 practices
National (excluding Quebec)
$1,000 one-time administration fee per clinic
www.eyerecommend.ca

 

Digital ECPDigital ECP

Digital ECP Inc. offers Canadian eye care professionals business solutions that save members time and money. Their focus is offering flexible payment programs and access to supplier’s discounts and support.

Founder and President, Karen Ouellette provides a summary: “Many of our members come to us by word of mouth, recommended by colleagues or suppliers. Our members are independent and have the choice on who they want to purchase from. We offer access to promos and discounts to over 80 suppliers”.

The group features many offerings on the financial side. Members gain access to suppliers’ promos, discounts, and product training. In addition, billing is consolidated in one monthly statement. Members may choose to pay their bill early for a prompt payment discount. In addition, this group offers the flexibility of split terms: Members can split their bill over 30, 60 or 90 days.  Particularly in a start-up situation, this benefit can be helpful for cash management

Founded: 2014
Membership: Opticians and Optometry
Privately owned Canadian Corporation
78 ECPs
National (Excluding Quebec)
One-time Membership fee: $150
www.digitalecp.com

Do Your Homework
There are many buying groups to choose from, so do your research to find a group that best aligns with your business needs.

Speak to your colleagues, and other group members. Some groups focus predominantly on financial (consolidated billing, discounts, and inventory tools); others focus on marketing, coaching, and training; and some do a bit of both. Finding the one that best suits your practice will take a bit of time, but it’s a step towards your practice’s success.

Note: The above mentioned organizations operate in English Canada. Among these four, only OSI operates extensively in Quebec.  Readers interested in the buying groups servicing the Quebec market are referred to a feature article in Optik Magazine

 


Share:
Rate:

0 / 5. 0