IRIS, The Visual Group, continues to consolidate their national footprint with the with renewal of partnerships in British Columbia and Guelph, Ontario.

The group currently has 32 locations in BC, 13 in Ontario and over 100 across the country.

Strengthened Position in BC
New partnerships were announced for Vancouver Island locations in Parksville and Langford, BC.

Parksville IRIS

In Parksville, Optometrist Dr. Adam Reid and Optician Manager, Tammy Baker  are the new shareholders, along with IRIS. The locations has a longstanding record of success for over 20 years with the previous IRIS partner, the late Dr. Gerald Trees.

Dr. Adam Reid, originally from Bowden, Alberta is a Pacific University School of Optometry graduate, and has been practicing Optometry at IRIS for 8.5 years

Tammy Baker, originally from Clearwater, BC graduated from the NAIT optician program in 1996. Baker joined IRIS 29 years ago and transferred from the lower mainland to Vancouver Island in 2007. She has been managing the Parksville location since December 2014.

The Langford IRIS location, near Victoria BC, has been a success since its first inception 22 years ago.

Dr. Robert McLaughlin, originally from the UK, was a professional physicist holding a PhD from Cambridge University prior to becoming an Optometrist.

IRIS TEAM Langford BC
IRIS Team in Langford BC

After five years in practice in the UK, he re-located to Calgary where he practiced for eight years. In that time, he worked with Ophthalmologist Dr. Al-Ghoul developing a Dry Eye specialty clinic. While in Alberta he was a council member on the board of the Alberta College of Optometrists.

As a passionate advocate for scope expansion, Dr. McLaughlin completed the Oklahoma College of Optometry’s advanced procedures course.  He relocated to Victoria, BC two years ago. The warm hospitality, outstanding patient care and strong leadership of the successful Langford IRIS team, inspired Dr. Mc Laughlin to partner into his location.

In the IRIS partnership model each location is a separate legal entity and the shareholders only participate in dividends from that specific location.

 

Ontario Location Merges nearby Optical Practice
In Ontario, Optician Elena Klotz has merged her store, Edge Opticians into the downtown Guelph IRIS location

Edge Opticians, a family business, was founded seven years ago while the IRIS location in downtown Guelph was the result of an acquisition of the longstanding Scott Coburn Optical store by IRIS in 2021. The new combined business will operate in the existing IRIS location.

Guelph IRIS

“The IRIS vision of providing high-quality products to patients/clients is what most appealed to me. Having a support network while still maintaining the flavour of my individual practice was also appealing.” said Klotz.

Klotz is a third-generation eye care professional; her father was an Optometrist and mother an Optician. She has been an Optician for over 25 years having trained at Georgian College. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Guelph.

The new IRIS partnership consists of ownership of shares in an Ontario registered corporation that holds the assets of the downtown Guelph location only.  Elena Klotz will receive dividends based on the profit of this individual location and participate in the appreciation of value of that specific practice as it grows. Elena will also receive a salary as the location’s Managing Optician.


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Career Pathfinders

The employment market in eye care has always been a challenge but today, catalyzed by the new opportunities from eyecare organizations eager to acquire new talent, the challenges, options and opportunities are greater than ever.

An overview of the employment situation will be shared with attendees as well as some sage advice from employment gurus.

Hiring organizations will provide insights into their culture and benefits. Attendees will be able to meet with the leaders behind Canada’s largest organizations and get first-hand perspectives. OD members of the Canada’s largest optometric buying groups share their perspectives on independent optometry. 

This interactive event is ideal for early career stage eye care practitioners looking to chart their course and those, at any career stage, considering upon a change in direction.

SPEAKERS:

  • Tim Brennan, Chief Innovation Officer, FitFirst Technologies
  • Dr. Michael Naugle, VP Optometric Partnerships, FYidoctors
  • Dr. Daryan Angle, VP Business Development, IRIS Group
  • Dr. Laurie Lesser, Eyecare Director,  Canada/UK, Bailey Nelson
  • Nicholas Perry, Cofounder & Managing Director, Canada/UK, Bailey Nelson
  • Dr. Kyla Hunter, Aurora Eye Care, Grande Prairie, AB , Eye Recommend
  • Dr. Trevor Miranda, Cowichan Eyecare BC
  • Dr. Maria Sampalis, Founder & Owner, Corporate Optometry
  • Naomi Barber, BOptom, Director of Optometry, Specsavers

All events will be hosted and moderated Roxanne Arnal, OD, Certified Financial Planner. Dr. Arnal brings a unique combination of experience as a former independent practice owner and certified financial planner to the proceedings.

Mingle with your colleagues and presenters in conversation rooms following the presentations.

INTERACTIVE MEETING FORMAT, INCLUDING:

  • Presentations and Moderated Panel discussions
  • Private Video Chat tables
  • Interactive Text Chat
  • Direct Links to valuable information

Event registration is now open. Click Here for Details. 

PREMIER SPONSORS

 

 

 

PARTNER & FRIEND SPONSORS FOR THIS EVENT  

       

 

 

 

 

 

Events in the Series:  

Registration for the first event Monday October 25th,  “Technology Drivers of Change” is still open. Click here for detailed information on this event. 

Registration for the second event Monday November 1st,  “Selling & Buying a Practice” is still open.  Click here for detailed information on this event. 

Click here to register for any of the Changing Landscape Events 


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Buying & Selling a Practice

The second event of the “Changing Landscapes: Opportunities & Options for Canadian ECPs” will focus on Selling & Buying a Practice and will be held Monday November 1st (7:30 PM Eastern).

The Canadian market has experienced transformational change in the past year.

Major players have had substantial capital injection and new Canadian market entrants are making their play for market share, creating more opportunities and options for Canadian ECPs.

Join leaders and spokespersons from the world of independent optometry supported by B+L and major eye care groups/organizations including IRIS, FYidoctors, Vision Alliance Corporation, OSI/SOI, Eye Recommend and, new to Canada, Specsavers. ROI Corporation, Canada’s leading health practice brokerage will also share their experience.

This event is a must-attend for any practitioner looking to exit their business, start a new practice or formulate a strategic partnership.

Speaker List Includes:

  • Jackie Joachim, Chief Operating Officer, ROI Corporation
  • Dr. Daryan Angle, VP Business Development, IRIS Group
  • Dr. Wes McCann, Central Optometry, ON, Eye Recommend
  • Dr. Michael Naugle, VP Optometric Partnerships, FYidoctors
  • Gord McFarlane, Managing Director of Corporate Development, FYidoctors
  • Dr. Skylar Feltis, YXE Vision Group, SK, OSI Group
  • Dr. Warren Toews, YXE Vision Group, SK, OSI Group
  • Dr. Trevor Miranda, Cowichan Eyecare, BC, Independent Practice
  • Dr. Robert Allaway, Chief Optometry Officer, Vision Alliance Corporation
  • Mike Protopsaltis, Partnerships Director, Specsavers 

The event series will be moderated by Roxanne Arnal, OD and Certified Financial Planner (TM), bringing an informed and unique perspective to the events.

Event registration is now open. Click Here for Details. 

PREMIER SPONSORS

 
SpecSavers  

 

PARTNER & FRIEND SPONSORS FOR THIS EVENT  

 
Digital ECP  

Follow up Events: 

The final event in the series will be held Monday November 8th  7:30 PM (Eastern). 

Career Pathfinders| Making Informed Choices (November 8th)  
Career options and opportunities for both young and experienced ODs have never been greater as new organizations offering unique business models enter the market and established entities respond to the changing environment.
Click Here for Detailed Information.

Registration for the first event Monday October 25th,  “Technology Drivers of Change” is open. 
Click here for detailed information on this event.  

Click here to register for any of the Changing Landscape Events 


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Technology rivers of Change

The speaker list for the inaugural  “Changing Landscapes: Opportunities & Options for Canadian ECPs” event has been announced by Eye Care Business Canada.  

The first of three events will focus on technology drivers of change and be held Monday October 25th (7:30 PM Eastern). 
Industry thought-leaders will share their insights as to what technologies will have the greatest impact on eye care and eyewear in a Canadian market context.  

Speaker List Includes:

  • Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO and Chairman of the Board, FYidoctors
  • Dr. David Schwirtz, VP Innovation, IRIS Group
  • Dr. Trevor Miranda, Cowichan Eyecare BC, Independent Optometrist
  • Dr. Damon Umscheid, Eyes 360, Okotoks, AB, Eye Recommend
  • Naomi Barber, Director of Optometry, SpecSavers

The event series will be moderated by Roxanne Arnal, OD and Certified Financial Planner (TM), bringing an informed and unique perspective to the events.

Tele-optometry, impact of omni-channel selling and remote face trace technology enabling touchless ophthalmic lens dispensing are among the factors to be discussed.  

Event registration is now open. Click Here for Details. 

PREMIER SPONSORS

Eye Recommend  
SpecSavers  

PARTNER & FRIEND SPONSORS FOR THIS EVENT  

Digital ECP
       

Follow up Events: 

The second and third events will be held on consecutive Monday evenings starting at 7:30 PM (Eastern). 

Selling & Buying a Practice (November 1) 
In the second event Industry experts will provide perspectives on the current state of play in the Canadian practice acquisition market. A must attend event if you are considering an exit strategy or looking to buy a practice. 
Click Here for Detailed Information.

Career Pathfinders: Making Informed Choices (November 8th)  
Career options and opportunities for both young and experienced ODs have never been greater as new organizations offering unique business models enter the market and established entities respond to the changing environment.
Click Here for Detailed Information. 

Click here to register for any of the Changing Landscape Events 

 


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Dr. David Schwirtz, Optometrist, Vice President Innovation, IRIS the Visual Group, shares his views on technology advances and the importance of ensuring that technology remains at the centre of patient care, creating a better experience for both the patient and the practitioner.

 


About the Guest

Dr. Schwirtz joined IRIS the Visual Group in 2009 as a clinician and completed a residency in 2010.  

In more recent years, Dr. Schwirtz has continued to serve IRIS The Visual Group as a Vice President.  In the past, his responsibilities have included Professional Relations, Medical Affairs, Regulatory Affairs and Professional Development.  Today, he continues his leadership role at IRIS as Vice President of Innovation and Head of Innovation for New Look Vision Group.

Outside of his executive role at IRIS, Dr. Schwirtz remains active as a practicing optometrist in the network and adjunct assistant clinical professor for his alma mater, Pacific University College of Optometry.

 

 


Episode Notes

Dr. David Schwirtz is a self-confessed technology nerd, with a keen sense of technology’s role in the patient journey.

He discusses the challenges of implementing new technologies particularly from the perspective a large corporation, where not all stakeholders move at the same pace of adoption.

Dr. Schwirtz details how the pandemic accelerated plans that had already been in place and, yet, how a brick and mortar structure provided resilience to their initiatives.

Specifically, he delves into IRIS’s ongoing relationship with Topology which provides a comfortable “perfect fit” with extreme accuracy, outside of the walls of a conventional practice.

He shares the vision of where Topology technology can take the group.

Resources

 

Dr. Glen Chiasson

Dr. Glen Chiasson

Dr. Glen Chiasson is a 1995 graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Optometry. He owns and manages two practices in Toronto. In 2009, he co-hosted a podcast produced for colleagues in eye care, the “International Optometry Podcast”. He is a moderator of the Canadian Optometry Group, an email forum for Canadian optometrists. As  a host of  “Eyes Wide Open”, Glenn  looks forward to exploring new new technologies and services for eye care professionals.

Dr. Chiasson enjoys tennis, hockey, and reading. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

Dr. Chiasson splits EWO podcast hosting duties with Roxanne Arnal.


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By store count, Canada’s largest optical and eye care organization, the NEW LOOK VISION GROUP announced plans to take the corporation private and and alleviate the onerous burden of public company reporting. Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP Business Development introduces the new investors and talks about the rational for the move with Eyes Wide Open Podcast host, Dr. Glen Chiasson.

 

 


About the Guest

Dr. Daryan Angle graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in 2001. He joined IRIS in 2002 as a practicing optometrist in British Columbia, and shortly thereafter became a franchise partner with IRIS. In 2006 Dr. Angle relocated to Ontario. He currently holds the title of Vice President Business Development and in that role, primarily focuses on buying, partnering and integrating optical stores and optometry practices into the IRIS network.

 


Episode Notes

With over 400 locations and five banners including IRIS, New Look, Vogue, Greiche & Scaff  and Edward Beiner (USA), the New Look Vision Group is the largest optical and eye care entity in Canada.

The New Look group recently announced the company will remove itself from the Toronto Stock Exchange and be taken private through a $50 cash per share purchase by an investor group headed by a US-based private equity firm and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).

Dr. Daryan Angle, representing New Look, provides insights to the pros and cons of being a public company and how New Look will benefit from the new structure.

Angle explains why the New Look President & CEO, Antoine Amiel, attributed being a publicly traded company to a “quarterly strip-tease”.

Angle introduces the new equity partners and outlines what they bring to the table. He also delves into what the buy out means for New Look brands, their Eye Care Professional partners and associates, and clients.

Angle, and Eyes Wide Open podcast host, Dr. Glen Chiasson, also discuss the ongoing consolidation of independents into corporate entities and the impact on independent optometry.

Details on the transaction and new equity partners are available from the resources links.

Resources

 

 

Dr. Glen Chiasson

Dr. Glen Chiasson

Dr. Glen Chiasson is a 1995 graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Optometry. He owns and manages two practices in Toronto. In 2009, he co-hosted a podcast produced for colleagues in eye care, the “International Optometry Podcast”. He is a moderator of the Canadian Optometry Group, an email forum for Canadian optometrists. As  a host of  “Eyes Wide Open”, Glenn  looks forward to exploring new new technologies and services for eye care professionals.

Dr. Chiasson enjoys tennis, hockey, and reading. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

Dr. Chiasson splits EWO podcast hosting duties with Roxanne Arnal.


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Quality patient care starts with the people providing it.

Perry Steigner, Optician-Owner

During an ownership transitions, maintaining standards of care among new staff is particularly important for practices that have thrived due to exceptional patient care.

Perry Steigner’s practice was one such case; tucked away in a medical building, Perry leveraged strong people skills to build a robust practice that stood out from the crowd.

His personalized, high-end service drew in repeat patients during its 27 years in operation, even without a street-level storefront. That lack of visibility might make it seem like an unlikely candidate for an acquisition, but Perry successfully sold the practice to IRIS in 2019.

With IRIS, Steigner was able to grow his legacy of patient care at a new location, while at the same time adopting a more fully integrated practice that enhanced competitiveness.

Below are the details of Steigner’s story: the sale, transition, and outcome.

A Second Look
When Perry started his independent practice in 1993, he wanted to stand out amongst the superstore and 1-hour optical outlets popping up in eyecare: “I wanted to get back to the basics: customer service, personal relationships and build a practice that way.” His friendly, conversational approach to service and commitment to quality care was what set his business apart in an increasingly competitive retail landscape.

Dr. Daryan Angle, VP of Business Development at IRIS, approached Perry in 2012 about partnering with IRIS, but the timing was not right for Perry. He was very interested in IRIS’s collaborative model of patient care but was not ready to make a move with a large lease term remaining on his office space.

His practice, Medical Arts Optical, depended on a strong relationship with nearby ophthalmologists and optometrists, giving Perry lots of referrals to work with.

While his store continued its robust growth year after year, Perry realized, that after 40 years in the industry, he still needed the perfect exit strategy.

When Daryan approached him again in 2018, his lease was coming up, and he made the decision pursue a partnership with IRIS.

Evolution of the Deal
IRIS provided Perry different options. He could choose to bring in a partner, keep a small percentage, or sell his practice outright. Perry decided to sell 100% of his practice to IRIS and work with them as an employee.

There were other offers on the table, but they all offered an earn-out over a specified period of time, whereas IRIS offered him the option to sell the entire practice immediately. Selling his practice gave him a chance to continue working and provided an easy exit option at the same time.

Although he did not plan to retire right away, he wanted a strategy that made the most of the business he had cultivated over the years: “All the people that I know, and I’ve been in it 40 years, don’t sell their business. They shut them down and get rid of the phone line, and that’s it.”

His passion for the work left him wanting to keep going without worrying about how he would make his exit and entrust his legacy of exemplary patient care to a responsible partner.

New Location, Same Great Service, Flawless Transition
Usually, IRIS will partner with an existing location, but this time Perry’s Medical Arts practice relocated to an existing corporate IRIS location half a kilometer down the street. IRIS made sure to bring the features of Perry’s practice with him, to keep his regular patients coming back.

Rose Chiarot, Optician

Rose Chariot, an optician with whom Perry had been working along for 20 years, was also transferred to the new IRIS location maintaining her schedule of two afternoon shifts per week.

Although IRIS does not typically have in-store edging equipment, Perry brought over his own so he could continue to provide assembly services.

Eight thousand flyers were sent to Perry’s existing patients, explaining the merger.  The Medical Arts Optical phone number was rerouted to the new location and the new welcome message was provided in Perry’s familiar voice. Steigner characterized the transition as flawless.

Perry also passed on his formula for friendly patient care to the staff at IRIS: “This is our stage, we are performers, let’s get to know our customers. It’s the personal touch that will set us above our competitors. They are very receptive to that.” Perry was rewarded by seeing the transformation among the staff, who learned from his approach by watching him work.

IRIS provided Perry with a three-year employment contract but told him he could stay on as long as he wanted. The three years will help IRIS integrate Perry’s practice successfully, and Perry was eager to help in any way he can.

A COVID-19 Lesson
On March 24th, IRIS decided to shut down the location after COVID-19 hit. After the Ontario regulatory allowed limited open hours for urgent care, the office switched to appointment-based services. Perry initially thought it would be a problem for the optical dispensing side but was impressed with the sophistication of IRIS’ digital appointment system.

His patients also commented on the shorter wait times as a result of appointment-based retailing.

The End Result
Perry has no regrets about his decision and keeps working out of love for the business. He was happy to make the switch to a great location, and to keep seeing his patients without the administrative hassle of running a business: “What I was glad to get rid of was writing the cheques, worrying about the suppliers, reconciling statements, all that stuff. All my energy now is 100% focused on getting these patients to IRIS.

“Even my accountant would say, ‘Perry, if you are looking at an exit strategy, this is textbook: here you go, you sold your practice, you like the guys you are selling to, you are two blocks away from where you were, the location is fantastic.’ It was a great opportunity.”

Update
Perry is  working Tuesday to Saturday, an arrangement that works best for this location. The stores sales volume has been exceeding projected goals.

Due to COVID the store continues to see patient’s by appointment only with very positive feedback from patients. Perry has suggested that even when the COVID situation settles down, IRIS should continue to offer appointments for eyeglass selection or repairs and adjustments, and pursue a balance of appointments and walk ins.

 

IRIS provided Eye Care Business Canada full unconditional access to ECPs that have recently completed a partnership agreement with the group.  Each partner story provides and insider’s view to the the acquisition;  challenges faced, obstacles overcome and the final results.

This is the fourth of a four part series:  The Power of Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together.

Related Articles:  

Previous articles in the Series:

Power in Partnership:  An Early Adopter Parnership:  Lessons Learned and Shared 
Power in Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together (Dr. Christa Beverley, Barrie)
Power in Partnership: Enhancing Value Through Transformation to a Full Service Practice 
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  How IRIS Challenged the Ontario OD Regs and Won
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  IRIS sees Sliver Linings Behind the Covid Clouds
Insight Profile:  Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP Business Development


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Dr. Christian Nanini was aware of IRIS from their home province of Quebec. IRIS clinics had developed a forward-thinking, profitable business model that Dr. Nanini and his partners attempted to emulate at a smaller scale within their own practice – but without the benefit of the IRIS brand name. Ontario regulations stood in the way.

Profession’s Politics at Play

For many years, the Ontario College of Optometrists (COO) had very restrictive regulations that forced an antiquated pricing mechanism and forbade association among Optometrists, Opticians and corporate entities.

In 2006, the same year that Dr. Nanini consolidated three practices in the Niagara region into one location, IRIS led the charge to challenge the status quo which drew the ire of optometry’s regulators in Ontario.

Nanini and his partners wanted to move quickly but were advised to wait until IRIS’s challenge to Ontario’s antiquated regulations were settled.

Ultimately, by marshalling the support of the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Competition Bureau of Canada and citing the Canadian Charter of Rights freedom of association provisions, the COO publicly acknowledged resistance to IRIS’s business practices would cease.

Listen to Dr. Daryan Angle recount the story of IRIS’s challenge to the Ontario College of Optometrists in the Eyes Wide Open Podcast, hosted by Dr. Glen Chiasson

Gaining a Better Work-Life Balance
As a young family man, Dr. Nanini began to feel overwhelmed having to do everything in his business early on. Work-life balance was not in his vocabulary.

He faced the challenge of juggling all the balls that come with running a small business. Aside from patient care, his time was spent doing joyless grunt work: managing and training staff, marketing, payroll, strategizing how to grow the business and the list goes on.

Like many optometrists he simply wanted to do what he studied and trained for—examining, diagnosing and treating their patients. He did not want to feel weighed down by the tedium and stress of an endless to-do list, but still wanted a sense of control over the business.

A Shared Vision
Knowing of the success of IRIS in his home province, Dr. Nanini believed that his clinic would do better to partner with IRIS rather than compete with them for patients. He also saw the value in relinquishing essential business responsibilities that would free up his time.

“I was 100% okay with that because, for me, it’s freedom from all the workload, all the training, all of the advertisement, all the negotiations with suppliers. Everything was out of my hands now …freeing up my time a lot. After work, I could come home and enjoy quality family time instead of having to do paperwork,” Nanini remarks.

In 2009, two years after his initial meeting with Dr. Francis Jean (the now-deceased founder of IRIS), his clinic was officially a 50% shareholder with IRIS owning 50%. He chose this option over alternative percentage splits or a franchise model.

“Right from the beginning I didn’t want to sell the whole thing. I still wanted to have some power into some decisions.”

Transition Lessons Learned
Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP of business development, worked with Dr. Nanini to transition the Welland Ontario practice. Discussion and negotiation about the partnership was smooth, however they did encounter challenges immediately following the merger.

During IRIS’s initial expansion into Ontario, Dr. Angle frankly admits that there was a steep learning curve with many missteps made around on-boarding, especially for the first handful of clinics that opened in the province. Part of the issue was that IRIS’s onsite on-boarding and training for the new system was compacted into a few short days before the actual launch.

IRIS Welland Reception Desk

Dr. Nanini recalls that he should have briefed his staff more rigorously about why the transition would make life easier, and what to expect when it happened. As a result, he lost two employees who could not adapt to the changes fast enough. Subsequently, he had to scramble to hire and train two new employees on top of everything else.

Today, IRIS’ on-boarding process is far more comprehensive. Training days are held months in advance to give owners and staff time to integrate the information. By the end, staff are well-versed in navigating the software system and have good knowledge about new products.

Navigating Pricing Changes
Even though the legal battle between IRIS and the College of Optometrists had been settled in 2008, it was not until 2014 that regulatory changes were made. While regulators moved slowly, the new IRIS in Welland Ontario was forging ahead with retail pricing while many private practice ODs cautiously remained on the sidelines.

None of Dr. Nanini’s staff, now part of IRIS, were ready for the retail-model pricing which created significantly higher price points than the previously regulated cost-plus dispensing model that IRIS worked to change. Dr. Nanini’s staff suddenly found themselves needing to explain and sell products to sticker-shocked patients.

Nanini recalls “We used to sell our high-end products at a really low price compared to what they were selling for everywhere else in Canada…people wanted the high-end products, but they were suddenly $200 more. That’s what the patients and the staff found difficult.”

Another stumbling block was that IRIS, at the time, only offered premium-priced eyewear therefore losing potential sales from patients with lower budgets. They now adopt a “good, better, best” approach that can accommodate most budgets while maintaining the highest quality of products possible.

Sharing the Experience with Others
Since its inception, IRIS has displayed a willingness to adjust to the needs of its customers, franchisees and partners. Customers get the best care and products, and independent eye care professionals thrive under a time-tested, profitable business model.

Today, Dr. Nanini helps on-board other optometrists who have embraced more profits and more freedom with IRIS. As well, he sits on internal IRIS committees to guide the integration process, sharing his experience.

When asked if he would do it again if he had the chance, Dr. Nanini had no qualms.

“Yes, definitely I would still join IRIS in my mind, knowing I lose some control but there is a lot of stuff that is off my shoulders now…I can enjoy a better quality of life. So, to me, I would do it in a blink.”

Dr. Nanini still works 5 days a week, and sometimes 6!  

He enjoys walking 6-7 km every day, jogging and biking.

 

 

 

 

IRIS provided Eye Care Business Canada full unconditional access to ECPs that have recently completed a partnership agreement with the group.  Each partner story provides and insider’s view to the the acquisition;  challenges faced, obstacles overcome and the final results.

This is the third of a four part series:  The Power of Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together.

Related Articles:  

Previous articles in the Series:
Power in Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together (Dr. Christa Beverley, Barrie)
Power in Partnership: Enhancing Value Through Transformation to a Full Service Practice 
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  How IRIS Challenged the Ontario OD Regs and Won
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  IRIS sees Sliver Linings Behind the Covid Clouds
Insight Profile:  Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP Business Development


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For health care providers, interprofessional collaboration is key—and that’s never been more true than in the working relationship between optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists.

Although this relationship can be fraught, the interprofessional model can enhance eye care delivery services and do wonders for your bottom line.

Through a partnership with IRIS in 2016, BC Optician Phil Mattes, was able to immediately unlock a substantial part of the equity in his optical business. The IRIS partnership then enabled the business to add optometric services to the practice, creating additional value and facilitating a successful exit strategy and a retirement plan for Mattes.

In this case study, we look at Phil’s journey with IRIS, and the challenges and successes he faced along the way.

Retirement Planning – Get an Early Start
At 62, Phil was starting to think about retirement. His store, Optix, was an attractive street-level store on  Marine Drive in Vancouver, and he decided it was time to start thinking about selling the store. Since exit planning can often take 5-7 years or longer to implement, Phil knew he needed to find a strategy soon; “You have to prepare for this years before and have a plan and start early, and not wait until the time you want to retire”.

Phil’s first thought was to sell the business to the current staff. He had the business professionally appraised and offered his staff the opportunity to buy the store. After a substantial discussion, the staff ultimately decided not to pursue the opportunity.

Phil had hoped that selling the store would be his reward for building up his practice for so many years. Fortunately, he did not have to look far to find a potential buyer.

Opportunity Knocks
Phil told a colleague about his staff’s decision not to buy, and word travelled fast, as it often does in the optical world. Soon afterwards, he got a call from IRIS about the possible sale of his business and took them up on a lunch meeting.

IRIS was able to offer him the value of the appraisal that he had previously commissioned, so he moved ahead with the acquisition process.

Phil signed the agreement with IRIS in February 2016; IRIS would purchase 75% of the business, and Phil would continue to own 25% for the next three years. While IRIS initially wanted to extend the partnership to five years, Phil decided that three years was enough for him—so they settled on his requirement.

Phil received a significant portion of the cash up front, with future payouts that would vary depending on sales performance over the three-year “earn-out” period.

Transforming an Optical to Full Service Eyecare
Prior to the partnership, Phil did not have an in-store optometrist. He relied upon referrals to local ophthalmologists and walk-in prescriptions. Increasingly, he observed that customers increasingly would buy their frames at the clinic where they got their exams instead of coming back to his store. He knew he would keep more customers with an optometrist at his location.

The IRIS partnership resolved this challenge by transforming his optical store into a full-service eye care and eyewear practice, with the addition of in-house optometric services.  There were significant changes required to complete the transformation.

 IRIS added a pre-test room and refractive and diagnostic equipment in order to fully outfit an optometric lane at the location. Although it required some shuffling, Phil was happy with the result. The stage was now set for expanding the practice and building greater value in Phil’s remaining equity.

Business and Personal Challenges
Another adjustment stemmed from the difference between the frames Optix and IRIS sold. Optix had always been known for its unique fashion-forward frames: “we were always known as more of a boutique-y store. A lot of frames from France, from Germany, and Japan. They weren’t typical IRIS brands.”

When he explained that clients come to Optix because of the unique frames they carried, Phil was able to reach a compromise with IRIS. The store would let go a few of the lines but kept the top performers to satisfy discerning clients.

From Left to right: Paul Schinkel, Phil Mattes, present manager Duane Salmon

One of the biggest challenges for Phil was the transition from a paper-based office to electronic records. There were a few late nights learning the new system: “I would say I was probably illiterate on the computer to a certain extent. But they didn’t put pressure on us.”

Fortunately, one of his longtime staff had worked for IRIS in the past and was able to transition to the new system quickly.

It was also a challenge for Phil to go from an owner, to a management position and then part-time staff: “It’s a tough transition going from owner-boss-manager to a part-time person. And that’s a big adjustment for me because I still like to call the shots. But you have to adjust to that.” He saw it as a necessary step on the road to leaving the store completely in his retirement.

The End Result
Overall, Phil found extra security in partnering with a large corporation, particularly with the knowledge he had a new safety net in case things go wrong—as well as having a successfully implemented retirement plan.

The greater spending power and the resources that a well-financed partner brought to the table was a relief from the uncertainty he’d sometimes felt as the sole owner of the business.

Ultimately Phil was happy with the decision he made: “It’s been a good experience, challenging adjusting to the new stuff from IRIS, but I really look at it this way. I win, IRIS wins, so it’s a win-win situation. Everyone’s happy with this. You can’t ask for a better situation than that.”

Today, Phil is fully retired.

He is enjoying “cabin life” in Manitoba, which includes golfing, fishing and the occasional cabin maintenance chore.

Looks like there’s Pickerel for dinner tonight!

 

 

 

 

IRIS the Visual Group provided Eye Care Business Canada with unconditional access to four Eye Care Practitioners who completed a partnership agreement  and/or  transaction with the group. Each partner story provides an insider’s view to the the acquisition;  challenges faced, obstacles overcome and the final results.

This is the second of four in the “The Power of Partnership” series.

 

Related Articles: 

Power in Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together (Dr. Christa Beverley, Barrie)
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  How IRIS Challenged the Ontario OD Regs and Won
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  IRIS sees Sliver Linings Behind the Covid Clouds
Insight Profile:  Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP Business Development

 


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Optometry is a complex, challenging career—and managing an independent practice on top of seeing patients is exponentially more difficult. If you are considering selling your practice, you’re not alone.

Many other independent practice owners decide to sell in order to focus on their profession, prepare for retirement, or just to take some work off their plate.

The following case study was one of the first optometry acquisitions in Ontario made by IRIS, and the experience of Dr. Christa Beverley gives some insight into the acquisition process.

Dr. Christa BeverleyDr. Beverley bought her Barrie, ON practice after the former owner suffered health issues that forced her to stop working. Subsequently, a business partner purchased half the practice, and together, they moved to successively larger offices establishing themselves as a progressive practice with happy staff and satisfied patients.

A Few Twists and Turns
Her partner started to take an interest in the IRIS business model, and after some talks with Dr. Francis Jean (the late founder of IRIS), Dr. Beverley ultimately became partners with IRIS. The partnership agreement was a long and difficult negotiation process, and included a plan for two new startup practices.

The original arrangement proposed would have resulted in IRIS owning 50% of the practice, and Dr. Beverley and her partner with 25% each. After some family issues forced her partner to relocate, IRIS bought his half of the practice, and recalibrated ownership to a 50/50 position with Dr. Beverley.

With significant emotional investment on the part of both parties, negotiations were tough. At the time, IRIS had less flexible rules around their business model; in particular, there was an expectation that their doctors work five days a week, which didn’t suit Dr. Beverley: “I didn’t want someone telling me that I couldn’t take Wednesday afternoon off, or if I had to work late nights.”

She was able to negotiate with IRIS to retain her existing work-life balance, describing them as “special considerations” that she and the company ironed out.

IRIS has since become much more flexible around work-life balance in general. As the current VP of Business Development for IRIS, Dr. Daryan Angle describes it, “The lifestyles of our optometrists and partners are very important to us. Schedules are based on open discussion and consideration of what is best for the practice, business and partner. In the early days, on-boarding new practices and staff did prove to be difficult before IRIS had developed a comprehensive strategy and dedicated team.”

Hard Lessons Learned
There were a few more difficulties as well: Dr. Beverley partnered with IRIS on two other new locations, which struggled to succeed. She thought that the cold starts would be manageable, but they proved to be more difficult than she envisioned.

After their failure to launch the new locations, IRIS bought them back from Beverley—so although she didn’t have the lucrative new business she expected to have, she was saved from losing money on them.

In Dr. Beverley’s words, “IRIS is great in that they saw what we saw—which, the end, was the error in all of our ways. It is really hard to do cold starts no matter how good you are at it.”

Challenges with On-boarding
The acquisition was also an adjustment for staff, with new checks and balances contributing to some turnover. Dr. Beverley described the process as a “bit of a free fall,” with management assistance from IRIS in the early days being less robust than it is now: “I know that the systems are in place now so it’s a lot different, there’s actually people to onboard stores and to be there and to help.”

Bariie IRIS Team Ready to Reopen

In addition, the IRIS business model offered glasses at a high price point at the time, which were an issue with some customers used to seeing less expensive options. IRIS has since shifted to offer more value options in 2017, when it was acquired by New Look Vision Group Inc. This helps new acquisitions stay competitive given their geographic region and the market they serve.

IRIS Partnership Offers Exit Options
Ultimately, Dr. Beverley feels that the sale was the right decision for her business. Even though it was hard for her to let the management side of her practice go, she acknowledges there’s an upside to handing over the administrative tasks: “I don’t have to do anything except be a doctor.”

Another upside for her was that the acquisition means she’ll always have an exit strategy ready if she decides to sell. As a partner, she also could continue to collect dividends as a retirement strategy as an alternative to selling her share of the practice, once she found someone to replace her.

She says that ultimately, she would have decided to wait a little longer if she had to do it again, but doesn’t know if she’d advise someone else to do the same.

For practitioners who don’t like handling the management side of their practices or those that need a little more time in their day, she says it’s a good solution: “as a way to sell a good practice to a company that’s going to keep your practice amazing and make your patients happy, and respect your patients and look after them and make sure they have a great standard of care, then it just makes you feel like you are sort of leaving it or selling it to somebody who’s like you.”

Any Regrets?
It wasn’t an easy process, but for Dr. Beverley the experience was worthwhile: “I think they’ve learned from the things that went wrong in our acquisition. I think for other people, it’s the control freak doctors like myself that will have the biggest struggle with this. But … that’s not why they wanted to be an optometrist—they wanted to be an optometrist to look at people’s eyes and have no business portion. And to work in IRIS and be able to do that, I mean, they’ll be as happy as they could be. It’s a perfect scenario.”

Dr. Beverley continues to work, on average, less than 3 days per week at the Barrie, Ontario location, and has a 50% stake in the IRIS practice.

This interview was conducted while she was relaxing at her cottage.

 

 

 

IRIS the Visual Group provided Eye Care Business Canada with unconditional access to four Eye Care Practitioners who completed a partnership agreement  and/or  transaction with the group. Each partner story provides an insider’s view to the the acquisition;  challenges faced, obstacles overcome and the final results.

This is the first of a four part series:  The Power of Partnership: Overcoming Challenges Together

 

Related Articles: 

Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  How IRIS Challenged the Ontario OD Regs and Won
Eyes Wide Open Podcast:  IRIS sees Sliver Linings Behind the Covid Clouds
Insight Profile:  Dr. Daryan Angle, IRIS VP Business Development


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