“I’m thinking of selling my practice.”
“Should I sell my practice now while prices are at all-time highs? How long does the private equity phenomenon last?”
Practice owners often focus on market trends in the pricing of practices when deciding when and whether to sell. Let me suggest three questions that can frame a more holistic approach to deciding when and whether to sell.
Question 1: Is my practice ready to sell?
The value of any business is driven by two factors: the cash flow the practice generates today and the probability that a third party can expect those cash flows to be sustained or grown in the future. The more transferrable your practice is, the more valuable it is. The risk around transferability is what drives the multiple applied to a practice’s earnings.
If your practice can’t easily be transferred – if it completely depends on you for everything, if it’s patients aren’t loyal, if it isn’t currently providing sufficient cash flow to pay back a purchase loan and still pay a new owner a reasonable wage – it’s possible there won’t be any market for your practice, that you won’t find a buyer.
But remember this, the less your practice depends on you, the more valuable it will be. As it happens, the less your practice depends on you, the more profitable and enjoyable it will be for you to own, as well. What’s good for your practice at the time of sale is good for your practice today. This is why there’s a burden to continually grow and improve your practice.
Question 2: Am I financially ready?
A question very few owners investigate ahead of selling is: what do I actually need to have saved in order to retire? Do you know what your household spending is today? What will your budget be going into retirement? You owe it to yourself and your family to work with a financial planner to KNOW your needs for retirement.
Once you know your retirement spending, your financial advisor can help you set a savings target. For most practice owners, your practice is a major part of your retirement. Knowing your savings target helps you assess whether to sell and how you need to change your practice in order to hit your target.
When it comes to big offers from private equity, this can be one factor in deciding to ‘take the money and run’, but it may also mean you decide to hold onto your income-producing asset (the practice) longer so that you can continue to build your savings.
Question 3: Am I personally ready?
This is a question that most owners think they can answer, but I wonder how many have really thought it through. Most owners who are close to selling their practices have had OPTOMETRIST and OWNER as a core part of their identity for decades. How are you going to fill your days if you’re no longer seeing patients? If you work for your seller, how is it going to feel to see them change the practice?
If you’re thinking of selling young, make sure you have a clear plan of what comes next. As a friend of my once said when he was 68-years-young: “Look, I can only play so much golf. My wife only likes me so much. What else am I going to do but own this practice and continue to see patients two days per week.”
Selling your practice is a momentous decision. Use these three questions, which are the core framework of IDOC Navigation Services, to give process to your decision making. And do call and let us help you think through this and other key decisions you face as owners.
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Multiple Pairs:... Read more
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You may have closed or partially closed your practice temporarily. There is tremendous uncertainty around when we can resume anything that resembles a normal business or personal life. You may be in the office alone or with only one or two staff members. There are always ways to keep a... Read more
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It is demonstrably true that if you have a passion for a product, your enthusiasm is actually very difficult to contain. Getting behind a product is almost inevitable if you are a satisfied customer yourself.
Are you... Read more
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First – What can you do before... Read more
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Sunday is our day! Every Sunday we follow the same plan. We have been taking the same steps for so long that MY husband can do it on his own. I’m so proud!! We wake up bright and early, go downstairs into the kitchen and take a full inventory of the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and... Read more
Instagram can have a real impact on growing awareness for your independently owned optometry practice in your community.
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Why do I have to do what you’re asking me to do?
If an employee of yours asked that, your response would likely be harsh.
What do you mean why do you have to do it? You’re an employee here. I sign your paycheck. You have to do it because I told you to do it!
In... Read more
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Social media, online reviews and a well-performing website are all great tools in a good marketing plan for an optometrist in private practice, but the most successful practices understand that delivering remarkable service to their patients is the cornerstone of their marketing... Read more
If you are or have been responsible for managing people, you have been there. An employee whom you like and has done great work in the past is struggling in their role. Maybe they are more combative than usual with their peers or aren’t getting their work done effectively. Perhaps you have... Read more
With Private Equity groups scooping up practices left and right (it seems that way at least), it stands to reason that most owners have at least thought about whether they would say yes to the right offer. I tell most owners that they should own their practices for as long as... Read more
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Whether I am advising a client or writing this blog, my primary objective is to give business owners actionable items that, if taken will positively impact them personally or improve their business in some tangible way.
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I have to admit something – I have been falling into Busy-ness Syndrome, where I feel like I am too busy with my responsibilities to do anything I perceive to be “extra”. That could be anything from an uncomfortable conversation to tending to obligations. Busy-ness Syndrome is not... Read more
This article assumes you’ve done your part in establishing value for the products and services you offer. If you fail to do this, then price inevitably becomes a factor as people will wonder if they can get what they need less expensively from another source. But let’s assume you’ve made a... Read more
How many private pay opportunities do you have each day?
With so many of your patients now covered by vision care plans, you would probably say, not many. I could ask you to look at the percentage of patients you see in each plan, I could ask you what percentage of patients are... Read more
A good marketing plan for your optometry practice should include opportunities to meet people in your community, face to face. Time spent engaging in the right kind of community involvement for the practice is a valuable investment in building your brand.
While promoting your... Read more
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Several years ago, I met with a financial advisor. I had been out of school a few years, and a friend suggested I speak with his father over lunch about debt management and financial planning. I thought I already had this under control, but why turn down a free lunch?
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Cost of Goods is the highest expense category for many – if not most – independent practices. And most owners feel like they’re spending too much or just don’t know – how does my Cost of Goods (COGS) compare to other practices?
I’ve heard practice management lecturers say that... Read more
Why am I the best option for my patients’ eyewear purchase?
Selection? Value? Convenience? Quality? Price? Expertise?
What messages am I sending in my marketing and interactions with them that makes the case that I am their best option?
There are three critical... Read more
Can you complete that sentence?
In one of my presentations titled “The Science of Selling: The Psychology Behind Why People Buy” I ask the audience this very question. This usually gets a mixed reaction of affirmative heads nods and looks of... Read more
From time to time, I’ll have a call that goes something like this: “Help! My revenues are down, and I don’t know why!”
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Unpaid Meal... Read more
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As business people, we are constantly inundated with advertising and offers for programs, software, products and advice that promise to improve our bottom line. Some will catch our attention; some we simply click past. Some we purchase and own; some we have access to through subscriptions we... Read more
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In HR, documentation makes the world go ‘round. I talk about it in every consultation I have with our members. However, it isn’t because I like to hoard documents on my computer or pieces of paper on my desk (Although, my desk and computer might tell a different story). It... Read more
Establish guardrails. Employees should be permitted to make some of their own decisions, but there needs to be clarity on the boundaries. Micromanagement restricts employees. Boundaries empower them. A good example would be allowing your employees to use up to $200 to resolve... Read more
As an Optical Management Consultant, I often hear:
“I know what the numbers are, I need to know how to make them better.”
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My least favorite phrase to hear was “Michelle called out today”. It almost sucked the air out of the room. I had already planned out the whole day, for myself and the team. Before hearing that, I probably had a project in place, hopeful to progress in some way.... Read more
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It’s that time of year – practices are evaluating what went right – and wrong – in 2018 and setting goals for 2019. And with goals comes the age-old question: what should you do about a bonus plan next year?
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“I have never had to hire like this before!”
“I’m embarrassed to say, my longest-term employee has only been with me 9 months.”
“I never used to have this... Read more
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How do you create efficiencies in a high-cost, low-margin retail environment? That was the question I was going to answer.
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Doctor, I see floaters in my vision. I think I have a retinal detachment!
I don’t need an exam because I did a screening online.
I put a moist teabag on my eye so it would heal faster.
I know I can’t have glaucoma because I smoke pot every... Read more
Many practice owners will struggle for to grow their revenues and profits – and therefore their incomes – from a cold start. Others may buy a healthy, existing practice or see fast growth. Whatever the case, achieving even a modicum of success can bring its own set of questions and... Read more
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The new reality is that many of our patients are shopping online for everything before they make a purchase. A second reality that you may not be aware of is that for some people online ordering is not as easy as the advocates for this model would have you... Read more
A handbook could be the most important document you create for your business. Here are the top 3 reasons why:
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I can’t afford to hire is a common refrain in consulting with the independent optometrist. And, it’s true! If you don’t have any expectation that your employees will produce for you, and by extension, pay their own salaries. It’s all in how you frame your fear, and structure pay incentives and... Read more
Warby Parker, big box, shopping malls, oh my! While some private practice ODs respond to local commercial competitors with (typically irrational) fears of a mass exodus of patients leaving their practice for the cheap prices and convenience of a low-cost retailer, other respond with a... Read more
If you own or manage an optometric practice, you’ve probably observed that online reviews have become ubiquitous in American consumer marketing. An independent optometric practice is now likely to manage its reputation across several online profiles, including the Google listing for the... Read more
Here’s a not-too-controversial observation: everyone would like to earn more income. As practice owners, your income is a function of the revenues your businesses bring in and the expenses you have to pay.
So, if you want to increase your income, should you be going over your... Read more
Good marketing for an independently owned optometric practice isn’t one size fits all, especially now when there are multiple generations with unique mindsets, characteristics, values and eye care needs in the United States.
Let’s say that as an independent Optometrist, you’ve decided to add new eyewear products into the mix at your practice, and now you’d like to market these products to existing and prospective patients.
I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.
I was dissatisfied with the protein drink I had been using, since it had a slightly chalky taste and a higher sugar content than I wanted. I spoke with a friend of mine who suggested that I try a new protein... Read more
During his TedxTalk, Scott Hess recalled his first job out of college and a reaction from his boss. He said, “I was told that my performance was strong but that my appearance was a problem. I was upset… I thought I looked awesome. I couldn’t understand why this older boss of mine was making a... Read more
The Inevitable Plateau - “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress”
I spoke with an OD yesterday who was struggling to make a shift in the way they dispense contact lenses in their practice. The... Read more
I once suggested to a doctor struggling with employee motivation that he give his staff more positive feedback about the things they were doing well. Not his exact words, but his response was along the lines of, “I’m paying them to do a job, why should I have to stroke their... Read more
Picking up a new pair of glasses is exciting for the patient, the anticipation of new, clear lenses and updated beautiful frames. Celebrate with them, make a special event out of it. Prepare... Read more
A practice owner with a cash crunch recently pushed back on the advice I was giving – to defer some compensation for a quarterly distribution – with this statement: “I thought I was supposed to pay myself first!”
When I started working as a department manager in a large retail company, I joined a high traffic location in a mall and it was the highest volume store in the district. Despite that, I walked into a manager’s nightmare. The departments I was responsible for were experiencing double... Read more
Numbers don’t lie. A fact I am reminded of every time I step on the scale. Those ten little digits twixt naught and nine are our friends. And, like any good friend, we may not always like what they say, but they always tell us the truth.
I haven’t always been... Read more
I was named in a lawsuit once. Fortunately, I was the doctor who found the problem – not the one who misdiagnosed it. Nothing really came of this on my end, but I still recall the moments of terror that gripped my body every time a letter showed up from the legal firm handling the case.... Read more
Starting a solo optometry practice can be a daunting task, especially considering most optometrists do not graduate optometry school with a strong grasp of the business aspects of running a private practice. There are many things you need to do prior to your grand opening, but the work doesn’t... Read more
Office Managers are responsible for setting the expectations for all office employees. The optical staff is a unique situation because the patient experience is easily measured. Good communication and clear goals will go a long way to improve patient satisfaction in this very... Read more
Google and social media have changed the ways we look for information, discover area service providers and research options for health care, and as a result, many Optometrists who own a practice now question which tactics are the most effective to increase brand awareness, number of... Read more
The Science of Selling
Have you ever made what you considered an iron clad case for why a patient should purchase a certain product or service from you, only to have them walk out without ever making the purchase? As clinical professionals, we can be very logical in our approach with... Read more
Your optometry practice is incredibly valuable to you. “Well, Nathan” – you may say – “of course it is!” But have you ever thought of why it’s valuable?
You spend most days pouring your blood sweat and tears into it: hours and hours of patient care, planning,... Read more
The internet isn’t usually a popular topic in conversations I have with owners and staff members of optometric practices. Dealing with reviews and competition from web-based retailers along with the challenge of creating and maintaining a website and good social media marketing may have many... Read more
Optometrists in private practice sometimes fail to offer a clear reason why someone should choose them for their vision care over competitors - on their websites or in other marketing collateral – sometimes when you try to market to everyone, you fail to capture... Read more
When working with small business owners to create marketing plans and strategies, I run across the following scenario far too often: “Hey, I’m not sure how to log in to my Google listing. My office manager used to handle that for me, and she’s not on the team anymore... Read more
“You might as well ask me to describe the essence of music, or the color of starlight.”
Did you make any New Year Resolutions? Well, I did. I do every year, and in keeping with my obsession with goals and metrics that I have professed here repeatedly, I write them down... Read more
For starters, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I just play one as a practice management consultant. It’s been my observation that whenever human beings come together in an environment where they are required to work together and interact, inevitably some tension and conflict will arise.... Read more
Your schedule has gotten busier and you’ve hired an associate OD. While you would like to keep the associate’s schedule filled most of the time, it’s not uncommon for an associate to have some gaps in his or her schedule – at least in the beginning. This often leads to some resentment by the... Read more
Before anyone panics, I am not suggesting that most practices go out and spend $80,000 or $100,000 on a COO tomorrow, or that your manager is due a large raise for 2018. I typically only recommend that type of role for multi-location practices grossing over $2M-$3M per year: practices... Read more
Sometimes it’s not the inventory you choose to carry or the reps you choose to indulge. It’s not the pricing or the shipping or the cadence of your reorders. As we head into the tail end of the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the process of opening presents.
Everyone has... Read more
Texting is an incredibly tempting mode of communication for marketing-minded businesses competing for the attention of consumers, primarily because the open rates on a text from businesses to consumers are incredibly high (98%) compared to other forms of communication (email is around 20%,... Read more
“How many frames do I need?” “How many frames should I carry?” “How much stock should I have in inventory?” It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, at least 1/3 of my consultations start the same way. I’m going to make this all very, very easy for... Read more
If you are in a competitive area, you’ve already learned that marketing is a necessity to attract brand new patients to your practice. It’s easy to confuse marketing tactics – sending email, creating Facebook posts and advertising in a community magazine, for instance –... Read more
A practice owner pulled me aside at our most recent conference in Denver to start thinking of an exit plan. I always ask two questions when these discussions come up:
“How long do you see yourself continuing to own your practice?”
“How is your retirement savings coming... Read more
A consumer-centric culture with a focus on customer service is becoming increasingly important for brick & mortar businesses. While I do believe most practice owners strive to deliver on great service, it requires a team effort. I often hear owners tell me they want to be known in their... Read more
Most businesses have polices that employees are required to follow. In general, office policies are a good idea. Policies provide structure for how to conduct business and create consistency around processes and operations. But in a service-based industry, well intended but rigidly executed... Read more
With all the talk of private equity roll-ups and regional alliances, many practice owners are concerned that if they aren’t a large, multi-office, multi-doctor practice, they don’t have a future in independent optometry.
Is that... Read more
One of the interesting mysteries that I get to unravel in many practices is the mystery of tight cash flow. Sometimes it’s obvious – a small practice with low profitability, for instance. But other times it’s not.
First off, what is tight cash flow? Here’s my simple definition:... Read more
Doctor: Would you like to order your contacts today, Mrs. Smith?
Mrs. Smith: That’s OK. I’ll just take the prescription and get them online.
What happened here? You just did a thorough, high-tech eye exam... Read more
For practices looking to grow, there are basically two paths: see more patients or generate more revenue per patient. Ideally, a practice will do both. One thing I consistently hear from ODs is that it’s hard to generate high revenue from contact lens patients. Even when selling annual... Read more
Can you find 20 or 30 minutes a week to hold a staff meeting? You might be surprised at the impact that it has on your optometry practice.
Your staff is your most valuable business asset. Your investment in optometry marketing, technology, office design, etc. will fail to deliver an... Read more
The very phrase can cause irritation, anxiety and bewilderment in the minds of owners who understand that they should somehow be participating in the conversations across the various social media platforms – but which ones are the best for optometry practice... Read more
While there is more than one way to achieve success, there are a few common traits that successful independent optometry practice owners have in common.
They refuse to accept the status quo. While others remain stagnant, ignore trends, and complain about the... Read more