By Jenny Wiley, Practice Operations Advisor, PECAA
Starting an eye care practice from the ground up can be an exciting, and often hectic, time. As the advisor to PECAA’s cold start optometry practices, I’m aware of all of the trials and tribulations eye care practitioners have to undergo to not only get their doors open, but to begin making a profit. It can seem daunting when you are first getting started, but I hope you aren’t under the assumption that you are in this alone! Why not take the advice of industry experts and ECP’s that have already traveled down the path you are headed down?
Based on my 30 years in the industry and my many conversations with members that are currently in the process of, or have recently, opened cold, I have begun compiling a list of helpful tips and suggestions to offer to other eye care industry professionals who find themselves in similar shoes. I am also excited to share with you a cold start timeline I have been developing that will be a helpful guide for you to know when you should begin incorporating certain things into your new optometry practice.
I know there must be a million different things on your mind when attempting to build a practice from scratch, but I urge you to keep these 5 tips in mind that may not otherwise be on your radar…
1. Expect the Unexpected
I can not stress this enough; you can not plan for things that are not under your control. The most common reasons new practices do not meet their open dates are due to construction and permitting delays. While this can be incredibly frustrating, let me remind you, it is out of your control! I always recommend to my cold start practices that whatever they think their target open date will be, give yourself a safety net of 3 months (if not longer), as you never know what may pop up along the way. An important part of this planning process includes ensuring your loan provides adequate working capital to cover potential delays. Having a contingency plan is always a smart idea.
However, instead of worrying about the time that may have been lost, focus your energy instead on what you can do during that possible down-time to give your practice its best foot forward. Start developing your vendor relationships. Interviewing vendors is as important as interviewing staff. Vendors can provide training for you and your staff, marketing materials, and be a valuable resource for your practice. Start drafting up an employee handbook and employment applications for when you are ready to start hiring. Use your time wisely to develop good office habits and procedures during your slow times.
2. Don’t Wait Too Long to Invest in Staff.
Most practitioners will attempt to do everything themselves in the beginning to cut down on costs (act as receptionist, office manager, optician, etc), but don’t hamper potential growth by waiting too long to invest in good staff. Be proactive instead of reactive. Don’t wait until you are too busy to handle everything on your own to start considering the possibility of looking for some help. Finding and training good staff can take an average of 3 months, so make sure to forecast your future employment needs instead of waiting too long to hire and potentially offering the job to a lackluster candidate.
Click here to read the rest of the tips from Jenny Wiley.