After purchasing two practices from an established doctor, Sundeep Kaur, OD, was ready to take on the challenges of a cold-start practice. After graduating in 2014 from Inter American University of Puerto Rico, she worked at a private practice in South Plainsfield, New Jersey. Many of the patients came from the neighboring town of Carteret because they said there were not a lot of eye care options available to them closer to home. When the time came to look for a cold-start practice, Carteret was the perfect location. Dr. Kaur now has three practices under her belt: Advanced Eyecare of Hillsborough, Advanced Eyecare of Edgewater and Advanced Eyecare of Carteret.
BUMPS IN THE ROAD
Opening the third practice was not an easy task. It took a little more than a year, from September 2018 to November 2019, because there were some difficulties trying to find the right landlord who would negotiate money for the buildout process. “The unit was brand new with unfinished walls and floors, and there also wasn’t a bathroom installed,” she says. Despite the stress, it was fun, too, she says because she had the opportunity to design everything, from the location of the doors to the flooring, which she completed with her dad.
She also ran into construction delays due to the pandemic. Construction started in February 2020 and was stopped a month later and then resumed in July 2020. Thankfully, Dr. Kaur did not have to pay rent until she took possession of a full space with a bathroom, per her agreement. In total, it took approximately two-and-a-half years to complete the whole process.
SPACE AND QUIET
The practice is 1,800 square feet with two exam rooms, a contact lens room, pretesting room, storage closet, and an extra room that can be transformed into a cosmetic procedures room, such as facial and spa treatments. The location also features a staff break room, a luxury that the staff in the other two practices do not have. “Being a former employee, I appreciated some solitude, so I wanted to create a space where my staff doesn’t have to hear the phone ringing,” she says. The room includes a toaster, refrigerator and coffee machine and an additional work space.
Integrating her love for blue, the practice’s color palette consists of blue, yellow and gray. For the main room, she bought mustard accent chairs and blue stools, which the kids especially love.
CELEBRATING GRAND OPENING
The practice celebrated its grand opening on July 31 with pretzel and hotdog stands, a DJ and various opening promotions. An outdoor tent offered kids a chance to draw, and staff handed out goodie bags with artificial tears and lens cloth. Visitors got the chance to win prizes such as Gucci sunglasses, an Amazon Fire TV Stick, discounts off eyewear and gift baskets provided by local businesses.
STRATEGIES AND TIPS
As an owner with three practices, Dr. Kaur admits she is constantly busy. She divides her time in each practice with the help of an associate doctor in her Hillsborough location who works three to four days a week, and an office manager who oversees all three areas frequently. For now, the Carteret location is open two days a week until Dr. Kaur can find the right doctor and staff. “I try to dedicate duties to my staff, so my practices are staying on the right track,” she says.
She recommends that those who want to open a cold-start practice get prior experience at private practices. “It’s useful to pick up every useful tip, no matter how small. As an owner, you have to be well-rounded in a number of business aspects that you would normally have someone else doing for you. You already know how to be an optometrist, now you have to learn how to become a business owner,” Dr. Kaur says.