When Melissa Leoni, OD, bought an optometry practice in Barboursville, West Virginia, two years ago, it was already a fast-growing location. And it hasn’t slowed down since.
She knew the place well enough, having joined Bailey Eye Care in 2007. Today, after two expansions and several new hires, the practice has grown from four exam lanes to eight, and it now has three ODs and a total of 23 staff members.
She shares management with her husband, Sean Wilson, who has an accounting background and is the practice’s business administrator. Together they’ve managed a lot of changes in expanding the practice. “We basically grew to meet the demands of the market,” she says. “A lot of it, I believe, is word of mouth as far as why we continue to grow.” Barboursville isn’t very big, with a population just more than 4,000, but it’s near Huntington, the second-largest city in the state. That’s also where Dr. Leoni did her post-doctorate residency, at a VA Medical Center there.
VSP is a major provider in the region and helps drive patients to the practice, she says. “We give all new patients two business cards and let them know we are available for medical eye care, such as red eyes or dry eyes, and that we’re always happy to see new patients. We schedule an average of 20 new patients per week just by asking current patients if anyone in their family needs eye care.” The practice manages a lot of patients with medical conditions, in part because of the demographics of the population. Diabetes, for example, is common, she says. On average, the practice currently sees about 300 patients a week.
Expansions kept happening. The first was soon after Dr. Leoni joined the practice, when two lanes and administrative areas were added. Since the 2014 change of ownership, the couple has bought the building and expanded again, knocking down walls, remodeling
the optical and adding two more lanes. “Our growth was exponential at that point,” she says.
Plus, a third doctor joined the practice in October 2015: Kayla Campbell, OD, a West Virginia native and 2014 graduate of the Indiana University School of Optometry. S. Glenn Bailey, OD, who founded the practice, continues to see patients there as well. Dr. Bailey is a past president of the West Virginia Optometric Association, and he has encouraged Dr. Leoni’s involvement. In fact, she’s currently the association’s president-elect.
The hiring of new staff has been key. For several recent hires, Dr. Leoni had luck recruiting close to home. She asked her staff members to spread the word among their friends and on social media to see if anyone was job-hunting. Those referrals worked well, she says.
Staff members meet weekly with the ODs to review practice statistics. “They are very involved in our decision-making. They’ve been involved throughout the expansions and give advice on how things should be run, and we listen to them.”
The growth has required organizational changes, too. “We had one office manager but we grew so large that we had to separate into three departments,” each with its own manager. “That has worked well because each manager gets to concentrate more in specific areas,” she says. As the practice administrator, Wilson works directly with the managers and handles staff hiring and training.
Some administrative tasks are simplified by consolidating contact lens orders through ABB OPTICAL GROUP, for example. Not only does she achieve the purchasing discounts, but she also appreciates the convenience of having all products arrive in one shipment and receiving only one invoice each month. The doctors have their favorite brands of contact lenses—most from Alcon offerings—and staff gets to know the products and can anticipate what the ODs will recommend. The doctors and staff also rely on ABB OPTICAL and vendor reps to provide staff training on promoting products and closing sales.
The rapid pace of change is slowing down a little, and now the practice is settling in to the new groove. “Right now, we are working through the growing pains and smoothing out the schedules,” she says. But they have the space, the equipment and the population to make it happen.