Article Date: 9/1/2008

Refurnish The Bargain Basement
fix this practice

Refurnish The Bargain Basement

Even as a start-up, your practice must appear to be state of the art.

RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q As a 2007 graduate, I decided to start cold in a western state. I did everything in "budget" mode. I used whatever was "cheapest." My practice struggles, yet my competition seems to be doing fine. Any ideas?

Dr. G.S. Ritter
via e-mail

A: Set yourself apart from the crowd (your competition) in numerous ways, including:

Office appearance. With the stiff competition in the ophthalmic marketplace, make sure that your office is modern, appealing and comfortable. If patients walk into your office observing low-inventory levels of product, cheap furniture, homemade frame displays and amateur interior design, they'll view you as a low-level amateur.

Equipment. Consumers (patients) expect their optometric physicians to have at least some state-of-the-art instrumentation. Even a "start-up" practice should have equipment that wows the patient. Two examples: a retinal imaging device or an optic nerve analyzer.

Furniture. Even on a limited budget, use an interior decorator. Many of these professionals will present a master plan that you can implement in stages. Certainly reception-room furniture, wall coverings and plants send a very professional message. There is so much competition that your optical must be top notch, including your optical furniture, which must knock the consumers' "socks off."

Frame inventory. Most O.D.'s have a range of frames from $100 to $300. Set yourself apart from the crowd and offer frames up to $800 or $1,000. You don't need a large inventory of eyeware, but you must offer premium frames.

Make sure that your office is modern, appealing and comfortable.

The above four bullet points may seem out of your financial reach. In reality, you wind up replacing "bargain basement" equipment and furnishings in a short period of time. Even as a start-up practice, retain the funding to develop a first-class office. Let's evaluate two start up clients — one who implemented and the other who did not.

1. After graduation, Dr. M.L. Kaslow opened a practice in an economically depressed area. The reason: He'd grown up in this town and dreamed of establishing a practice there.

He hired an interior designer and set his frame inventory apart from the crowd. He added first-class optical displays and inviting, beautiful furniture. To supplement the typically modest income of a start-up, Dr. Kaslow also worked outside his practice, but only for nine months. In his second year, he grossed (collected) in excess of $400,000. His wife, a nurse, decided to be a stay-at-home mom, as the practice generated greater income. Dr. Kaslow is on track to gross $850,000 by the end of his fifth year.

2. Dr. J.L. Pollack had three years of corporate experience. He refused to "spend money to make money." His office looked like he ran out of money — bare walls, cheap furniture and do-it-yourself frame displays. J.L. was a horrible implementers. Not only did he ignore direction for his office's appearance, but he didn't implement the techniques and concepts to develop the proper mode of practice. The end result is that he still works outside his practice after three years of business. His wife works to keep their finances above water. The practice gross after three years is just under $200,000.

We should all be wise with our money. When starting a practice, invest in yourself, and the dividends are amazing. OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2008