Article Date: 6/1/2009

Jump-start Your Practice With a Nonmydriatic Camera
If I Had to Do It Over

Catapult Your Career With an Advanced Business Degree

Getting an MBA can boost your chances of running a successful practice from the start.

By John L. Schachet, OD
Englewood, Colo.

I'VE BEEN IN PRACTICE close to 35 years, but there's only one thing I'd do differently if given a chance. I'd get an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree. Don't get me wrong, obtaining an optometry degree is great, but it doesn't address the business side of optometry, which involves developing a business plan, creating budgets, setting benchmarks and running a practice. Because I didn't have an MBA when I started out, I learned how to run an optometric practice from the school of hard knocks. I had some successes, but I also experienced failures. Here, I'll tell you how a business education can help if you decide to head out on your own.

Benefits of an MBA

Many young doctors fresh out of optometry school begin working at existing practices or chain stores to get their feet wet. This isn't a bad thing, but it's not where most want to be long term.

As a student of an MBA program, you'll learn the theory and application of business and management principles. You'll foster your entrepreneurial spirit and gain an innate understanding of how to start and run a practice efficiently. The ODs who have an MBA develop their optometric practices faster and are much more organized than those who don't have one. No matter what you say, an optometric practice is a business. With an advanced business degree, you'll understand how to plan a budget and keep expenses in line. You'll be able to evaluate revenue and determine if your receivables are where they should be. You'll even learn proven ways to deal with internal theft, a major issue for many businesses.

Nuts and Bolts

The type of training you'll receive in an MBA program will prepare you to handle all aspects of your optometric business. You'll learn how to:

■ Plan a budget to cover salaries, equipment, furniture purchases and leasing costs

■ Set benchmarks to achieve practice growth and compare where your business stands with peers who have new or established optometry practices

■ Structure a loan to expand your practice or buy a new building

■ Determine which insurance plans you should accept from patients

■ Evaluate life insurance and other types of insurance for you and your family

■ Get the maximum return on your investment for the equipment you buy

■ Decide when it's time to expand, hire an employee or staff, and

■ Plan for retirement.

Invest in Yourself

I know the last thing you want to do after completing your medical education is incur more student loans. But I believe obtaining an MBA is a wise investment in yourself and in your future business. Your advanced business degree will help you avoid the trial-and-error phase that's inevitable when opening a practice.

Give it Some Thought

Honestly, if I had even 15 more years before retirement, I'd go back to school and get my MBA. I'd learn what other companies had done in the past to become successful, and I'd apply that knowledge to my current practice. So think seriously about pursuing this advanced business degree. You'll be ahead of the pack if you do, and you'll be able to enjoy the successes and rewards of running your own practice earlier rather than later in your career. nOD

Dr. Schachet is a graduate of the University of Houston's School of Optometry. He's in private practice at Eyecare Consultants — Vision Source in Englewood, Colo. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2009