Article Date: 4/1/2010

Six Tips To Jump-Start Your Optical
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Six Tips To Jump-Start Your Optical

Implement these tips to ensure successful retail optical operations.

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

Q I have worked in corporate optometry for three years. My desire is to open a private pracsessing my skills, I feel that my knowledge of operating a retail optical department is weak. Any suggestions?

Dr. T.K. Sellers via e-mail

A: Congratulations on your decision to open an independent practice. The key drivers of a retail optical include:

Frame inventory. Your other independent-practice colleagues offer an array of retail frames from $100 to $300. Marketing research indicates that most consumers choose the mid-price range.

Create a new middle by having at least 20 exclusive frames that retail for up to $800. By presenting the wider range of frames, you increase your unit sale per patient and raise gross and net income.

An in-house lab. You'll beat the competition in service and quality if you have one. At the same time, you'll lower your cost of goods, and raise net income. Different levels of savings exist. You can purchase surfaced blanks, and cut and edge in your lab. You can have an in-house casting lab with anti-reflectant coating and enjoy great savings and profit. When offering same-day fabrication of spectacles, you create an invaluable reputation.

Preventing patient “erosion.” Erosion occurs when patients take their prescriptions elsewhere. Each time you place a frame on a patient's face, he must know the total cost of the glasses, including lens enhancements.

This prevents “sticker shock” and “buyer's remorse.” Manage patient objections to your optical services before they occur by having them sign a waiver that indicates they will pay $39 if they have adaptation issues and want your opticians to evaluate the fabrication. With third-party fabrication, issues often occur with center thickness, base curve, decentration, etc. If the patient discovers a fabrication flaw, the optician will charge the patient $39. Any prescription purchased through the Internet typically has a $59 charge, which covers one year of adjustments.

Spending money to make money. Don't skimp on your optical displays cost, as it sends the non-verbal message to patients that your dispensary isn't “all that.”

Providing adequate seating. When I visit optometric practices, I usually see one or two dispensing tables that have a chair for the patient and a stool for the optician. Where are the patient's friends and family supposed to sit? Patients don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. By designing the optical with an area for multiple seats, you accommodate all who come with the patient to assist with selection.

Pre-appointing dispensing. This is sound advice for both established and start-up practices. Doing this enables you to accomplish an increase in multiple and unit sales and an ability to pay total attention to each comprehensive exam since you don't have to deal with patients walking in at peak times for dispensing. This concept assists in controlling your schedule and your practice.

I have worked with hundreds of “start-up” doctors — all of whom invested wisely in their opticals — and none had to work outside of their private practice for more than one year. Yet other optometrists still work outside their practices five or more years after starting cold. Which O.D. do you want to be? 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: April 2010