Article Date: 5/1/2004

fix this practice
When it's Time to Move on
You want to buy your own practice, but where do you start? Right here.
By Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q I'm an optometrist employed by both an independent optometrist and a corporate chain for five years, and I'm ready to branch out on my own. How do I accomplish this?

Dr. V.L. Stow, via e-mail

A: Many new practitioners worry about competition. The most important thing to do is to decide where you want to live and practice. If you do the proper things (e.g., specialize, practice medical optometry, set proper fee structures at the level of ophthalmologists in the region, maintain a unique frame inventory, stress service to the patient in spectacle and contact lens delivery) "in house," then the competition is irrelevant because you no longer compete, you beat the competition. Your options are basically: start cold or buy an existing practice. Here are some details on each.

Filling someone else's shoes

We're in a "buyer's market," which means more practices are for sale but with fewer buyers to purchase. The following circumstances indicate that purchasing an existing practice might be ideal for you:

If you think this is the right option for you, then you'll enjoy the following benefits:

Starting from scratch

From my own companies' experiences assisting close to 200 doctors in start-up practices, you'd need to invest between $100,000 and $150,000 to start a new practice. This initial investment includes lease hold improvements (i.e. walls, flooring [tile and carpet] and built-in cabinets), inventory and equipment. Starting cold, many doctors don't have the immediate patient base that they would if they had purchased a practice.

The following circumstances indicate that starting out cold might be ideal:

Important things to consider in deciding whether to start your own practice include:

It's what's inside that counts

The bottom line in your decision to purchase or start cold is the particular circumstance that you're facing. Either way, it's what you do internally that's most critical to setting yourself apart from the competition.

Dr. Kattouf is president and founder of two management and consulting companies.  For information, call (800) 745-EYES or e-mail him at The information in this column is based on actual consulting files.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2004