Article Date: 3/1/2005


No Money Down? No Problem

QUESTION: Two years from now, I'd like to buy the practice where I'm currently employed. The practice is well-established with an excellent patient base. I'm a recent graduate with good personal credit but no cash to put down. Do I have any options for 100% financing, or am I just dreaming?

ANSWER: No, 100% financing isn't just a pipe dream. However, without any real estate, vehicles, valuable inventory or marketable securities, getting that loan will depend on your ability to generate and flow cash. Remember, you need enough cash to pay fixed expenses, staff salary and taxes, vendors and suppliers, and the bank note -- before you can pay yourself.

Look for 100% financing opportunities with the Small Business Administration or local, regional or national banks. Don't overlook smaller local banks, as they tend to be more interested in small business loans.

Convincing a banker you're a good risk is a different story. Personal relationships are important in most business ventures, and I always try to work with bankers who are actively interested in my practice. Be prepared to educate your banker on what exactly what you need to run a successful and profitable optometry practice. What you get from a banking relationship depends on what you put into it.

Finally, think long-term. Stress that you're looking for a banker who's willing to build a lasting business partnership.

Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O., Brentwood, Tenn.


Know Your Licensing Requirements

QUESTION: I'm a fourth-year optometry student. When should I start applying for a state license?

ANSWER: Preparing license applications can be a long, expensive process, especially if you plan to apply to more than one state. If you're short of time and money, you can streamline the process by applying only to your top choices. I limited myself to four state applications, but I still spent about $3,000 total for notaries, travel and application fees.

Your next step should be to research examination schedules and requirements. Most states will issue a license based on your degree and a passing grade on the three-part National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. However, some states administer additional law, pharmacy or practical exams. Registration for these exams may close as early as 3 months before the test date. A good resource for requirements, application fees and test schedules is the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry Web site at

Make sure you set aside enough time to prepare for every part of the exam. State licensing tests can vary widely in format and difficulty. For example, Tennessee uses a straightforward true-false format, and you receive the questions before the day of the test. In comparison, Indiana's multiple-choice test had more answer combinations than I knew could exist. The most challenging test I took was the 3-hour oral and practical exam administered by North Carolina. Only 30% of applicants pass each year (I'm proud to say I was one of them).

I suggest preparing for law exams by studying and quizzing yourself on the appropriate statutes. Use books like the Wills Eye Manual (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia) and atlases to bone up on rare diseases and odd facts.

The lesson I learned and would like to pass on to you is don't take state licensing tests lightly. Don't automatically assume you'll pass, and have a back-up plan in case you don't -- especially if you want to practice in North Carolina.

Robert Szypczak, O.D., Hilton Head, S.C., Illinois College of Optometry, '00



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005