Article Date: 11/1/2005

09_05nOD_Second Feature

Choosing a Practice Location
How to select a community where you can achieve professional and personal success.
By Kelly K. Kerksick, O.D., Columbia, Ill.

Here's your dilemma. You're ready to go it on your own and you're looking for a practice location. There's an established practice for sale in the city, a prime office for rent in a busy suburban shopping center and a new professional building going up in your hometown. Which location is right for you?

When I started looking for a practice location 3 years ago, I wrestled with a number of decisions that would affect my professional and personal life for many years. I realized that new O.D.s can't just choose a location because it's available. We need to pick one that will nourish our professional and personal satisfaction and success.

Find a Home-and-Work Location

You'll spend far more time in the community where your practice is located than you will in the place you call home. Why not make them the same place?

One good reason to live and work in the same community is simple: A short commute. If you live close to the practice, you can take advantage of the many free after-hours advertising and networking opportunities that can help your practice grow. You'll network at Chamber of Commerce meetings or attend local school functions to mark your presence in the community — and get home in time to get some sleep.

In addition, it's difficult to offer your patients the very best care when you live far from your practice. You don't want to spend an hour driving home just to get an after-hours emergency phone call from a patient as you pull into the driveway. As a new O.D., you can't afford to not see this patient, so now you have to turn around for another lengthy drive. Why set yourself up for the inconvenience? By living close to work, you can be available for your patients and encourage the practice's growth while enjoying better quality of life.

Put Profitability in Perspective

Many doctors think a top location means a successful practice and a happy optometrist. I disagree. I've seen many doctors make the mistake of choosing a practice location in an area they don't like so they can capitalize on the business opportunity the community offers. This is not a recipe for success.

If you don't like where you practice and you can't wait to leave work to go home, you'll create a lot of unnecessary stress and unhappiness. To be a success, you need to get involved with the community through the local schools, clubs or volunteer organizations. Patients need to see you in action, showing that you have a commitment and dedication not only to making your practice succeed, but also to helping the community succeed. If you like your practice community, this is effortless. If not, it's a tiresome chore that lasts for years.

Learn All You Can About the Area

Once you've narrowed your choices to communities you like, it's time to evaluate their need for your professional services. When I was narrowing down my location choices, I contacted my state optometric association for demographic information. Next, I documented how many O.D.s were practicing in each community. I found some areas already were well-served.

The communities' major employers also influenced my decision. This information gave me an idea of the types of insurance that residents used and how HMO-driven my potential patient base would be. With these factors in mind, I finally selected a location.

Put Down Roots

Last but not least, before I hung out my shingle in my new hometown, I looked to the community to confirm my decision. I joined a church and several local organizations, including the Kiwanis Club and the Chamber of Commerce. I met with the local economic development coordinator and found that my presence and services would be embraced with open arms in the community. This finally sealed the deal. I was very pleased I'd selected my location with such a thorough process, and I have been very content with my choice. With careful research and consideration, you can find the same success and satisfaction with your practice.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2005