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Is Buying a Practice the Right Thing for You?

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on January 11, 2016

We hear it all the time.

There’s no such thing as 9 to 5 anymore.
If you want job security you have to be your own boss.

So, many optometrists decide to establish or buy an existing practice. While the independence of having your own practice seems appealing, is it the right thing for you, both now and in the future?

Before you write that check there are some things to consider and they are:

An optometric practice can cost a minimum of $375,000. Then there is the cost to upgrade equipment and the hiring new employees. Want to establish a new practice? How do you know the area where you want to open your practice has enough patients to provide the needed revenue? Most new ODs have student loans to pay off. Have a spouse? Are you sure your spouse is willing to co-sign a loan? As much as you would want to start your own practice, if you still have student loans to pay off or other financial obligations, it is best to delay establishing your own practice until debts and other obligations are cleared.

Being your own boss means you get to call the shots. It also means that not much gets done until you do it. Yes, you may have a clerical person and an optician on staff, but what if one or the other is calls in sick and it’s a busy day. What if you don’t have those people on staff? Then what? That means you are entering patient information in the computer or you are dispensing glasses and making adjustments, in addition to seeing patients. That means you won’t be able to go to the gym, eat dinner at a decent hour or have much of a life until you turn a profit, hire others or both.

Employee Issues
While you may be able to do everything yourself, eventually you will need to hire someone. That involves placing an ad, reviewing the resumes that come in, interviewing people and, finally, hiring someone. Once someone is hired, you can concentrate on patients and not worry about clerical or dispensing tasks. Right? Not so fast. What if person you hired calls in “sick” every other Friday? What if the person you hired gets along well with patients but isn’t big on paperwork or keeping track of inventory? What if the person you hired steals from you? Those things mean that you have to switch from being a doctor to a human resources manager. Think you can just do something that seems right and have the problem solved? If you don’t know the specific employment laws for your state, you could end up getting sued. Having a good chair-side manner with patients doesn’t always translating into being a good manager. So, consult with legal experts when it comes to employee issues.

Of course, many optometrists do very well as a solo practitioner or the majority owner of a practice. Still, buying a practice isn’t something you do on the spur of the moment. It takes research on the financial aspects of starting a business and consideration of the non-financial aspects of being a sole proprietor. Owning your own practice can be the most satisfying thing you have ever done or it can be a costly mistake. If you want it to be satisfying, do your due diligence.


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