In a significant move, Eyecare Partners Limited has announced the resignation of its 38 practices from the co-operative marketing and buying group, Eyecare Plus.
Eyecare Plus chairman and founder Dr. Tony Hanks (pictured speaking at a recent conference) said that the departure of Eyecare Partners (EPL) from Eyecare Plus is “unfortunate”, but that Eyecare Plus has “enjoyed steady growth from 105 members in 2005 to 184 in 2011” – an increase of 75 per cent in that period. Dr. Hanks expects the operations of Eyecare Plus to continue largely unaffected and that the reduction in size with the exit of EPL will not have a material effect on the group or its’ performance.
mivision spoke with Eyecare Plus CEO Michael Jacobs about the likely impact of losing more than 20 per cent of its members.
Q: What is the anticipated loss of income for Eyecare Plus when these 38 practices leave?
A: As part of the report to our members at the 10 September 2011 Annual General Meeting, our auditors will report that losing these 38 practices will result in a 10.1 per cent drop in income for Eyecare Plus.
Both companies look forward to an ongoing, co-operative working relationship and have wished the other well…
Q: Is this drop in income a large blow for Eyecare Plus?
A: While the reduction in the group size from 184 practices to 146 practices is disappointing, it is not a critical blow to Eyecare Plus. Our group is owned by its members, so we spend our income on developing our member practices. The loss of income from the 38 practices leaving the group is matched by a reduction in expenses in supporting those 38 practices.
Q: Will the reduction in size affect your relationship with suppliers?
A: No, we will continue to be a significant group in dealing with suppliers. We had negotiating power at 100 practices, so we will still be seen as important now. Eyecare Plus will also be working hard to attract appropriate new members.
Q: How will it affect Dr. Tony Hanks, the Chairman of Eyecare Plus who is also part of EPL?
A: Tony and Vicki Hanks have shares in EPL, just like a lot of other Eyecare Plus members and optometrists generally. However, for some time they have not been involved in any decision making related to the operations or management of Eyecare Partners or any of it’s practices. They made this decision specifically to avoid any ‘conflict of interest’ situations that might arise. Their efforts are 100 per cent directed to supporting Eyecare Plus, the group that they both founded.
Q: Does this mean that Eyecare Plus territories will become available in the areas where EPL has been operating under the Eyecare Plus name?
A: Yes, EPL will cease to operate under the Eyecare Plus name by 22 October 2011. These territories will then be available to other practices – possibly new members or perhaps some who are currently unbranded members.
Q: Is the departure of EPL from Eyecare Plus amicable?
A: Yes, there are still many friends and colleagues in the two groups and there is no reason for this to change. Eyecare Plus was disappointed by the decision, but as Ray Fortescue (Chairman of EPL) has said “the needs of a publicly listed company have often been in conflict with the ideals and goals of Eyecare Plus, which has been created to support the independent practitioner”. Both companies look forward to an ongoing, co-operative working relationship and have wished the other well in their future endeavours.
Q: How does Eyecare Plus now feel about the future of the group?
A: The management and directors are absolutely confident about the future of Eyecare Plus. Our strength is the collegiate atmosphere of co-operation between like-minded professionals who are protected by territories and do not compete against one another. We will continue to build this trust between members and expect to make more announcements about new members soon.