New business models for optometry are emerging, driven by the predominant lifestyle priorities of Generation Z.
Flexibility is now key, with optometrists choosing to work across more than one practice or buying their own businesses yet choosing to only work in them part-time.
ProVision business coach Karen Harmsen, who is based in Brisbane, cites this shift in priorities as generational.
“The Babyboomers spoke about a job for life and if they owned a business, only sold when it came to retirement; Gen X worked hard but often had a couple of careers, and we always speak about Gen Y as having multiple careers across their working life. Gen Z (colloquially known as ‘the Zoomers’) is more about worklife balance – they may only want to work three days a week and in the other two days they’ll pursue something completely different, perhaps more attuned to their personal interests.
“I think this desire to find a work-life balance has been fast tracked by COVID, which has forced many people to review their priorities and the life they are creating,” she added.
Kelvin Bartholomeusz, a ProVision business coach/mentor in New South Wales, said the young optometrists he works with want to own their own practices so they can grow their business on their own terms.
He said a lack of established practices on the market is forcing them to open greenfield stores, which can come with additional risk.
“It’s tough to find a viable existing business to buy right now – there are few on the market and the ones that come on are snapped up by consolidators who can pay over market value. That blocks young people who need to get a good return on investment very quickly.”
These prospective practice owners are looking to establish themselves in new suburbs, or alternatively, in practices that have not kept in step with the demands of a changing demographic.
Like many prospective business owners, these young optometrists have little or no experience establishing a business, which is where ProVision steps in.
“We invite young optometrists – whether they’re starting out in their career, looking to move into independent practice or buy a practice, to become Associate members of ProVision,” Ms Harmsen said.
Associate membership is free. It comes with a mentor, recruitment services for people looking for work, and for those looking to buy into a practice, access to LaunchPro, a package of resources to guide them through the process.
“LaunchPro provides valuable information on everything from legals and structuring a business to staff recruitment and marketing. It also includes a 100-point checklist, with timelines, so prospective buyers can work back from their proposed launch date to plan every step necessary to open the doors,” explained Ms Harmsen.
Mr Bartholomeusz added, “Our greatest investment is in the time before an optometrist starts a business – advising them on cash flow analysis, structuring their business plan, negotiating their lease is extremely valuable.”
For ProVision, the return on this investment is a strong network of independent optometry practices and the transition of its Associate members into fully fledged, fee paying memberships.
“We don’t ask Associate members to commit to anything, we believe the quality of our mentoring and professional advice is enough to convince them of the value that comes with long-term ProVision membership,” Mr Bartholomeusz said.
NEW TO OPTOMETRY: HOT-SEATING
As well as helping young optometrists buy practices, Mr Bartholomeusz is working on a new concept he calls ‘hot-seating’. This allows optometrists freedom to build their own database of patients while working across more than one practice, on set days of the week, and for an agreed time.
“I saw hairdressers and dentists working this way and I thought it could help young optometrists establish their patient database without the capital investment or responsibility of practice ownership, while complementing the services of established businesses.”
To get the concept up and running in New South Wales, Mr Bartholomeusz started what he called ‘Optometrists at First Sight’.
“It’s a kind of match-making service – I find a match that equally benefits both parties. Some established practices are in a situation where the demographics have changed around them and the principal optometrist no longer speaks the predominant language, or perhaps they don’t have the skillset required to manage the growing demand for myopia management, dry eye disease or orthokeratology. A young optometrist can step into the practice one or two days a week and provide that expertise,” he explained.
“I encourage three- or six-month hot-seating arrangements, nothing longer initially, but my hope is that during this time, doors may open to a partnership or even a sale in the future.”
You can find out more at optom.provision. com.au/launchpro.