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Thursday / May 30.
HomemibusinessEyecare Plus: Your Independent Business Partner

Eyecare Plus: Your Independent Business Partner

Eyecare Plus works with optometrists from the beginning of their journey as a practice owner to the end. Right now, the organisation is enabling over 140 member optometrists in Australia to run independent practices in their own, exclusive locations. Their’s is a formula that has worked successfully since the organisation’s launch in 2000. By offering practical guidance on business planning, marketing, human resources, stock management and more, this organisation helps members maximise their potential for personal and business success, while optimising patient care.

PRACTICE MANAGEMENT

On a daily basis, the team at the Eyecare Plus head office in Sydney facilitates meetings where members can share knowledge, information, and ideas. It also provides a wide range of resources, programs, and promotions, and allows the flexibility to choose whether to participate in each, and to what degree.

Creating Business Plans 

Practice benchmarking and marketing intelligence on local competitors and changing patient demographics are key elements of the support Eyecare Plus provides members. Then, armed with this knowledge, the organisation recommends and assists practice owners to create a business plan that’s unique to their situation.

Phillip Rose, National Business Development Manager at Eyecare Plus, says having an up-to-date business plan can greatly improve a practice’s ability to recognise and meet its goals and objectives, while also providing a guiding path to future success and personal reward.

“Importantly, rather than being a ‘set and forget’ document, your business plan must be a ‘living’ document,” he explained. “It must have ‘meaning’ to you and be the guide by which you manage and develop your business.”

There are three elements to the business plan that Eyecare Plus helps its members to create:

  1. Situation Analysis (where you are)

Eyecare Plus looks at a broad range of KPIs and compares them to industry benchmark figures, together with an incremental growth demonstration tool to show how small changes can have a big impact.

  1. Goals and Objectives (where you want to be)

Depending on identified strengths and weaknesses, Eyecare Plus works with its members to achieve their personal and business goals.

  1. Strategies and Tactics (how to get there)

Eyecare Plus considers which actions need to be followed to achieve your goals and objectives for an improvement of your practice performance.

Human Resources Management 

Integral to the success of any business is engaging and retaining staff who fit your practice culture and can identify with your patients.

Eyecare Plus supports new practice owners in this area with access to a human resources consultant and a library of Human Resources Procedures, which covers areas such as recruitment and selection, performance management, pay reward and recognition, policies and procedures, workplace health and safety, and wellbeing.

Stock to Display Ratio 

Stock management can be perceived as a low priority area for both new and experienced practitioners, and yet it is essential for maintaining a positive cashflow. With guidance from Eyecare Plus, Mr Rose says members gain an understanding of how to maintain a healthy stock to display ratio and how to keep stock moving rather than allowing it to sit around for too long.

As he explained, “It is important for practice owners to focus on their total stock holding relative to display spaces – you want to have your display spaces full and an extra 20% in back up – no more. It only takes three days to get stock delivered these days. There is no need to hold more than 20% in excess.

“If you have 1,000 spaces, keep no more than an additional 200 frames in the drawers that you can pull out if a patient chooses a frame that suddenly isn’t available or they’re looking for a gap frame.

“Old stock makes your practice look tired, takes up valuable retail space and costs you money. So, if you have a frame on display for more than six months, you need to ask why – what’s wrong with it? What is the point in having stock that doesn’t sell?”

BUYING AND SELLING

Whether buying or selling a practice, Eyecare Plus can help achieve the best outcome by offering advice and connecting prospective buyers with practice owners, young and old, within the group.

Opening a New Practice or Buying an Established One 

“We are always ready to assist practice owners who are looking at opening greenfield practices or purchasing an established practice,” said Mr Rose. “Our head office can provide owners (both current and new) with personal advice and assistance. Current members and practice owners are also happy to talk with and mentor anyone who does not have experience with the business side of optometry.

“In addition, due to our protected territories, one point of difference with Eyecare Plus is that members can exchange ideas and talk freely at meetings because they know that their direct competitor will not be in the same room. This creates a fantastic collegiate culture within the group.”

Once a practice is established, the Eyecare Plus national office staff will accredit the practice, giving on-site feedback to help improve business performance, improve practice operations, and ensure the provision of quality patient care.

Succession Planning 

Mr Rose says succession planning is a delicate matter to negotiate for any practice owner. This is because once a business owner makes the decision to sell, they often want to find a buyer straight away. However, the process can take several months to over a year, making it important to plan your succession strategy.

“Buyers usually need the last three years’ profit and loss figures. But the continued business disruption caused by the COVID pandemic has made it difficult to assess these figures to determine the value or purchase price for a practice.

“The value of optical equipment and stock is relatively fixed, but the goodwill component is not.

“As an owner you would like the last two years’ results, which have been affected by COVID, to be acknowledged as such. As a buyer, you are looking for the post-COVID improvement in practice performance.”

Mr Rose said this is the quandary buyers and sellers are facing.

“We are finding that buyers, sellers and their respective accountants are managing to consider these factors to reach a mutual satisfactory outcome.”

On another note, Mr Rose says, “Optometrists sometimes forget the buyer is unemotional. The buyer’s accountant looks at the numbers and they’re even less emotional. They’re looking at the figures in black and white, they’re evaluating actual performance.”

Reassuringly he said, “This year is much better than last, with retail coming back a lot stronger, and this economic activity should continue for the rest of the year.”

One element of succession planning that hasn’t been affected by the turbulence of the pandemic is the strategy behind transitioning a practice from one owner to the next.

“The transition process remains a central component of any good succession plan. Mentoring is important, not just in a fulltime capacity – it can be just two to three days a week – for the former owner to guide the new owner and remain a face in the practice,” said Mr Rose.

Whatever you do, he cautions, when buying or selling, don’t sign anything until a lawyer has looked over the contract.

“Do not sign any clause relating to exclusivity or worded – ‘ceasing negotiations with other interested parties’ – this clause disadvantages your position and leads to a narrowing of your potential buyer market.”

Eyecare Plus head office can help you, as a business owner, prepare a summary of your practice that can be passed onto a potential buyer to determine their level of interest. They will also vet potential buyers, so you avoid wasting time.

Succession from any business needs to be well planned. Eyecare Plus can help make this transition as successful as possible for independent practice owners.

HIGHLY AWARDED

Eyecare Plus is the only optometry group, and one of only six businesses nationwide, to be recognised with three consecutive Canstar Blue Awards.

Canstar has provided Eyecare Plus with a five-star rating for overall satisfaction and after sales service, with four stars for range of products available, quality of advice, customer service and value for money.

Most recently, the Eyecare Plus ‘See Australia Your Way’ social media campaign won gold at the Sydney Design Awards 2021 for Marketing (mobile campaign).

Sydney Design Awards provide marketplace recognition across a broad range of categories with a mandate to celebrate the ‘creativity and courage of those who are leading the way’.

The Eyecare Plus campaign saw a 74% increase in the company’s Instagram following and “some wonderfully creative entries that highlighted our patients’ positive experiences in their respective practices,” said Isobel Bishop, Eyecare Plus Creative and Marketing Executive.

Benefits of Membership

Optometrist Mark Prince owns and runs an Eyecare Plus practice in Bendigo, Victoria. Mr Prince says the independent group has helped provide him with practice success and achieving personal and professional satisfaction as an optometrist.

“Being part of the Eyecare Plus group of optometrist business owners has been very enjoyable,” he said.

“We are all independent optometry practices with our own exclusive locations, which provides an environment for genuine support and sharing with each other whenever we get together. That was pretty often before COVID, with bi-annual conferences, regular ‘boot camps’ and opportunities to be part of overseas educational meetings. Now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic, we’re all excited at the prospect of resuming these activities.

“I also enjoy the fact that our group provides a huge range of resources, programs and promotions through Marketing Plus – the marketing arm of Eyecare Plus that creates and executes marketing and communications plans for member practices.

“We have the freedom to choose whether to participate and if so, to what degree.”