Looking back at starting my first sublease, I was so excited to have my own business. It was what I always wanted. It was the best option for me and my family at the time.
I was a young O.D. looking for opportunities to acquire or start my own business. Having a young family, it was easiest for me to take on a turnkey established-business sublease. I had always read up on the practice management articles and thought that I was finally ready to start my business, but there were things I wish I knew before I started.
Read on to learn what I and other O.D.s in the industry wish we had known before we started a sublease—and what you can do differently to ensure success.
The Admin Crunch.
Successful subleases require as much administration time as a private practice. Many O.D.s think that a lot of the business aspects of the sublease are handled by the corporate optical owner, and some are to a certain extent.
Still, despite not owning the optical in a corporate optometry model, many corporate O.D.s are involved in the daily business of the optical. Their administrative tasks include billing, payroll, and recruiting. Weekly team meetings, sales goals, and other business metrics also involve the subleasing O.D.
Having a corporate optometry lease is a lot like having a private practice.
I WISH I KNEW: Maria Casas, O.D., has a busy LensCrafters sublease in Miami. “I wish I knew that finding coverage would be very hard to do—and that I would [therefore] have no free time,” she says.
ACTION PLAN: Understand what each corporate sublease requires regarding coverage and administrative tasks. Not all subleases are the same, but knowing what your responsibilities are can help guide you to a work environment that fits your lifestyle.
Patient Schedule + Staff.
One of the pros of partnering with a corporate optical is that the staff is provided for the sublease holder. The staff can assist with the O.D.’s front desk tasks and assist with pretesting.
The corporate optical would provide this within the sublease agreement, yet the staff works for the corporation and many times the sublease holder has limited abilities to train the staff and dictate exam efficiency.
Being able to control your own schedule and practice the way you want is a common theme among subleases, yet many times because of the increased volume of many corporate opticals—and cross-training of optical staff—certain things might not be in full control of the sublease O.D.
I WISH I KNEW: Van Vu, O.D., subleases from 20/20 Eyeglass Superstore in Orange City, FL. “I wish I knew how much I’d be able to control my patient schedule and whether or not I’d be allowed to train staff,” she shares.
ACTION PLAN: Many O.D.s in this situation hire their own staff to prevent scheduling issues and other errors that might occur. Have a team meeting with optical staff, understand what their objectives are, and decide what you are looking to do in your own practice.
WHAT IS A SUBLEASE?
Sublease is a space an O.D. would lease from a corporate optical. The sublease agreement is typically one to three years. The corporate optical would provide the exam lane and some pretest equipment. Many times the optical staff would assist the sublease holder in making appointments and other admin tasks. The sublease agreements are state dependent. The O.D. business would be a separate entity from the optical.
Access to Your Own Phone Line.
An essential part of a business is owning a website and phone line. Many times corporate opticals will provide a phone line to the sublease holder, but it will remain the property of the corporate optical.
If the doctor decided to move his or her practice, the phone number would stay with the corporate optical.
Corporate O.D.s should read their sublease agreements thoroughly. If there is a section in the agreement about the phone line, it can be negotiated before everything is signed and a sublease is started.
I WISH I KNEW: Jenn Winn, O.D., subleases from Pearle Vision in Ottawa, Ontario. “I wish I would have gotten my own phone/fax number and simply forwarded it to the corporate optical,” she says.
ACTION PLAN: The corporate optometrist should have their own phone line and pay for it through their own business, not through the rent to the corporate optical. If a corporate O.D. doesn’t already have their own phone line, they could purchase their own and edit their business cards, website, and other websites that have the old number.
Having your own phone line can be a feature if you decide to move from your current location.
- Turnkey business
- Brand recognition
- Equipment provided
- Free advertising
- Retail setting for hours of operation
- Increased amount of vision care plans
- The inability to control staff hours
- Time off
- No equity in the practice
The Critical Marketing Plan.
Many corporate O.D.s ignore marketing their practices and rely on the corporate optical to drive the business. Gathering patient data within your practice is the most important thing you can do for the future growth of your practice.
Building a personal website—separate from the optical—is a great way to attract new patients and retain your current patients.
I wish I had set up an internal marketing strategy sooner to be able to retain and engage my patients.
Gathering data such as emails and cell phone numbers is the most cost-effective way to market a practice. It’s a great way to retarget patients to the O.D.’s social media pages and get them to review the office online.
I WISH I KNEW: My major focus at first was to recall patients. Yet, looking back, marketing to my patients in a variety of different ways besides focusing on number of exams would have been more beneficial to my practice in the long run.
ACTION PLAN: Focus on gathering all the information on the patient—email, cell phone number, and what social networks they use. Data mining in your practice has amazing value beyond income.
Starting a sublease in corporate optometry has many positives, but there are still some things that new business owners should consider.
Learning from others’ mistakes can help guide you to negotiating the right sublease agreement and making decisions that your future business self will thank you for. COT!