Article

STRONGER TOGETHER

Joining forces is the name of the game in today’s competitive landscape. Here, 4 practitioners lay out the pluses of buying groups + alliances.

GOOD TO KNOW

“[Our alliance has] a comprehensive system that provides invaluable data for owners who want to analyze their performance quickly and efficiently.”

Online sales, chain retailers and big-box stores, private equity optometry, and the list goes on. Independent ECPs are experiencing more competition than ever before in today’s unique optical landscape for everything from eyewear sales to patient exams.

How can ECPs dial in a more competitive strategy today? For many, joining forces with an optometric alliance or buying group has become an integral part of the strategic plan.

Here, we check in with four ECPs—two belonging to buying groups and two to optometric alliances—to learn the key reasons to join + how they each make the most of their relationship for purchasing and beyond. And, in some instances, way beyond.

The four ECPs invited to share their insights are:

BUYING GROUP MEMBERS

ALLIANCE MEMBERS

GOOD TO KNOW

55% of ODC’s survey respondents who belong to buying groups or alliances have been members for over 20 years.

WHY JOIN?

The reasons vary, but the value in doing so does not.

■ PURCHASING

PECAA’s group buying power connects members to 70+ vendors offering discounts up to 50%, explains Endo.

■ NEXT LEVEL

“We were part of a different group,” explains Dr. Barker, “but, as our practice grew, I needed help to move us to the next level. PERC was the right choice.”

■ ATTITUDE

“I went between two groups for a while,” says Battifarano. “The more I dealt with Villavecchia, the more it became a personal relationship. I switched because they are friendly, caring, and understand my needs.”

■ NEW GRAD

“Vision Source is the alliance my father chose,” explains Dr. Chinn. “Since joining the practice, I’ve seen a huge benefit as a new graduate to being part of the group.”

PURCHASING POWER

What about the benefits of buying through their group of choice?

Dr. Barker: “There are no fees or contracts, so there’s no trying to recoup fees with PERC. Plus, they bring huge value by partnering with premium vendors. And, Perc Advantage helps you get premium products faster and at a better price.”

Endo: “They have really competitive discounts (up to 50%), and I like PECAA’s Member Rebate Program that combines all vendor rebates in one quarterly check.”

Dr. Chinn: “As an individual private practice, your bargaining power and voice is extremely limited. But as part of Vision Source, we can voice our needs to vendors and the industry with a larger impact.”

Battifarano: “Of course, I’m saving money, but why go anywhere else when you also get the benefit of their knowledge and assistance in different areas. If I have a problem, I know that Villavecchia will help.”

VALUE-ADDED SERVICES

Purchasing is just part of the package for these ECPs.

■ LEADERSHIP

“PERC has quarterly regional meetings and education,” says Dr. Barker, “but what stands out to me is the leadership group, PPA (Perc President’s Alliance). Practices come together from across the country to work on things like how to home in on metrics and financials, and then learn how to measure them.”

■ METRICS

Endo points to the value of metrics with PECAA. “They provide both national and local numbers, along with information like pay scales in our area. There is also a comprehensive system available that provides invaluable data for owners who want to analyze their performance quickly and efficiently.”

■ NEWSLETTER

Battifarano also finds Villavecchia’s newsletter a real plus. “I’ve found people looking for work and have bought furnishings from ads in there. I also got my credit card through the group. It’s a great rate and good service.”

■ NETWORKING

“Being a Vision Source member extends beyond tangibles like pricing and buying power,” explains Dr. Chinn. “It allows me so many networking opportunities to learn and grow as a new graduate and soon-to-be sole business owner. The meetings and education set it apart.”

In the end, with all the features and benefits that buying groups and optometric alliances deliver today, what’s the bottom-line benefit of joining one of these organizations?

“To ensure that each one of us,” concludes Dr. Chinn, “is the best private-practice clinician and business owner that we can be.”

4 BIG DRAWS

ALL FOUR ECPs SHARE THE KEY REASONS THEY RECOMMEND ALLIANCES AND BUYING GROUPS.

→ COLLABORATION “Our industry and our patients’ perspectives are changing so fast,” explains Dr. Barker, “that in order to stay relevant and maintain a highly competitive independent practice, it is important to collaborate.”

→ ROI “Even though there are monthly payments/fees,” says Endo, “I recommend joining a group because the return on investment far exceeds—and is well worth—the fees.”

→ RELATIONSHIPS “As everything becomes more corporate, having a personal relationship with a group becomes more valuable,” explains Battifarano.

→ COMMUNITY “If you’re a new grad like me,” says Dr. Chinn, “you didn’t learn a lot about business management, HR, profit and loss analysis, etc. For me, Vision Source is a community. We build each other up, learn from each other, and share our experiences.”