In this regular column, ODC checks in with veteran O.D.s to get their best time-learned tips for what they wish they knew when first starting out with a buying group or optometric alliance.
“It’ll never work!” Mario Gutierrez, O.D., FAAO., recalls. “That’s what I told my friend. I’d been in private practice in San Antonio for about six months and was approached by my optometry school roommate.
“He told me about his idea of starting a network of like-minded optometrists. Though I didn’t think it would work, by the end of the evening I told him, ‘Since you are my friend, and I am broke anyway, what are they going to do if this doesn’t work...repossess my retinoscope?’ So, I signed our first agreement...on a restaurant bar napkin.”
That friend’s name? Glenn Ellisor, O.D., soon to become the founder of Vision Source. His plan? “To launch the network in Houston, and he asked me to establish Vision Source San Antonio. That was 28 years ago.”
GOOD TO KNOW
Vision Source is a network of over 3,200 locally owned practices and 4,500 doctors; it operates under franchise law but O.D.s remain independent.
STAY THE COURSE
“Join if it makes good business sense and you have vetted the various alliances. Go with your gut, and don’t agonize with analysis paralysis. The members who are most satisfied and stay with a particular alliance are those who commit to dedicating the time and changes to take advantage of all the programs and cost-of-goods savings. It makes absolutely no sense to jump in one alliance and then out into another group.”
USE THE TOOLS
“The group itself won’t make you successful, but using the right tools will. Model your success after those who are already successful in the alliance and ask your colleagues for help when you need it.”
The biggest surprise in joining the alliance?
THE CAMARADERIE “I was not expecting that when we started,” says Dr. Gutierrez. “You collaborate, talk about practice issues/successes, truly help each other, especially when difficult situations arise, and become very close lifelong friends.”