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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

8 intelligent questions to ask before joining a buying group or optometric alliance

Wondering what to consider before joining an alliance or buying group?

Or, are you considering switching to a new one?

To make your decision easier, we reached out to two veteran optometrists to get their take on key considerations when making these critical decisions.

They are:

Mick Kling, O.D., owner of Invision Optometry in San Diego, who is a Vision Source member

Kim Friedman, O.D., a founder of Moorestown Eye Associates in Moorestown, NJ, and member of Healthy Eyes Advantage (HEA)

The two ECPs invited to share their insights are:

Here, they serve up eight smart points to ponder before making your decision.

1. NEGOTIATIONS.

“Ask yourself whether it’s important to have a partner manage vendor price negotiations or whether you want to negotiate pricing on your own.” —M.K.

2. BEYOND PRICE.

“Buying group selection was traditionally about price. That is less important now and should be but one component of several.” —K.F.

3. LEVEL OF SERVICE.

“On one end you have some traditional buying groups which aggregate buyers (practices) and negotiate volume...often with a nominal fee.

“On the other hand, some alliances offer a high level of service with multiple programs and strategies to not only improve cost-of-goods savings, but ensure overall practice growth, leadership skills of the owner, [and offer] business finance education, marketing strategies, etcetera.

“These services require a larger investment. Therefore, optometrists must determine what level of service they desire for the value they are receiving.” —M.K.

4. OTHER BENEFITS.

“What is most important to you? For example, are there reduced- or no-cost CE opportunities? Does the group offer technology as well as glasses and contact lenses? Consolidated billing? Credit card processing? The fewer vendors I need to deal with, the more efficient I can be with my time.” —K.F.

5. SERVICE QUESTIONS.

“Ask yourself, ‘How important is it to get the most aggressive pricing on products, equipment, and services? Do I want additional consulting services or practice management expertise? Additional educational offerings such as leadership training or business acumen training? How important is it to have an alliance partner manage vendor price negotiations or do I want to negotiate pricing on my own?’” —M.K.

6. PARTNERSHIP.

“You can’t hire nice. I need my group to have representatives I enjoy working with and who help support my business. I want them to bring offers that will benefit my bottom line, and I need quick resolutions to those minor issues that come up.

“It’s hard to quantify those types of qualities except to say, ‘I want to surround myself with people and businesses that make me better.’” —K.F.

7. EVOLUTION.

“Online refractions, glasses, telemedicine, private equity, and insurance changes could ultimately be threatening the independent practitioner role in the eyecare space. I want a group that will advance in pace with the natural evolution of eye care, but protect the independent ECP by partnering with vendors that do not erode my patient base.” —K.F.

8. GROWTH + GROUP.

“Ask yourself questions like these: ‘How important is it to grow faster than the overall market?’ And, ‘How important is it to be part of a larger, unified organization and experience the camaraderie that comes with it?’” —M.K.

THE BOTTOM LINE?

Whether you’re joining an alliance or buying group for the first time, or switching to a new one, take these steps. Analyze your own needs, perhaps in conjunction with other ECPs whom you respect. Then match them to the offerings of buying groups and alliances, and, only then, make your decision.