The pathway to merging an associate with a solo doctor

October 28, 2013

By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcel Business and Career coach

All optometry practices are for sale with the right equation. Many job-seeking optometrists look to the classified ads such as those found on Optometry’s Career Center®. Students graduate from optometry school seeking the practice of their dreams only to find there are no practices hiring or for sale in the area they want to practice. Contrary to the classified ad, many optometry practices are looking to hire an associate but just don’t know it yet.

These practices may know in their minds that an associate would be a great addition to the practice to relieve the stress a solo doctor feels from an overbooked schedule or a senior doctor who is looking to scale back with retirement on the horizon.

These doctors know they need to makes changes, but most do not know how and are afraid of the initial investment of bringing in a new doctor.

When the pathway is clear for merging an associate with a solo-doctor practice, the resulting relationship is a win-win opportunity for both parties.

Here are the steps in the pathway to a successful merger:

1. Research/ Team-building — Finding the right optometry practice starts with Internet research and learning about every optometry practice in a 50-mile radius of where one would ideally like to practice. Do not just look at the practices “for sale.” Look for the best practices. Find out what patients are saying about the practices and check out their websites for the services offered. All practices are for sale with the right equation— and that is more than price. Rank the practices by preference. During this research process, meet with potential key advisers, including a certified public accountant, attorney, financial planner, and optometry practice consultant. These are listed in the order of importance.

2. Relationship — This begins the process of making contact with respective owners of the practices with whom you would like to work. DO NOT ask for a job in your first meeting on the phone or in person. First, compile a list of questions to find out more about their practice. This is the “considering” stage of research in which you are “making yourself known” to potential employers/partners. This is the riskiest yet most rewarding step to take on the pathway to ensuring your career success. Call the owner and request 10 to 15 minutes to ask questions about their practice.

3. Structuring the merger — Once you have identified, a prospective practice of interest, the next step is to discuss the needs and wants of both parties. This will require you to spend time with the owner looking for their expectations and needs for transitioning to the next step in their career. Once identified, you then can begin structuring a letter of intent (LOI) that outlines why the merger is beneficial to the owner, why you are the right fit, and what the completed deal will look like. For more information on the details of a letter of intent, email BusinessandCareerOD@excelod.com.

Many practicing doctors know they need to take on an associate or begin the process of selling their practice.

The success of selling a practice begins early. Students and new graduates are anxious for the opportunity to be a part of a practice and eventually own one.

There are too many optometry practices closing their doors or selling assets for pennies on the dollar due to a lack of planning and not preparing in advance to sell or transition the practice.

Optometrists looking to be successful in their career as an owner-optometrist must take the initiative to find the right practice.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AOA.

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