Whether you’re fresh out of optometry school or an experienced optometrist looking for a change, starting your own optical business is an outstanding opportunity for the right person. Starting a business, no matter the sector can be a daunting task and is not for everyone. Before making any hasty decisions, it’s important to consider your potential day-to-day activities as a business owner and decide if you’re sure the increased responsibility will fit your personality and lifestyle. As an optometrist networking group, we want all our partners to be professionally fulfilled, so if you’re considering starting your own optical business, we hope this article will help get you started off on the right foot!
Growth in Optical Industry
Before starting any kind of business, it’s important to learn about industry trends and projections. This will help determine if the sector will be profitable for you and how much competition there will be for market share. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the occupation of optometry to increase by 18% between 2016 and 2026. This is well above the average 7% for US job growth so it’s a great indication that the demand for your services will be there and the industry will be steadily growing.
The growth in the industry can be attributed to many things; without over-generalizing, we will explain some factors leading to this growth. To begin, vision issues usually occur later in life and as the overall population ages, more and more individuals will seek services in the field. An older population is more susceptible to conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration, and others. In addition to an aging population, chronic diseases like diabetes have steadily grown in the United States. This unfortunate health trend will also affect optometry because diabetes has been linked to several eye conditions including diabetic retinopathy. Another important factor to note is accessibility. As more and more health plans begin to cover medical eye care and preventative care, more people will have access to optometry services, further contributing to the projected industry growth.
Increased Freedom and Responsibility
To some, the ability to set your own schedule, take time off when needed and spend the holidays with your family is priceless. Like any other sector, those who want more freedom and responsibility usually strive to become their own boss. This is no different in the field of optometry. If you’re unhappy with your current job structure, take matters into your own hands, because true change must be deliberate. Starting your own optical business will require significant thought, research, commitment, and initial investment, but if you have the determination and work ethic to see this goal through, it can be well worth it. Once your business is established, you will have the freedom to make decisions for yourself, and the fulfillment of starting and calling something your own can be rewarding beyond belief.
Increased Opportunity to Make a Difference
Along with the increased freedom that comes along with starting your own optical business, opportunities to enact positive and long-lasting change will also present themselves. Many people report altruistic reasons for entering the medical field and optometry is no different. Supporting a patient in their journey to better eye health can truly change their life. With increased freedom in your practice, not only can you provide more personal care to your patients, but you can expand this care to others, even across the world. PECAA knows very well how generous and compassionate optometrists can be as we raised over $116,000 in 2018 for Optometry Giving Sight. These funds helped provide vision care to over 23,000 children in underserved countries. If your goal is to leave this world better than you found it, starting your own optical business can help you achieve this.
How to Start an Optical Business
Now that we’ve gone over some of the key reasons to start your own optical business, let’s get practical and talk about how to make your dream a reality. Below are some of the key steps to take when starting an optical business:
- Develop a Clear Vision: From the very beginning, you should be looking ahead and thinking forward. Take time to develop a clear vision for the future of your business and layout the steps you need to take to make that vision a reality. This will help ensure you’re orienting and steering your ship in the right direction!
- Create a Business Plan: Creating a detailed business plan is an essential step for any new business. Your business plan should include a financial plan and a detailed budget. If you don’t know where to begin with a business plan, you may want to consult with an optical business advisor.
- Carefully Choose a Location & Conduct a Market Analysis: Location is a key consideration for any new business. A great location with retail exposure can help lower your marketing costs. It’s also important to take stock of your competition and conduct a market analysis.
- Comply With the Law: Be sure to obtain any required licenses, permits, and registrations for your business. If you’re unsure about these, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney in your state.
- Compare & Choose Suppliers: Take time to research different suppliers and request and compare quotes. Consider joining an association or network that connects members to vendor discounts, such as PECAA’s group buying power. PECAA’s frame and accessories partners offer products at a variety of price points to meet the needs of your patients.
- Hire a Capable Team: Your business is nothing without a capable team behind it. Think about how many staff members you need, whether they’ll be full or part-time, how you’ll recruit them, what fair compensation looks like, and what benefits you should offer. Not only is it crucial to hire the right people, but you must also make sure to get them into the right “seats.” Putting together detailed job descriptions with specific skills will help you accomplish this.
- Invest in Marketing: Marketing will help your business grow and succeed. We’ll share more information on marketing for your optical business later on in this article, so read on!
- Get Ready to Open Your Doors: This list only scratches the surface of all that needs to be done in order to open the doors of a new optical business. A few of the other things you should think about include purchasing equipment and supplies, investing in comprehensive insurance, designing and decorating your office/shop, training your team, detailing your operations, and much more.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone. Starting an optical business from the ground up is no small undertaking, but PECAA’s cold start program is here to support you along each and every step of the way.
When Dr. Meg Ricahrdson decided to start an optical business, she joined PECAA’s cold start program, which she found to be extremely rewarding and worthwhile. She says:
“I joined PECAA pretty much as soon as I decided to open my own practice. My PECAA membership proved immediately beneficial in many areas. An area that was invaluable was when I was applying for a bank loan. Bryan was able to help me polish up my financial goals and projections before presenting myself to our local bank to ask for a loan. Needless to say, we got it! Bryan also provided me an excel spreadsheet which gave me an idea of how many of each ‘type’ of frame I should aim for (women’s vs. men’s, high vs. low price, etc). These are just a few examples of the ways PECAA has helped, I could go on and on!”
So, as you’re working hard to open your own optical business, just remember that there’s plenty of support out there should you decide you need it!
Should You Buy Into an Optical Business for Sale?
Rather than build an optical business from scratch, you can also buy into an existing business or practice, which can save you money and time. Buying into an existing business requires fewer upfront investments; most existing practices have an office stocked with equipment and inventory and set up proper licensing and insurance. Many practices also have skilled and experienced staff members that you can choose to keep onboard. Last, but certainly not least, you can buy into a practice with an established patient base, which means immediate cash flow. All of this means you’ll be able to hit the ground running and make a profit more quickly.
If this sounds like what you’re after, there are two options for buying into an optical business: a complete purchase or a partial purchase. With a complete purchase, you find an entire business for sale and become its proud new owner. With a partial purchase, agreements vary, but owners purchase a percentage of the business and are responsible for that share. Because it’s easier to qualify for smaller loans, partial purchases tend to be much easier and more affordable. No matter whether you’re buying in full or in part, be sure to have a professional optical business appraisal or valuation done so that you’re fully informed.
Marketing Optical Business Support
No matter how you go about starting your own optical business, don’t forget about the importance and power of marketing! Great marketing will help your optical business not only survive in the long-run but thrive.
Marketing comes in many forms, so you will need to develop a strategic approach and detailed plan. Some important areas to focus on include: choosing a name for your business, developing a clear and consistent brand, designing and developing an effective website, leveraging social media, generating new leads, conducting search engine optimization (SEO), managing your reputation, designing business cards and other print materials, and so much more.
Because the world of marketing is complex and ever-evolving, many optical businesses choose to outsource their optical marketing. At PECAA, we connect members to a strategic marketing partner in order to help them successfully brand and market their practice through website design and development, social media management, design and print services, and patient engagement.
More on Starting Your Own Optical Business
Before committing to this exciting opportunity, it’s important to gauge your own personal attributes and how they will fare when starting your own business. Not everyone will enjoy the increase in responsibility and it’s much better to determine this before making such a big decision. Once you’ve determined you’re up for the challenge, the steady market growth, increased freedom, and opportunities for positive change will all be outstanding rewards for your dedication and success. And lastly, if you want support along the way, make sure to join an optometry group like PECAA.
With our cold start member program, you can:
- Enjoy FREE Membership from the day you join PECAA until the day your practice opens to the public.
- Utilize PECAA’s vendor programs and reduce costs for capital expenses like software, medical equipment, and optical fixtures.
- Once your doors are open, receive FREE Membership for the first six operating months and a reduced fee for the second six operating months.
If you’re ready to get started, become join us today!