6 steps to open a practice

December 6, 2016
Melanie Denton, OD, MBA, FAAO

Opening a practice of your own can be quite overwhelming and can leave you wondering where to start.

The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

Opening a practice of your own can be quite overwhelming and can leave you wondering where to start.

Previously from Dr. Denton: Behind the scenes of Instagram practice photos

Having gone through it myself, I decided to put together the 6 steps I followed while going through the process.

1. Location, Location, Location

When looking for a location for my practice-a whole other blog in itself-I considered many factors.

I looked at all options: strip mall locations, professional office complexes, historic main street locations, and more. I ended up choosing a space located in a historic building downtown-near the railroad.

Related: 5 steps to creating a budget

The space checked out in terms of having an amiable landlord with a good reputation, being as affordable as possible, having tons of space to grow into, and needing little renovation. Plus, there was an adjacent parking lot that would help us stay in the location longer as our schedule became busier.

Due to the neighborhood, I felt it was important to consider a design that respected the “good bones” of the building, and incorporated the rustic-industrial railroad vibe of downtown.

 

2. Consider the overall picture

How do I want people to feel when they walk in?

I didn’t want my office to feel sterile. I wanted it to be professional but current; like walking into a room from Chip and Joanna’s “Fixer Upper” on HGTV. I wanted it to feel like somewhere you wanted to be, not somewhere you had to be.

We added a coffee bar and a “juice” bar-my fancy name for a charging station.

Related: Does your practice have a hive mentality

Wanting the space to reflect our town, I brought in elements from its heritage including a Cheerwine crate and Antosek luggage (My best friend’s grandfather had a luggage factory right across the tracks from my office).

Another big part of setting the tone and pulling it all together-enlisting the help of a commercial designer.

She helped me reign in my ideas and make them cohesive. She also steered me toward commercial-grade furniture that would hold up over the years.

 

3. Invest in the most important areas

My reception/waiting/optical areas are all combined. It’s the space in the practice where patients will spend the majority of their time.

I knew it would be the first impression and set the tone for the whole visit. I also knew I would be offering higher end products, so I needed a space that felt high-end as well.

Related: 5 ways to finish strong for 2016

My personal desk? It’s an old door I salvaged propped up on two saw horses. Total cost-$30.

But my optical desks?

custom made by a local metal artist to mimic the steel girders of the building structure. 

You get the picture.

I spent money on the things that mattered most and made do where I could.

 

4. Stay true to your gut

Frame boards have never done anything for me aesthetically, so I decided to figure out a way to display glasses without them.

OMG (Optical Marketing Group) makes great “tree stands” for glasses that display eyewear beautifully and allow you to change up your displays frequently. I bought these in bulk.

Related: How a blue ocean strategy can keep you competitive

Other pieces that make great interchangeable optical displays? Cake stands, jewelry stands, wood and metal trays.

 

5. Create a plan for buying frames

My budget allowed me to start my practice with 300 to 400 frames.

When you’re going to have only that many, it helps to have a plan for how you’re going to fill these spots.

Related: How to combat stress in your life

Before meeting with reps, I had a list broken down not only by gender but budget and style as well. This helped me prevent impulse buying and kept me on track.

Think, “That’s a beautiful line, but my need is for five more larger eye size men’s budget frames.”

 

6. Take control of merchandising

During the course of designing my optical, I walked into another beautiful office.

They had done so many things right: tasteful decorating, a welcoming environment.

The one thing I didn’t love? Point-of-purchase (POP) advertising everywhere.

I was so inundated-with models wearing glasses and obnoxiously bright POP that didn’t fit the practice’s design aesthetic-it made my head spin.

Related: Should there be a dress code for ODs?

I was overwhelmed.

I decided then and there that we would tell brand stories in a different way.

But how?

Simple and short brand stories in white frames that do not take from our design is what I decided. The frames should be the focus-not the bright, shiny advertising.

Overall, create a practice and an optical that is authentically you and fits into the feel of your area.

Check out other blogs from Dr. Denton and others here

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