By Brandon Blaker, OD
Nov. 30, 2022
Formulating a practice exit strategy can be daunting. You want to get the right plan in place, so you have a secure path to eventually stop practicing, and you also want to make sure you are able to continue doing what you love until you’re ready to move onto the next phase of your life. Here is how I created the perfect exit strategy to meet my needs, thanks to finding the right partner, AEG Vision.
Finding the Right Partner
I sold my practice to AEG in July 2019. We had many options when considering our sale. Key deciding points for me were the desire to sell to an organization with leadership that was experienced in large-scale optometry operations, with the vision to continue to allow our private practice to remain a hub for eyecare, not just a retail store, and the ability for us to continue to grow our brand in our current market. I was proud of the practice I built and wanted to see it continue to grow and be successful under new leadership.
In addition, we strongly considered the value we would get for the sale. I wanted to be sure I was getting a fair market value for what I had built.
Readying the Practice for Sale
We began the process of looking for a buyer with a plan to ensure our profit-and-loss statements were as clean as possible. We detailed owner draws and expenses, and spent time researching and discussing what we could do better from a business standpoint. Looking for areas for top-line growth and bottom-line earnings had a huge immediate impact.
When I heard AEG Vision CEO Eric Anderson speak at a panel discussion at Vision Expo, I knew this was my organization! When I first reached out to AEG, they were not yet partnering with practices in Texas, where my practice is based. So, I continued to work on business growth. I was told during this time, “If you aren’t running your business like you are trying to sell it, then you aren’t really running a business.” That was the best advice I got.
Prepare a Timeline for Exiting
I sold my practice when I was 45 years old. Was I ready to stop working then? No, but I figured that retiring at 50 might be nice. I often hear doctors tell me, “I’m not ready to retire.” The question then becomes, when will you be ready?
When you sell to a group like AEG, if you are still actively participating in patient care, there is an expectation you will continue your current workload for some period of time into the future. My advice is you should plan to sell years before you are ready to retire, move, cut back, etc. You will have the option to keep working should you want to or go part-time and enjoy the time to spend with kids and grandchildren with the nest egg you were able to obtain.
Be Ready to Capture the Opportunity Presented by Your Ideal Buyer
Begin readying your practice for sale before you think you need to; you never know when the opportunity to sell your practice will present itself. If you are ready, be proactive in learning about the sale and purchase process. I always make myself available to ODs who are interested in learning more about my process and that of others who have sold to the right partners.
It is your responsibility to understand your business. If you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague who has similar goals or experiences as a mentor. I made it a point during my career to surround myself with some of the brightest minds in the industry and not let myself get lost in my own world, afraid to not know or ask for help. I would encourage you to do the same. The work you put into your business now will pay off big when a purchasing group sees you as someone who understands the landscape and will be easy for them to integrate into their systems.
Find a Partner with People You Believe In
AEG Vision gave me peace of mind about who I was partnering with, and that my business was important to them as a long-term strategy. I was not treated like a transaction, but as a person making a decision that I could only make once in my life and I had to get right.
Having an OD team for the optometrist to report to was also important to me. When I came on board, Ben Chudner, OD, AEG Vision Medical Director, was amazing in allowing us to settle in while providing OD autonomy within a large corporate structure. And with the continued growth of the company, Dr. Chudner has added more optometry leaders who work directly with the OD staff within the company ensuring we maintain our important role as healthcare providers.
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AEG enabled us to offer many of the same high-quality products and inventory that we offered when I owned the practice. AEG was extremely professional to work with in the ownership transition and worked with our staff to grow and build team leadership.
Find the Partner You, Your Patients & Your Staff Need
Selling to the right partner will enhance the care you provide to patients. The portfolio of offices within the AEG family expands an OD’s access to the knowledge needed to add services to their practice, such as vision therapy, specialty contacts, medical eyecare and high-end retail. All these modalities require different strategies, and we have access to examples of all those approaches now. This allows for best-in-practice models to be expanded from the best strategies from across the country, lifting the standard of care in AEG practices across the country.
Along with improved services for patients, the right partner should be able to boost support staff. AEG empowered my staff with up-to-date training systems and accountability. AEG allows our staff to have transparency in their work and expectations from managers. We as ODs tend to hover and try to control everything. AEG provided my staff with growth and career opportunities. Some of my staff now hold regional market leadership positions after being promoted from within.
Overarching all of your needs when looking for the right partner is integrity. You want an executive team of people of the highest ethical standards. Being able to trust the people you partner with allows you the ability have great comfort in your decision.
In the sale of your business, you will always think of what-if scenarios, which can paralyze your decisions and negotiations. Knowing you can depend on people in the organization you are partnering with to do the right thing is truly a great experience. This is what AEG Vision has provided to me, my patients and staff.
Brandon Blaker, OD, practices at Hill Country Vision Center in Texas, which is now a part of AEG Vision. To contact him: email@example.com