By Keith S. Hilliard, OD, FAAO
March 31, 2021
When you decide to sell your practice, you have many options. If you seek to continue working after the sale, it is important to find a buyer that will facilitate a work life that you find rewarding, while helping you to maintain the high level of care that your patients have come to expect.
I was fortunate to find such a buyer in MyEyeDr. Here is how the company has helped me do more of the patient care work that is most important to me, and how being part of a larger company is helping the practice continue to be there for patients during the pandemic.
Helping Patients Live Their Best Lives
I sold my practice to MyEyeDr. in June 2019. I chose MyEyeDr. over other investment groups for several reasons. It has the longest track record of disciplined growth of all the other PE companies I researched. Most importantly, however, I identified with the company’s stated purpose and vision of “helping patients live their best lives.”
I also was impressed with MyEyeDr.’s leadership. From the CEO, Sue Downes, to the Chief Medical Officer, Artis Beatty, OD, right down to my Clinical Field Director, the leadership and culture is phenomenal! As the book Good To Great points out, many great companies have leadership that started out in the trenches when the companies were still young and growing. I truly believe MyEyeDr exemplifies this in its leadership. In fact, Sue Downes’ first position in optometry was working at the front desk of a practice, so she is more than familiar with all of the roles!
Steadfast Partner in Keeping Patients & Team Members Safe
The greatest challenge we face from the pandemic is continuing to keep our patients and team members safe and healthy.
MyEyeDr. has been, and continues to be, an industry leader in keeping our patients and team members safe and healthy. Our safety protocols go above and beyond Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and our patients and staff greatly appreciate those efforts. Almost every day, patients comment on how safe they feel in our practice and that our protocols go beyond what other healthcare facilities provide.
I am proud to say that we have had not one positive case of COVID-19, nor have any of our team members reported any COVID symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. We followed MyEyeDr.’s safety guidelines, and even practice them outside of the office to keep each other, our families and our patients safe and healthy. I know that as an independent practice owner, keeping up with all of the evolving safety standards would have been extremely challenging and distracting. It has been a relief to have MyEyeDr. leading these efforts.
Reopening & Rebuilding
We temporarily suspended in-office patient care for six weeks beginning in late March 2020. When we reopened, it was limited to “essential eyecare” with minimal contact between patients and staff. By July 2020, we were open for “routine eyecare,” but we still only allowed limited patients in our office per day to remain within the recommended safety guidelines.
The backlog of appointments was overwhelming with patients not being able to receive an appointment for over two months. We worked with the MyEyeDr. leaders and revamped our hours and days of operation and hired more staff members for our location to help accommodate the high demand for coveted appointment slots. We are actively pursuing another optometrist to work in our location to help with the continued high demand for appointments.
I am thankful that I had MyEyeDr to oversee and handle all of these obstacles associated with closing our office, applying robust safely protocols and rebuilding our appointment books. It would have been extremely difficult and stressful to have handled this on my own. I have heard of many colleagues who suffered, and continue to suffer, because of what the pandemic did to their businesses. Recent experiences have only reaffirmed that I made the right choice of partners.
A Work Life that is Better than Ever
My work-life balance is better than it has ever been! I love interacting with patients and I excel in the exam room. When I’m done seeing patients at the end of the day, I go home to be with my family, and I don’t worry about a thing related to the business. I have absolutely no stress related to work, and have more time to do the things I love. My wife and I have become more engaged with our church and are doing more to live “radically generous” lives. I also now have the time for greater enjoyment of my favorite outdoor activities, like mountain biking, skiing and kayaking.
I’m still working 40 hours per week seeing patients, but there are no more “extra hours” required to work on practice management. This allows me to be 100 percent focused on patient care and expand my clinical knowledge and skills. I’ve been spending more time reading professional journals and look forward to attending more optometric conferences when the pandemic subsides. Ultimately, my patients are benefiting from my renewed energy and focus.
Good for Both Doctor & Support Staff
One of my biggest concerns about selling the practice was staff retention and happiness. Two staff members quit shortly after the sale because they didn’t like change and didn’t like to be held accountable. Looking back, it was a good thing because they were resistant to new ideas and not open to learning new processes to improve the patient experience. MyEyeDr. hired new associates (and added two additional staff members) who are more efficient, productive and friendly than their predecessors.
MyEyeDr.’s process for hiring is a significant improvement over what I was doing before the sale.The company has a district manager and professional human resources personnel that select the best candidates for our office.
The staff members who stayed with me through the sale are happier. They are getting paid higher salaries, receiving bonuses and many other benefits I could not provide as a private practice owner. The first six months of integrations following the sale was stressful, but now that have we accomplished it, we are running like a well-oiled machine, and our numbers are much higher in virtually every metric of practice performance.
A Consistently Positive Patient Experience
Practicing in a small town, it is imperative to build relationships and trust among your patient base. Word travels fast whether it’s positive or negative. This was, perhaps, my greatest fear of selling to a large buyer. Not a day goes by that patients inquire about our new name; and many of them ask me why I sold, and if I’m happy. I emphatically tell them: “It was the best decision of my optometric career!” In the end, my patients, my staff, and I have come out ahead.