When A Partner Passes Away
Eyecare of Florence, Florence, SC
In July 16, 2015, Dr. Ronald “Doc” Locklear, partner, co-founder and the optometrist of Eyecare of Florence, unexpectedly died.
“We had just sat down with the banker and talked about expanding and adding equipment,” recalls Billy Isgett, optician and remaining partner. “He was gone two hours later. It was like letting the air out of a balloon when we lost him. People loved him; they came because of him.”
Without a doctor and source of steady income, Isgett began the search for an OD to replace the man who had been his business partner for 23 years.
Times got tough for the Eyecare of Florence team but everyone pulled together. “Our loyal staff cut their hours, while a couple worked other jobs, to buy us time to find the right person,” Isgett says. “The companies we’d done business with for so long helped us on payments and products.”
Through what Isgett calls “lots of prayer, ads with OD schools and lots of letters sent out” they found a part-time OD, Dr. Tony Lowe, that October and brought him on full-time in January of this year.
“Our first instinct was to get someone just like Doc, and Tony has some of the same qualities. He came in at first just on Saturdays to help us out and finally, after a few months, said he wanted to come on board full-time. He made it really easy,” Isgett says.
“We are getting back to where we were, but had it not been for prayers and a staff that made personal sacrifices so we could financially survive, we very well could have been a victim of bankruptcy or closure,” he says. “We even had patients that were scheduled in the months after Doc’s death that just waited until we could see them again. They didn’t go someplace else.”
Rarely does such a significant loss have a happy ending and, according to Isgett, they have only now reached the point where they have stopped comparing everything to when Doc was around, but Eyecare of Florence is back up and thriving. “All of our staff is back to regular hours, we have a great optometrist, and what began as a two-person ministry will soon be starting its 25th year in private practice.”
So what words of wisdom does Isgett have for others who might find themselves in a similar situation in the future?
“See if there is a list from your state association of licensed doctors in your area,” he says. “Always be looking for someone reliable to fill in or even have someone who regularly works a day a week so you can cover appointments in an emergency. Be prepared, and never be caught with your pants down!”
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