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John Marvin

Begin Your Business with the End in Mind

Few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell.




Begin Your Business with the End in Mind

THERE IS AN OFT quoted question from Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” says the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” responds Alice. The cat replies, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Far too many optometrists and optical owners seem to subscribe to this approach to their careers.

I have known many optometrists who spend 40 years owning a private practice who wish to sell and retire. However, they are often faced with the sad reality that they have followed Alice’s approach. Whether it be a vacation, a wedding, or a career, planning is critical to getting where you want to go.

Last month’s issue was about beginnings — starting a new business — something I’m familiar with having helped almost 70 young optometrists build a new practice. Everyone knows you don’t successfully open a new practice without the proper planning … but few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell. A successful ending requires just as much planning as a successful beginning.

Stephen Covey famously said in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, “…begin with the end in mind.” Start with a clear understanding of your destination. If you have not clearly defined what you want to achieve at the end of your career, then likely you won’t like how it ends. To start, ask yourself: “If I were a young optometrist, what kind of practice would I be excited to own?”

Having worked with hundreds of young, entrepreneurial optometrists, I can suggest the following:

A Great Location


It’s likely that over the forty years you own your practice, your neighborhood and community will change. It’s possible it will improve, but more likely it will change for the worse. Our society is in constant motion, new developments are built and people move. Evaluating whether you should relocate is of utmost importance. A prospective buyer will want growth potential.

An Updated Space

If you’ve been in practice for over 25 years and have not remodeled your office, it will be very hard to appeal to a young optometrist. Retail and clinical space design has changed significantly in the past decade. Visit best in class retail businesses to see how they are designed; note how they merchandise their products and approach customer service. Keep your practice competitive with others that appeal to customers. What do customers and patients experience when in your business?

Modern Equipment

Today’s refractive and diagnostic equipment is light years from what was purchased ten or twenty years ago. Today’s digital phoroptor and digital preliminary testing equipment enables doctors to provide a higher quality of care that patients have come to expect. Advances in digital imaging allow doctors to identify and manage pathology which previously had gone unnoticed. This is what will be expected by anyone interested in buying your practice.

Well Merchandised Inventory


One of the most overlooked aspects of a 35 or 40-year-old practice is its inventory. It’s a part of the business many doctors ignore and delegate it to someone on staff. The result is an optical that is overstocked and out of date with only about twenty percent of the frames actually selling over and over. The rest just sit and attract dust. When the practice is sold, the thousands of dollars tied up in old inventory drags down the value of the practice.

Put yourself in the shoes of a young optometrist and think of the kind of practice they would want to own. Write down the qualities of this practice, this is the end that you have in mind. Once you know where you are going, it will be much easier to end up where you’ve planned.

John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the blog. You can email him at


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