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John Marvin

David and Goliath but Make It Eyecare

In the battle of independents versus corporate optometry, the underdog can once again come out on top.




“The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate; It opens doors and creates opportunities and educates and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” – Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath

MALCOLM GLADWELL, THE famed journalist and New York Times best-selling author, in his book, David and Goliath, makes the case that the famous story of David and Goliath is misunderstood. Instead of David being the underdog when facing the Palestinian giant, Goliath, he actually possessed the advantage.

I think there is a parallel between the central characters in Gladwell’s book and the assumed advantages of corporate optometry. I believe that independent private practice has the competitive advantage in at least three ways:

Community Involvement. The one thing that the corporate groups can never be is local. The owner who works in the practice and lives in the community has a competitive advantage. The independent ECP can build and nurture the relationship by sponsoring community activities, being a part of the local school district, supporting local small business. You can be the local expert! Reach out to local community blogs or local civic groups to speak on eye-related issues. Corporate optometry cannot do this. An employee will never have the same local passion as the independent eyecare provider.

Customer Service Is Your Superpower. Today’s corporate optometry organizations will not offer the level of customer service that a local independent office can provide. It is just not in their DNA. This is confirmed by spending anytime at all with their Google reviews. Their priorities are different than that of a private practitioner. The reason that corporate optometry seeks to consolidate the profession through acquisition is they have determined that there are profits to be earned through creating efficiencies. However, what is viewed as inefficiency, may be good customer service. One of the first acts of many consolidators is to cut staff. It is true that many independents are overstaffed but what is missed is that this provides for a higher level of service. This is the true superpower of independent eyecare providers.

Build Personal Relationships. As an independent who owns your practice, you can build relationships with your employees, patients and other local, independent healthcare providers. A corporate optometry employed doctor has no interest in investing themselves in these relationships. Why should they? Relationships with employees create synergy and staff retention; relationships with patients creates loyalty and return visits.


Just like David and Goliath, it is assumed that corporate optometry has the advantage. They have the resources to purchase products at a lower price than the independent eyecare provider. They can spend on expensive advertising. However, this assumption is wrong. These advantages are to the benefit of the corporation, not the patient. Like David, the independent has the advantage when they recognize they are able to best meet their needs and requirements.

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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