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If You Build It, They Will Come
I started my practice cold just a few years out of optometry school. Without patients or money for a down payment, significant student loans, and a new mortgage, it was a daunting proposition, but one I knew I had to pursue. Seven years later, I have a thriving five-star-rated practice, two toddlers at home, and no regrets.
I knew I wanted to pursue optometry in high school when I had to interview a professional for careers class and chose my beloved optometrist, Dr. Dutton. During the interview, Dr. Dutton told me all about the field of optometry, but what really stuck out was when he said he was a very present father to his son with special needs. The ability to balance a successful business with raising a family was extremely appealing to me and solidified my career choice.
Starting a Practice Cold
My first job out of optometry school was with a practice that moved me around to their different locations. I got to see what worked in some practices and didn’t work in others and kept asking myself, “What would I do differently here?” That curiosity became all-consuming, and I knew I had to strike out on my own. The bank agreed to loan me the money, my current job allowed me to gradually scale back my hours while I built my practice, and I took the leap.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Taking that leap required a significant amount of faith for a while. Without any patients of my own, I wasn’t immediately faced with a packed schedule. Instead, I kept expanding my hours, and lo and behold, patients filled up the schedule. Then, when I was pregnant with my first son, I hired a second OD, which seemed counterintuitive when I wasn’t yet paying myself a typical practice owner’s salary. But that hire coincided with an explosion of the practice, teaching me to hire in anticipation of growth, not the other way around.
Getting the Word Out
At the beginning, I had time but no money, so I had to be creative with my marketing. I visited neighboring businesses to introduce myself and volunteered at service events. Between patients, I participated in screenings at local preschools and established a niche in pediatrics, a specialty that’s hard to find in our area. Pediatricians began referring patients to me, and with those patients came parents and siblings—now I treat whole families and get to watch the kids grow up.
Today, I ask every patient how they found us. Because we are a VSP Vision Premier Program practice, many patients find us through the Find a Doctor Directory on the VSP website. Yelp and Google have also been extremely effective—we encourage each patient to write us a review, and our five-star rating on both has driven more patients to us than any paid advertising could do. (In fact, we just hit over 500 five-star reviews on Google!) We are active on social media, using resources from VSP’s My Marketing Team as inspiration to promote the practice and drive sales through events like National Sunglasses Day. Patients follow us, engage with us, and share our content with their friends and family.
Knowing I’d Made It
If I had to name a defining event that signified the practice’s success, surviving and then thriving during the pandemic would be a big one. VSP’s extension of its supplemental Essential Medical Eye Care enabled us to treat patients’ medical eye care needs outside of impacted ERs, and we were there for our patients every step of the way. We emerged stronger as a practice, with a loyal and appreciative patient base. “As Eye See It,” the reviews our patients give us are the true indication of our success. Knowing patients enjoy coming to us so much that they tell others about their experience is worth five stars to me.
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