Published in Non-Clinical

How to Design a One-of-a-Kind Optical Dispensary—By a New Graduate Who Opened Cold

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6 min read

The optical is the heart of your optometric practice. As a new graduate and dispensary owner, it’s vital to design a great optical and this is how to do it.

Your optical is the heart of your optometric practice, and the first impression. As a new graduate and dispensary owner, it’s vital to capitalize from optical sales.
I have found 85-90% of my total profit comes from my optical each month. Although this is higher than industry standards, I designed my optical with this goal in mind.
As reimbursements in eye exams and ancillary testing decline, new graduates must see more patients or collect more from each patient. In a world where online sales grow each year, you must find a niche in optical products. You must find ways to entice patients to purchase from you. The optical environment you design and the optical products you select can either promote or deter sales.

I designed my optical with 3 things in mind

These questions will be answered differently by each Optometrist, but what is important is that the patients see who you are reflected in the space.

1. Identity

  • Who are you?
  • What are you about?
  • How is your practice different from the one down the street?
  • What is your practice’s mission statement?
  • What do you value?

2. Personality

  • What type of retail store do you like to visit and why?
  • If you could spend the day anywhere, where would it be, and how can you create that?
  • What motivates you to spend money?
  • What kind of atmosphere would you prefer to work in?

3. Functionality

  • What do I need in order for this space to be functional for myself and my opticians?
  • Who are your patients? Ages?
  • Any special modes of practice?
  • Do you have space to grow?
  • How will you showcase the latest technology?
While you are considering the functionality of your space, it’s helpful to talk to other doctors about what has and has not worked for them. Also consider the rotations you have been on and what you would do differently.
There are companies that will design your space for you; however, I have found they come with a hefty price tag and rarely look unique.

How I designed my optical dispensary

For me, I value customer service and independence.
  • I support independently owned labs which are hard to find
  • I support small, independent frame companies
  • Not only is their customer service superb, but their products are high quality.
  • Independent companies will resolve issues you may have quickly with one phone call-which is important in establishing your reputation with patients.
Furthermore, each frame line I bring into my optical has a story and an identity. Patients fall in love with frames when they hear how they are handcrafted from natural materials or worn by Elton John. They feel good about purchasing a frame when the same frame is donated to a child in a third world country who otherwise would be missing out on the gift of sight.

The next steps to building your personal optical

Use the answers to the above questions to build an optical you love complete with eyewear you are passionate about because if you are, your patients will be also.
  1. Create a plan on paper - Once you have a general idea of the above, it’s time to put your plan into action.
  2. Lay out your space - I recommend using the app Floorplan Pro. Devote adequate space to your optical, no one wants to shop in a closet.
  3. Decide your frame display - How will you display your frames? Visit known optical vendor websites, call local cabinetry companies, visit interior design websites, frequent local antique stores, make a trip to your local IKEA
  4. Contact lens companies and frame reps - I recommend meeting with all of the big 4 lens companies to make the most educated decision on who you would like to work with. Visit my favorite website, Luxury Eyewear Forum to find unique frame lines. Don’t be cheap about the lines you bring in because high-end frames bring in high-end patients.
  5. Meet with an architect - Make sure you are specific about all of your desires from light fixtures to types of doors.
  6. Get bids on your build out from 3 different contractors - Bid can vary by thousands to tens of thousand of dollars. Again, make sure you are specific in your desires, change orders are expensive!

Do it yourself when possible

Remember, the more you can do yourself, the less expensive! I spent $25 dollars on each of my waiting room chairs by shopping at Habitat for Humanity, and changed the look with $3 spray paint and upholstery. If do-it-yourself is not your style, owning a practice is probably not for you. A new optometry graduate must be a jack of all trades!
If your optical is unique by using all of the above elements, it WILL get talked about. Word-of-mouth is the best marketing and it’s free! Niche opticals and niche products are more likely to build loyal patients, and that’s what every new graduate needs!

We are a Vision Source Practice

I joined Vision Source due to the buying group aspect because as a new independent practitioner, cost of goods is key to positive profitability.
What I found is local camaraderie. I have several doctors that have been in practice for 20 years that I can text message when I have a question, and a group of my peers that I can Facebook to ask - How are you doing this or that in your practice?
In an optometric world where insurance companies are over-stepping their boundaries and healthcare is up in the air, I don't feel it's me against the world. It's Dr. X and Dr. Y, and I taking a stand for the future of independent Optometry.
If you are interested in becoming a Vision Source practice check out their website. They have great deals for new grads!
Also, here are links to their programs which will really help you to succeed.
Courtney Dryer, OD
About Courtney Dryer, OD

Courtney Dryer is a 2011 graduate of SCO. She opened 4 Eyes Optometry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC in February of 2013. After 5 years, the practice name was changed to Autarchic Spec Shop to renew the practice's commitment to independent optometry. In addition to consulting with new graduate optometrists on start-up practices, she contributes regularly to New Grad Optometry and has guest blogged for Invision Magazine. The unique design of her boutique practice was featured in Women in Optometry. In 2015, Vision Monday named her a Rising Star, and one of the most influential women in optical.

Courtney Dryer, OD
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