Vision One Credit Union

Working with OptometryMatch.com and ODs To Navigate the Sale Process

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.—With interest by firms outside the traditional vision care market on the rise, these are interesting, and challenging, times for independent eyecare practices. Indeed, private equity firms looking for prospective new investments, and even corporate-operated eyecare groups, are looking at optometry as a market ready for growth and consolidation.

Many independent ODs, faced with the challenges of new online competitors, changes to managed vision care programs, the threat/opportunity of telehealth and even growing competitive challenges, are taking a hard look at how best to compete in this dynamic market and take the right paths for their future. For longtime ODs, the key decision they face is retirement planning and ensuring their practices’ legacy.

For many private practitioners ready to transition away from ownership, the favored option is to find a means to transition the practice to another independent eyecare professional, according to Bob Schultz, president and chief executive officer of Vision One Credit Union, which is based here. Vision One, founded in 1951 by a group of California optometrists, is a “banking institution dedicated to the specialized needs of independent optometrists,” according to the firm.

“Most of the doctors that we talk to would like to find a way of transitioning their practice to another private practitioner,” Schultz said, speaking of ODs who are considering an exit strategy. “They chose to be a private practitioner themselves, and they would like to pass that on, all things being relatively equal,” he told Vision Monday in an interview.

In addition to providing banking services to independent ODs, Vision One specializes in working with private eyecare practices considering the sale of their existing practices as well as helping employed doctors to realize the dream of owning their own practice location. Schultz, who also is a member of the board of the Practice Management Center (PMC), said one of the goals is to take the “complexity out of the transaction” for those involved in any deal.

Most ODs want to sell their practice to other ODs to perpetuate independent optometry, Schultz explained, and selling to another private practice OD is the “predominant way of selling practices” in today’s market. “Private practice ODs did not get into ownership to sell out to commercial optometry,” he added.

In October 2017, Vision One teamed up with PMC and VSP Global via optometrymatch.com, a service designed to connect ECPs looking to buy or sell an optometry practice. The goal was to “make the overall experience a seamless transition,” according to an announcement at the time.

With a simplified and smooth process for both buyer and seller, the belief is that it will in turn help ensure the future success and growth of independent optometry. The service is founded upon practice management guidance from PMC and the resources of Vision One to provide the capital and financial expertise for pre-qualified optometrists to buy, grow and sell private practices.

Optometrymatch.com is “the starting point” for ECPs who are in the market to buy or sell part or all of a practice, the announcement noted. Doctors can utilize this new tool by registering on the secure website. PMC then implements its “Smart Match” model to match the doctor with a buyer, seller or practice that meets the specified criteria. “Once a match is made, PMC works closely with the doctors, providing support and consultation throughout the practice transition process,” the announcement noted.

In addition to expert practice management guidance from PMC, Vision One Credit Union will provide the capital and financial expertise for pre-qualified optometrists to buy, grow and sell private practices, the announcement noted.

For independent practices in the selling mindset, the process of finding a buyer and negotiating the sale price and the sale process “got much easier with the help of the Practice Management Center and OptometryMatch.com,” Schultz told VM. He noted that the PMC is owned by a not-for-profit company and it has professional links to each optometric college.

“The PMC has resources that [enable it] to find buyers ready, willing and able to purchase your practice today,” he explained. “The PMC performs practice valuations and due diligence, and negotiates and arranges for legal services and financing.” Two additional services that PMC and Vision One can provide is to review whether the practice is fully valued, and if not the PMC can recommend changes to improve the practice’s future selling price, Schultz said. “The PMC will develop an appropriate transition plan for the practice, also,” he added.

In addition, Schultz said most ODs need the sale proceeds from the practice to help fund their retirement. “The only value upon sale are cash proceeds,” he said. “Stock without a market has no current value.” The private-to-private practice sales often result in cash proceeds equal to or greater than those proceeds generated in private practice-to-PE investor transactions. “It’s worth it for a seller to find out the value of a private-to-private OD sale,” Schultz added.