MyEyeDr’s Fast-Paced Expansion Grows at a Rate of One Location Per Week


MyEyeDr is designed to be a hybrid, a chain of independent optometrists.
VIENNA, Va.—After surpassing its goal of 60 locations and $100 million in revenue by the end of 2013, MyEyeDr’s expansion drive continues unabated. Fueled by an infusion of an undisclosed amount of private equity capital from Boston-based Monitor Clipper Partners in December 2012, MyEyeDr has gone from 60 employees in its home office located here to 200 and from 41 locations at the end of 2012 to 64 locations by the end of 2013. The company now operates 109 locations in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia with about 200 ODs.

Not only has private equity enabled MyEyeDr to afford the purchase price of multiple location practices, but it has also “helped deepen and strengthen our acquisition teams,” said David Sheffer, MyEyeDr’s executive vice president of corporate development. Now, the company operates three teams that assess an acquisition’s strengths and weaknesses then starts putting in systems from back office to point-of-sale.

It’s not that the operations the company is acquiring need a lot of work. “Their strengths were there before, now we’ve expanded on them,” said Sheffer, who explained that with the MyEyeDr model, “doctors don’t have to deal with anything other than the patient. The home office teams take care of everything for the offices, staff and doctors, so the only thing they focus on is the patient.”

Since its founding in 2001 and an equity investment in 2011, MyEyeDr has put its banner on 109 practices.
Sue Downes, the company’s president, who founded MyEyeDr with Robert Samit, OD, in 2001, added, “Since they’re not dealing with business management, doctors now have more time and can bring in a much higher volume of patients. They can go from 50 or 55 hours to 30 or 35 hours but still see more patients.”

While MyEyeDr’s continued growth is impressive, it’s not being done haphazardly with acquisitions here and there across the country with no concern for the type of eyecare practice that is being acquired. Instead, it’s focused on specific geographical areas and solely on professional full service optometrists. “Once we put down roots somewhere, we want to grow and grow,” said Sheffer.

After being founded in the Washington, D.C./Virginia metropolitan area, including Baltimore, MyEyeDr has successfully branched out into other states along the eastern seaboard. With its acquisitions of Doctors Vision Center in North Carolina in January 2014 and Lord Eye Center in Georgia the following month, the company is working its way south. “Florida is the new future for the next couple of years,” said Sheffer.

Sue Downes, MyEyeDr president.
Acquisitions in other states are on the company’s radar as well, and while it’s unlikely that it would venture as far from its home base as the West Coast, “we would jump on a 25- to 30-location practice in the same time zone as us,” said Sheffer, who added, “and we are! We’re not interested in practices with two to three locations in a new market, but something large could bring us to a new market such as Chicago and New York.”

He explained that this strategy is not based solely on economies of scale but also on keeping the doctors and their staffs happy. “When we plant a flag in a community, whether a state or a region, we want the number one top market share in that area. Doctors then feel a part of a team and can share best practices. It also helps with staffing, being able to move people as needed when someone is out sick or on vacation.”

In addition, MyEyeDr keeps practices from having to decide between being a medical model or simply providing routine eyecare. “You can do both in one practice and do it well,” said Sheffer. “We should be the total eyecare component so the patient can continue to be loyal to the independent optometrist.” The company reinforces that message with its slogan: “Trust a community doctor to welcome all insurance and offer a great selection of eyewear.”

David Sheffer, EVP of
corporate development.
With insurance having such a powerful influence on optometry these days, Downes is also applying her strong background in managed vision care that resulted from her having worked for a few years in that division of Eye Care Centers of America (now a part of Visionworks, after being acquired by its parent company, Highmark). As soon as an acquisition is made, “we add that practice to all the insurance we take,” she said. Leveraging her strong relationships in this area, “we partner with managed vision care companies and come up with solutions for their problems.”

In addition, with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, “there are more Medicare and Medicaid patients coming into the system with pent up health care demands because they haven’t been seen for years,” said Downes. Although this results in more patients overall, it also adds to the management problems that result from their lower compliance and high no-show rates. However, said Downes, “the patient gets the same type of service from all our different locations.”

After having achieved last year’s goals, where has MyEyeDr set the bar for 2014 and beyond? According to Sheffer, “one location per week, about 50 new practices per year and one new state every year to 18 months.” Can this be achieved? MyEyeDr’s management team is confident that it can . . . and it is. “We’re doing that right now without even knocking on doors.”