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  December 4, 2013
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Eye-trepreneurs

Seven-Location Practice Sees Acquisitions as a Survival Strategy

By dba Staff

Mark Rinkov, OD

After practicing 36 years as an optometrist, Mark Rinkov, OD, of Rinkov Eyecare Centers has become growth oriented. He made his first acquisition with the purchase of Rosenthal Vision Center's two offices in September. Now at seven locations in and around Columbus, Ohio, he plans to grow to as many as 15 locations within the next three to five years. He feels it's become a necessity in response to the growing influence of managed vision care as well as online retailers nipping at his optical business.

"Unfortunately vision care plans are basically determining what we can do," he said. "They set the rules now, integrating with their own labs that we have to use, which takes away from our own labs that we make a profit on. They're controlling fees and the frames we have to use. Each office, unless they are efficient, is just not going to make any money. We need efficiency."

So, in 2010, he hired his son, Jeffrey Rinkov, to establish a back office operation that not only freed him from the drudgery of business management so he could focus on patient care but also to construct the foundation on which he is building a multiple location practice. "I like to think of us as a private office with multiple locations as opposed to a chain," he said. "Everything we address is for the patient. If we take care of the patient correctly, we do fine."

That's one of the reasons he prefers to grow by acquisition rather than organically. He feels that he can find optometrists similar to himself who would rather focus on patient care than business management. "I prefer to acquire and keep the optometrist on staff if it's a good fit," he said. "In today's world, with the change in reimbursements and everything going on with Obamacare, it's going to be very hard for the small individual practice to succeed and be prosperous because it takes a lot of insurance knowledge and time to handle all this. For someone who's a good optometrist who just doesn't like the business aspect, acquisition can enhance his or her practice."

Another reason he prefers acquiring existing practices comes down to business. "With the right acquisition you have cash flow and a patient base," he said. "When you open cold you open with no guarantees."

Rinkov opened his own practice back in 1977, adding locations that he worked himself and eventually hiring other ODs. Growth was put on hold when his wife developed cancer and passed away. He was at five locations until this year when he purchased two more from Richard Rosenthal, OD, who remains on staff and brings the number of optometrists on Rinkov Eyecare Center's staff to seven.

He set the stage for expansion when he brought his son, a lawyer by profession, into the practice to develop back office systems, implement the use of electronic health records (EHR), and hire additional staff to manage accounting, insurance, inventory control and marketing. "We put a lot of effort into infrastructure and systems," said Rinkov. He remains involved as well. For example, he's on the advisory board of Compulink, the EHR system his practice uses across all locations.

Now, as medical director, his main focus remains on quality eyecare. "Our goal is to try to educate our patients that there is value in providing good eyecare and purchasing good eyewear," said Rinkov. "The eyecare exam is not necessarily just the vision but also the eye health of the patient." And it seems to be paying off with Rinkov Eyecare Centers being a multiple year winner of the Consumers Choice Award over the past decade. The award is presented to businesses for delivering customer service excellence and is determined not by a panel of judges but by consumers themselves.

Rinkov hopes to replicate his success based on quality eyecare and operational efficiency as he acquires additional locations. "My son will handle the business as we grow," said Rinkov, who continues to oversee acquisitions and expansion. "We're always talking to somebody," he concluded, as he sets his sights on purchasing one or two locations next year and growing to as many as 15 over the next five years.

   

With the purchase of Rosenthal Vision Center, Mark Rinkov, OD, (r) welcomed Richard Rosenthal, OD, into Rinkov Eyecare Centers.

Rinkov Eyecare Centers is a multiple year winner of the Consumers Choice Award.



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