The business group Acquios Advisors came about in 2015 when the founders Rick Guinotte and Kirk Kastens sensed a need in the eyecare market for doing things a little differently. Guinotte has been in the optical industry since 1989, having begun his career with a frame company, and Kastens has optical experience going back to 1998, holding positions in private care practice as an office coordinator and advisor, among other roles.

Another partner, co-owner and advisor, Tim Merrigan, has worked in the optical industry since 1992. He has held positions in both the corporate and private sectors, and has been responsible for managing as many as 29 offices. He also has overseen the development and implementation of a variety of operational processes and procedures.

Following the successful launch of the advisory business, and with requests from clients for additional services, the partners established Acquios Alliance in 2020 as a way to connect private practice optometry with trusted vendors and expert support. Acquios Alliance is now a developing membership program aimed at mitigating the unique challenges private practice optometrists face and helping them thrive independently, the organization noted.

At the time the Alliance began, “there were a lot of changes happening and a lot of mergers and acquisitions taking place that had doctors getting nervous,” Guinotte told Vision Monday in an interview. “They were asking, ‘Where is this going to leave private practice?’ and ‘We need to know where this is going.’” This led to an alignment with vendor partners with an inclination to support private practice optometry. Among the early partners with the Alliance were Ovvo Optics and Bank of the West.

Alliance members—and there are more than 250 doctor-owners representing more than 300 office locations in the group—receive access to a curated list of vendors, and the content in engaging webinars, workshops, newsletters and podcasts on the latest trends. “Our tagline for Acquios Alliance is, ‘Empowering your Independence,’” Guinotte said. “We noticed there was a void in the industry for a true advocate for private practice and that’s what we wanted to do. That’s what we’ve always been as Advisors and that’s what we wanted to be as an alliance, as well.”

“We partner with top vendors across the country in order to connect our clients with the premium services they need, while providing our vendor partners with valuable business opportunities,” he added.

On the advisory side of the house, Acquios Advisors is made up of a team of industry veterans in optometry known for a supportive approach and dedication to helping eyecare businesses gain their footing in the marketplace, grow, find new patients, manage staff and inventory, and increase efficiencies and revenue, among other services. Guinotte said the advisory business has had a string of positive comparable growth quarter after quarter and has grown to five full-time advisor staff members.

“When Acquios Advisors started, the idea was that to be ‘right’ for private practice we had to here to collaborate and we are here to listen to our clients’ and our doctors’ needs,” Guinotte said. “What we do differently, and we pride ourselves on this, is that we don’t have people sign long-term contracts with us. You can work with us as long as you need us, or as short as you need us. We built a model that is right for practices of all sizes at a great value.”

Once a practice joins the Advisory group, it automatically becomes a member of the Acquios Alliance, as well.

The advisory group’s knowledge runs deep, amounting to more than nine decades of collective experience advising eyecare practices and working within the industry. “We’re committed to embodying what our name represents: we help practices acquire more insight, more confidence, more growth, and more opportunity,” he added. The advisory service can help ODs with a cold-start practice by conducting a market analysis, site selection studies and lease reviews, among other services.

The advisors also are prepared to help ODs who are looking to acquire existing practices from other independent ODs. “We are seeing more and more doctors getting ready to sell their practices, in part because of the changes happening,” he said. “So, we can help the doctors who are looking to buy practices with an analysis and to make sure it’s going to be a good investment,” he said.

In addition, providing advice on practice differentiation, whether it’s adding medical specialties or other recommendations, is another service of the advisory group. “Our mission is to listen to our clients with compassion and collaborate to implement a customized plan,” he said. “No matter where you are on your professional journey, we deliver insight that inspires.”