Innumerable objective and subjective factors can influence a practitioner or an independent optical owner’s decision to pursue acquisition possibilities, or determine if other types of practice transition and practice exits are better for themselves, their associates, staff and practice. These are two groups which offer advice and options.

Acquios Advisors: Helping ODs Meet Their Transition Goals

Acquios Advisors offers services for every stage of a practice’s growth, including the opening of a new practice, growing a current practice, or securing the future through partnership development, exit and entry strategies, and valuation of a current practice.

The company is not a broker and does not give legal advice, explained Rick Guinotte, founder and advisor, Acquios Advisors.

Rick Guinotte

In 2022, Acquios Advisors worked with 31 optometrists who were selling their locations and assisted another optometrist as they acquired a private practice. “It was a solid year for successful beginnings for the acquiring ODs and a great beginning of a new chapter for those that sold their practices,” said Guinotte. “We’re lucky to be able to help doctors during this exciting time in their lives. We had a 29 percent increase in acquisition transactions in 2022 which is amazing to see. There was not a decline in acquisitions in the fourth quarter, in fact the fourth quarter was actually more productive for us compared to the previous three quarters of 2022.”

He continued, “With rising interest rates, lenders we work closely with kept their interest rates competitive for the borrowers. They have been there to support the independent private practices and make sure the seller’s legacy will carry on for years to come. We only partner with groups who share these same values. We are excited for the future and are confident we will continue to assist more optometrists with their transactions in the coming months and years and see even more growth among both our organization and those we help to accomplish their goals.”

Acquios’ criteria in practice transactions and acquisitions hasn’t changed over the past year, according to Guinotte, instead focusing on the goals of the parties involved.

“We are here to make certain all acquisitions are fair and balanced for the practice, the seller, and the buyer. In doing this, we don’t look at certain criteria an office must meet but rather, what their goals and hopes are,” he said. “We will continue to be here to help the prospective sellers plan well and guide them to make the best decision for themselves and their future. We have thorough conversations and listen to the optometrists’ goals for themselves as they look forward to anywhere from three to five years out. We will discuss a plan of action to grow their current practice to increase the efficiency and profitability to make certain when the time is right, the owner is able to maximize the sale of their practice while ensuring it is a success for the new owner as well.”

In 2023, Acquios is planning offerings that will assist practice owners’ plans for the future with the goal of keeping the current practice thriving.

“In 2023, we will be offering more education to help jump start owner’s planning for the future. More optometrists are graduating from the various optometric schools just as many are looking to sell and retire. Not only will we be working on the education and planning for exit strategies, but also entry strategies to help bring associates in to sustain growth and profitability for a successful acquisition,” Guinotte said. “This will range from improved staff management, frame inventory management, appointment book productivity, to marketing to the community the practice is located in to enhance new patient growth.”

He continued, “As we work with each one of our clients, we take time to listen to what they are looking for when they sell their business. We have seen many different goals each person is seeking. For some it is about money, others legacy, and still others a place to work for a time with reduced responsibility. Listening to and understanding each of their needs and being adaptable to each situation is key. There is no one size fits all method.”

While Guinotte believes the current uncertain economy will fail to impact opportunities for investment, he offered another key potential factor that may impact a potential seller of a practice in today’s environment.

“One factor that may impact a potential seller is concern with their planning for their retirement in advance of their plan to sell the practice. They need to look about three years in advance,” Guinotte advised. “Question how their office has done in the past few years and what trajectory it is on. How is their investment portfolio performing? Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, have conversations with financial advisors. Knowing where you are and where you need to be in three years will only make the plan better for you and your next chapter.”

Vision Source Next Helps Practices Find Transition Options with Other Doctors

Vision Source is a network of more than 3,000 locally owned U.S. optometric practices. Vision Source Next is designed “to help private practice optometrists plan their next move by providing resources and assistance at every stage of their private practice career or practice ownership journey,” the organization said.

Vision Source NEXT helps practice owners avoid costly mistakes by providing support and insights into the practice acquisition process. NEXT works with members who are looking to transition to other private OD owners by helping them create ownership structures and plans for full ownership transition and exit.

Vision Source is a part of Essilor of America, which is a division of EssilorLuxottica.

“When we launched Vision Source NEXT at The Exchange in 2018, we shared that a key component was a commitment to planting new private practice optometry ‘trees’ in the face of accelerating industry consolidation. We are extremely proud to share that Vision Source members have added over 200 new private practice OD locations since the launch of NEXT. Most of those are next generation private practice OD owners realizing the dream of opening their first practice, said Amir Khoshnevis, OD, chief medical officer, Vision Source.

John Manard, OD and Whitney Territo, OD, Eyes on the Diamond in Boalsburg, Pa.

John Manard, OD and Whitney Territo, OD successfully leveraged the Vision Source Next program in 2021, purchasing an established practice from Dr. Harvey Hanlen. “We wanted to purchase a practice with ties to Vision Source because we knew the business model just made sense,” said Dr. Territo, of Eyes on the Diamond in Boalsburg, Pa.

“With the benefits Vision Source provides and the programs available we are pleased to share that since purchasing the practice on June 30, 2021, we’ve seen the business grow by 14 percent. We are already looking forward to our next steps for building toward the future which includes hiring a new doctor and purchasing new equipment and potentially even the building the practice currently operates out of.”

“Owners can choose to sell a majority to other private doctors while remaining in the practice as a non-majority owner or employee. Or they can implement a CEO model as full or majority owner and delegate some or all of the owner and patient care responsibilities as desired,” said Dr. Khoshnevis.

Practices that are examining transition or sale options should be aware of the shift in the market in the past year, he noted. “Buy and sell activity has definitely slowed but things to know about preparing for a transition remain the same,” said Dr. Khoshnevis.

“Owners must know their priorities and goals for their practice sale or transition specific to timing, their future role in the practice, decision-making governance for the practice, and financial considerations. Vision Source NEXT is our playbook to support private practice OD owners at every phase of their practice life cycle whether opening, expanding, or transitioning regardless of the current economic climate,” he added.

Amir Khoshnevis, OD

Mick Kling, OD

Since its inception, NEXT has developed tools to help members save time on the research involved in the practice acquisition process. “Vision Source NEXT recently launched the new website which allows our members the opportunity to review practice listings for sale, list a practice for sale and post an associate position, among other things,” said Dr. Mick Kling.

The criteria for practices to join Vision Source remains the same. To be invited into Vision Source you must be a private OD who is the majority owner of the practice(s) and own a practice in an available Vision Source territory. “We find that OD owners who are motivated to collaborate with colleagues in the spirit of moving private practice optometry forward really thrive in Vision Source,” said Dr. Khoshnevis.

“In 2023 we remain unwavering in the commitment to our mission of ensuring private practice optometry wins by helping each of our members reach their full potential. As we have for the past 30-plus years, we welcome all current and future private practice OD owners to consider joining Vision Source in our mission.”