Tommy Crooks, OD
President and CEO
EyeCare Associates, Inc. (ECA)
Birmingham, Alabama

“My management style is that I like to have my fingerprints on everything, but my picture on nothing.”

Over the past 30 years, Tommy Crooks, OD, has taken an active role in the leadership of optometric professional organizations on the local, regional and national level. He is a past president of the Birmingham Area Optometric Society, the Alabama Optometric Association, the Southern Council of Optometrists and the American Optometric Association.

Since 1996, Crooks has served as president and CEO of EyeCare Associates, Inc. (ECA), which consists of 19 locations, 33 doctors and 165 staff members spread throughout Alabama. Unlike some other groups of private practice optometrists that provide services to their members, ECA is based on a business model in which doctor-owners hold an equity stake in the company.

“The overall business model is unique in that the entity that is the ‘corporate office’ was never intended to make the money,” noted Crooks, who has headed ECA since 1996. “The corporate office exists to help make the doctor owners more successful. The overall goal, from the beginning, was to perpetuate private independent practice. Moreover, we wanted to create the full circle. Existing doctor owners have a clearly defined and funded exit strategy and new aspiring doctors have a clearly defined way to become an equity partner.”

Glenn Ellisor, OD
President and CEO
Vision Source
Kingwood, Texas

“I’m passionate about providing the best care for my patients, and providing them with the patient experience and practices in private practice optometry.”

As a high school freshman, Glenn Ellisor, OD, decided on a career path. “I wanted to become an optometrist because I wanted to deal with people in a healthcare context,” he said.

Ellisor not only accomplished his goal, but went on to found Vision Source, the largest network of private practicing optometrists in the world, both in revenue, size and total affiliated practices. Starting in 1991 in Houston, Texas, Ellisor grew Vision Source from its first location to over 2,300 current locations in all 50 states and Canada, composed of the leading optometrists in the profession. Collectively, Vision Source practices produce in excess of $1.3 billion in gross revenue.

Praised by colleagues as “innovative, entrepreneurial and forward thinking,” Ellisor said Vision Source remains centered on its mission of networking independent, private optometry practices to collectively share best practice strategies and provide cooperative marketing resources and cooperative buying power. He believes Vision Source has had a positive influence not just on its members’ practices, but on independent optometry in general.

“I’m afraid if our organization hadn’t been formed, private practice optometry might have gone the way of the pharmacy industry.”

Mark Feder, OD
President and CEO
IDOC (Independent Doctors of
Optometric Care)
Norwalk, Connecticut

“As I lead the IDOC organization, I live by the following: ‘A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.”

Mark Feder, OD, founded IDOC to provide business management ideas for private practicing optometrists in 1999. As president and CEO, he is responsible for directing all facets of business for the organization, which currently has over 900 members in more than 40 states. He has established partnerships with over 65 companies serving the optometric industry. These companies offer IDOC members unique programs on products and services they purchase, resulting in increased revenues and profits. Still a practicing OD, Feder is also the founder of Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, Conn.

Feder said he established IDOC 12 years ago because at the time, independent ODs in Connecticut were faced with the “overwhelming issue” of managed care. Independent practitioners still face considerable challenges as a result of vertical integration and increasing competition from online and big box retailers.

Consequently, Feder believes it is more important than ever for independent ODs to run their practices like a business. “They need to make decisions based on their understanding of business intelligence and be able to identify new profit centers and untapped revenue streams in order to grow their practices.”

Mark Jacquot, OD
Vice President
Pearle Vision Eye Care
Offices in Cincinnati and Chicago
“Optometry is a people profession. At the end of the day we are people helping people see better. I can’t think of a more rewarding career.”

Having worked in optometry for the past 24 years, Mark Jacquot, OD, has the experience necessary to be considered an Influencer. Since joining Luxottica as a practicing optometrist in ’91, he’s been associate VP of optometric relations for Luxottica and regional VP of operations for LensCrafters. He currently leads the eyecare team for Pearle Vision in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and also serves on the board of directors for OneSight.

Jacquot’s passion lies with helping patients understand the importance of regular exams. “I think that we as a profession can do a better job in sending a broad message for an annual eye exam,” he said, citing that the AOA recommendation is double the number performed in the U.S. last year.

He pointed out, “We have really listened to our patients about what they like and dislike about their current eyecare and eyewear experience. Sometimes the focus is on prophesies or product, but the most important ‘p’ is the people,” Jacquot said. “They are the ones who give you results: they come in, they buy the product. It’s really important to listen to our patients and adapt. We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect success in a down economy.”

Jerry Lieblein, OD
OD Excellence
Healdsburg, California

“I want to help optometrists work smarter and not harder and help them accelerate their growth and profitability.”

As a leader within the optometric community, Jerry Lieblein, OD, is passionate about moving the profession forward. In practice since 1958, he started OD Excellence (ODX) with partner Jerry Sude, OD, in 2007. “Having been very much involved in the profession until that point, my goal was to be able to take the average optometrist and help them be more successful,” Lieblein said.

Starting ODX enabled Lieblein to work with optometry schools, helping senior classes set up practices, apply for loans and put in place business models at no cost. ODX also works with existing practices to advance management ideas. “The idea is to help optometrists grow while helping optometry grow as a profession,” he said.

Published more than 100 times and having lectured around the world, Lieblein considers apathy his, and optometry’s, biggest challenge. “Many doctors feel that they cannot grow in this market and are not ready to make the move forward.”

Lieblein insists that the ODX model, which combines education, buying, marketing and retooling of the practice to allow for medical eyecare expansion, “delivers a winning strategy.”

Michael Rothschild, OD
Carrollton, Georgia

“If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.”

“We had to tweak our business strategy due to the economy, but not our overall vision of offering the highest quality products,” said Mike Rothschild, OD. The staff monitors trends more than numbers. “I cannot tell you how many frames we sold last month, but I do know that for the last five months, the numbers are increasing. We also track how many people are leaving without making a glasses purchase,” he said.

In addition to accomplishments in his own practice, Rothschild is founder of LeadershipOD, a company dedicated to excellence in optometric practice. He is an international practice management speaker and presenter, most well-known for his innovative “Leadership Team” approach towards practice management. He is also a member of the faculty of First Practice Academy, a practice building program for those new to practice ownership, sponsored by CIBA Vision and Essilor.

Rothschild believes two things—processes and systems—add up to legendary service and topnotch leadership. “We implement proven systems and methods to build and maintain relationships with our patients, our community and our staff,” he said.

The doctor shared that his leadership team is trained on dealing with differing personalities and conflict: “They explore their own strengths and challenges.”

Kirk Smick, OD
Clayton Eye Center
Morrow, Georgia

“Eyecare is changing at a rapid rate—technology, materials, vision products...keeping up is going to be harder than ever...and those that do will be those who succeed.”

Kirk Smick, OD, knows how to survive and thrive, founding his stronger-than-ever practice in 1974. That practice now has eight ODs, 34 MDs and averages 225 patients a day in one location. Smick, who retired from the U.S. Air Force at the rank of colonel, started one of the first optometric referral centers known as OMNI. He is also a past president of Georgia Optometric Association and the SECO.

Smick has also made significant contributions to optometric education. He is the past president of the Georgia State Board of Examiners in optometry, and while at SECO, he served as Continuing Education Chairman. He continues, meanwhile, to be a leader in the field, as chairman of the International Vision Expo Conference Advisory Board.

His practice continued to flourish during the recession, Smick said, thanks to an emphasis on customer service and proven business principles that focused on working smarter, not harder. The practice also re-evaluated the managed care plans it uses.

Other success drivers, Smick pointed out, include full adoption of the medical model “with an increased appreciation and interest in our optical dispensary. The concept of ‘doctor directed dispensing’ has really increased our per-patient revenue.”

Brad Williams, OD
CEO and Founder
The Williams Group
Lincoln, Nebraska

“The foundation to any successful business is honesty and integrity combined with perseverance. Take care of the patient first and the money will be there.”

For many years, Brad Williams, OD, had one foot planted firmly in the business sector and another in the profession of independent optometry. In 1986, he started a practice management consulting business which grew into The Williams Group. He sold his practice several years ago to concentrate solely on The Williams Group.

Throughout his 25 years of consulting, Williams has worked with hundreds of practitioners and staff in an effort to make private practitioners more business savvy. “The term Practice Management could be replaced with the term Business Care Management. Just like seeking financial management advice, good business care training can provide an excellent ROI,” Williams said.

At the start of the managed care era, Williams recognized the complexity of running an optometric practice increased dramatically “and I surrounded myself with people with degrees in marketing, finance and human resources. We then hired senior consultants and tethered them to our clients and their staff to help with implementation support. As a result, our success with getting clients and staff to make practice improvements has provided the reputation we enjoy today.”