WHY STOP AT ONE?
Two ODs find a model for duplicating success in corporate-affiliated practice.
When these two ODs hit their stride, they realized that they could take on a larger role, reach a greater number of patients and be more in control of their careers by expanding into a second location. In fact, one sees no reason to stop at two.
Focus on pediatrics
Mahsa Shekari, OD, worked in corporate, private and ophthalmology settings since her graduation from NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry. About two-and-a-half years ago, Dr. Shekari and her husband moved to New Jersey where Dr. Shekari established Bina Eye Care in the Hackensack Target Optical. “I have my own business, and I run it the way I want. I provide care that ensures my patients’ needs are being met and that they have a great experience,” she says. She offers everything from primary eye care to ocular disease management and emergency eye care services.
This setting allows her to focus on her passion: pediatric eye care. Dr. Shekari acquired skills and confidence working with children at a medical center in Canada. “There’s not a lot of knowledge out there for parents about the need for children’s exams at a young age,” she says. “At my practice affiliated with Target Optical, I have a great opportunity to connect with parents when they get their exam. I always ask, ‘What about your child?’”
She uses downtime to introduce herself to regular customers throughout the store and build relationships with them. “It’s been the best and most personal marketing, and I’ve acquired a lot of my patients by making connections with families.”
An added bonus and surprise for many patients is that Dr. Shekari is trilingual and speaks English, Farsi and Spanish. “Many patients bring a translator, but it gives me an advantage to make a connection with them by directly communicating with them in their language.”
More recently, Dr. Shekari has added a second location in the Edgewater, New Jersey, Target store. As she did in her first space, Dr. Shekari refreshed and customized the look with her own personal touches and has been building a patient base through her own contact with shoppers in the store.
Her slice of the pie
Britney Caruso, OD, FAAO, FMNM, ABAAHP, is on a continuous search for efficiency. It started even before she opened her independent practice affiliated with the Lake Worth, Florida, Target Optical. It was one of the slower stores, but Dr. Caruso saw potential. “I knew it would grow. I started doing everything I could: sending handwritten thank-you notes to patients and anyone who referred a patient and introducing myself to people in the community,” she says.
Her predictions were correct; the practice did grow, especially when she hired her own technician to help her on Saturdays. “I realized I could see 10 to 15 patients more a day with my own technician,” she says. Right now, that technician works for her just one day a week, but those are extremely productive days. “The extra costs of having a technician are easily recouped,” she says. “I don’t know why corporate-affiliated ODs hesitate with taking that step.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Caruso was offered a second independent practice affiliated with Target Optical in Pembroke Pines, Florida. “It started with about eight to 10 hours per week, but we’re already up to offering doctor hours for 32 hours a week now,” she says. An associate covers those hours, but Dr. Caruso keeps watch to make sure her standards for care and the patient experience are upheld.
Dr. Caruso, a holistic practitioner who has earned Diplomate and Fellow status from the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, enjoys the time she can spend with patients talking about their overall health and wellness. It’s important to her that her time with patients is efficient, yet still meaningful. “I love what I do,” she says. And she has no plans to stop. “I can see a Caruso Eye Care franchise with Target. The more I learn about business, the more I want to manage multiple practices. But I’ll never leave behind patient care. That’s what drives me.”