Vision Source? Seven Reasons Why I Belong

Over twenty-five years ago, I purchased the practice of Dr. Frederick Boulton.  He was a wonderful man and he practiced in a much different time.  He had no fax machine, no copier or printer, no paper shredder, no Internet, no computer and no cell phone.  When I assumed ownership, he had a single line rotary dial telephone.  That way of doing business worked for him and his patients loved him.  They appreciated him so much that at times, it seemed that they wanted me to succeed solely because he had entrusted his practice with me.  That was the good part.  The not so good part was that at the time I took over his practice, it was very small.  To be candid, his office was sometimes just a peaceful place for him to go and read the newspaper.  He didn’t have any staff.  He didn’t have evening hours and he didn’t fit contact lenses.

In the beginning, when I had a patient to see, I did enjoy the small office.  It required me to provide almost all of a patient’s care personally.  It wasn’t very efficient but things were almost always done just as I wanted.  Unfortunately, paying my bills and turning a profit could be difficult.  To some degree, that was because of something referred to as ‘column’ pricing.  Basically, this meant that my volume with any particular supplier was so small that I was always paid the highest ‘column’ price for any frame or lens I purchased.  I had to price things competitively so my profit margins and volume were both small.  In addition, I found that I was constantly trying to make important practice management decisions with out the benefit of an experienced associate or senior partner.  In short, I felt a little bit like a ‘David’ trying to do battle with the ‘Goliaths’ of the optical world.  

This struggle went on for several years.  Then in 2003 I was invited to join Vision Source.  A network of independent optometric offices that created the buying power and collaboration I had lacked.  To be honest, at first, I was hesitant to sign their long contract and make my office a ‘franchise’ in their network.  Moreover, membership in Vision Source requires the payment of a monthly franchise fee.  Most importantly, I did not want to give up my independence.  I did not want a large organization dictating to me how I would practice

After more research, deliberation, and moving my practice to it’s current location, I decided to join the Vision Source organization.  My practice and I have now been a member of Vision Source for over ten years.  I have been so pleased with Vision Source that I just renewed my contract with them for the foreseeable future.  Over my ten-year time with Vision Source they have grown to over 4000 members in over 3000 offices in all fifty states and Canada.  Vision Source has become a very big deal.  Vision Source doctors enjoy unparalleled purchasing power and industry leading strategizing.


So here are my seven reasons for being in Vision Source optometrist.

First.   After attending numerous Vision Source meetings and conventions, I am convinced that the vast majority of the brightest and most innovative optometrists practicing today are members of this group.  I am constantly learning something helpful or important from the other members.  These are the leaders and the innovators that I need to be associated with.  Associating with these smart people makes me a better doctor.

Second.      Vision Source is the one group that is able to create a better balance between the independent optometrists and the heavy-handed third party insurance providers.  Over the years I have been excluded from many vision and medical plans solely because I am independent.  Vision Source has already negotiated inclusion of its members in both medical and vision plans.  Due to Vision Source’s efforts, this fall I will be able to see patients that have Spectera vision insurance for the first time at a fair and reasonable fee. 

Third.       Vision Source has a heart.  Which is to say, Vision Source has established a Foundation.  The Foundation helps fund relief for members that have had a personal tragedy.  Whether it’s a flood, a tornado, a fire, or some other horrible human misfortune, the Foundation steps in to provide funds and other support to get its members back on their feet.  We need to be profitable but it isn’t only about making money.

Fourth.     I continue to run my office as I please.  The national office is very hands off.  Other than paying the monthly franchise fee, there are very few requirements the Vision Source national office makes of my practice.  I participate to the level that I am comfortable with.   Management and actual ownership of my practice remains mine. 

Fifth.        Marketing.  It’s always been impossible for an independent optometrist to compete with the large corporate opticals when it comes to advertising.  Vision Source is helping many markets with a number of Vision Source offices to market and advertise like professionals.  Someday, hopefully in the near future, this will be a reality in greater Chicagoland.   

Sixth.       Leadership.  I am so impressed with the people who founded Vision Source and the group of individuals they have surrounded themselves with.  These people are smart, dedicated, and moving the organization and independent optometry in the right direction. 

Seventh.   Pricing.  I listed this last for a reason.  Whereas this is important and may have been my chief reason for joining Vision Source, it is the previous six reasons why I continue to be a member.  The national office negotiates the lowest possible price on anything I might want to run my practice.  Whether it’s a frame, equipment, or a contact lens, I get the lowest price.  Now I can easily compete with the large corporate optical chains, which are in fact, not the great bargain that they would lead you to believe.  Yes, I do pay a franchise fee to Vision Source for participation but when balanced against the all of the benefits and the overall savings, Vision Source is the place to be for my practice and for my patients. 


Richard ButzComment