Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

Pros and Cons to Corporate Optometry/Subleases and Private Practice

November 4, 2020
Corporate Optometry

As an optometrist, there are many directions that you can go in once you've completed your education. Some optometrists will complete a residency program while others will go directly into an associateship. If you're like many optometrists, your end goal might be to open your own practice. You might decide to take over a corporate optometry sublease by working for some time through a larger healthcare organization or you might purchase an already established private practice. While you'll be seeing patients in these models, the scope of your administrative work can differ widely.

There can be a large difference in annual earnings between the options of owning one's own practice or practicing through a larger entity. The other thing to consider is the level of control that you have over the trajectory of the practice itself. Here we'll discuss the pros and cons between corporate optometry sublease and private practice. If you want to run your own venture to any degree, these will be the main paths that you would look at for your optometry practice.

In a corporate optometry sublease, you would lease from a corporate optical group. All corporate optical groups are not the same, so you do want to look at the agreement and the type of service you'll be providing to make sure they match with your experience and goals. The corporate optical group usually provides equipment and the sublease agreement is often between one and three years. If you're subleasing from a corporate optical group, the corporate entity may take part or all of the responsibilities in hiring staff, making appointments, and other administrative tasks, but that is not always the case. You do have to look at the agreement carefully. In some corporate optometry subleases, you'll be responsible for much of the same administrative tasks that would be relevant to private practice.

Private practice is your own business entity. It may be similar to the corporate optometry sublease in that you'll also need to lease space and handle administrative tasks. However, the corporate optometry option will often include marketing and other aspects of running a business that makes it less taxing than a private practice. One reason many optometrists opt for a private practice is that they want to have full control over their business, hiring, marketing, and services. That level of autonomy may not be available in all corporate subleases.

Pros and Cons of a Corporate Optometry Sublease

One thing that you do need to keep in mind when entering into a corporate optometry sublease - they are not all the same. Many resources will tell you that the corporate entity takes care of the administrative work or provides equipment. Those things may be true, but they are not true in all subleases, so you do need to do your homework on the specific sublease. You should ask questions and verify all of the information. The best rule of thumb is to hire legal counsel that specializes in optometric practice legal matters because they will be invaluable in helping you to understand the lease and negotiate for your best interest.

Bearing in mind that your corporate sublease will have its own specific clauses, here we'll cover some of the most common benefits:

  • Free Marketing. The corporate entity often does the marketing for you. This might include in-office signage and the use of their heavily branded name. Some corporate entities are very well known, and you benefit from their brand recognition. 
  • Higher Volume Traffic. If the corporate sublease puts your practice in another store, such as the sublease through Walmart or Sam's Club, you'll benefit from the foot traffic inside the store, which can mean a much higher volume of clients than you would see in a small private practice.
  • Stability. Corporate sublease agreements are often very stable. The salary is guaranteed and the terms of the contract is clear. At the end of the contract, you might opt to renew or move on to a different opportunity. 
  • Administrative Task Help. In a lot of corporate subleases, the administrative tasks might be handled by the corporation or they may give you help with these tasks. For instance, some agreements include staff. In one of those agreements, you might not need to hire staff or work with administrative tasks much at all.

The downside of a corporate optometry sublease:

  • Lack of Control. The corporation may have more control over the practice than you do. In essence, you may simply work there almost in the same capacity as an employee. This might be ideal for you. But if you're looking for the chance to run your own business, this may not be what you're looking for.
  • Staff May Not Be Your Own. If the staff is hired and trained by the corporation, this might be a huge benefit. But it also can be problematic because you don't have control over how they're trained or hiring and firing. It really depends on how much control you want in these situations.
  • Lack of Equity in the Practice. It's a corporate sublease so you're likely not selling it or earning equity in the practice. Once the contract is done, you move on. In private practice, it's a business that you can sell.
  • Scheduling Control. The corporation will often have set hours that you need to adhere to, so you won't have as much control over your schedule or that of your staff.

Pros and Cons of a Private Practice

Private practice is often the dream destination for many optometrists. Like the corporate optometry sublease, there are benefits and downsides to the private practice. You'll need to really assess your own preferences as well as the reality of your location

Here are some of the most common benefits:

  • Control of Your Own Business. This is a major benefit for anyone who wants to build their optometry business to their own standard. You can set all the rules, schedules, choose your location, and all of the major choices are yours. While this can be a great deal of work, it is also often a labor of love. The same can be said if you purchase a practice. You will have full autonomy.
  • Choice of Staff and Training. This goes along with the first item, but many optometrists do prefer to hire and train their own staff. This option is often limited in corporate subleases.
  • No Limit on Earnings. While the stability of earnings in the corporate sublease is a benefit for some, for more entrepreneurial-minded optometrists, the lack of limitations may be more enticing. Your only ceiling on your earnings in a private practice depends on you. You'll earn more or less based on how well your practice does.
  • Equity. The business is your own and you will earn equity as you grow your practice. You can sell the business and move to a new venture or retire.

The most common cons of private practice:

  • No stability. If the business fails, there is no set paycheck. You will lose money with the business.
  • Long Hours. Because you're in charge of every aspect of the business, you will often work much longer hours in private practice than you would in corporate.
  • Less Mobility. A private practice needs to be built up over many years and it may take time to sell if you decide you'd like to move to something else.

Planning Your Future in Optometry

There is no right or wrong path for your optometric practice. The reality is that you need to choose the option that resonates with your personal life and business needs. The corporate optometry sublease might be an excellent path for someone just starting or an individual at the end of their career. Many optometrists will go into a corporate sublease after selling a private practice as a way to keep working just prior to their retirement. Some optometrists will also use this option to build their knowledge of running a business before opening their own private practice. Still, others will opt to maintain a corporate optometry sublease throughout their career. Of course, there are also optometrists who run their own private practice and retire once they've sold that business venture.

There are many choices and a lot of things to consider when purchasing an optometry practice. You really have to determine which is best for your own preferences. In some locations, one or the other of these choices may be optimal because they're more likely to attract a following of loyal patients. Some optometrists may prefer to have fewer responsibilities for the administrative tasks while others might value the idea of making all of the large and small decisions to move their business forward.

In any event, you do want to make sure that you're well represented when you define your business structure, incorporate, handle your practice insurance, and sign any leases, sublease, and legal documents. If you need legal representation as you take the next steps in owning your own optometry practice, Ali Oromchian at Dental and Medical Counsel can help. Contact us today for more information. 

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