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Thread: Private Practice vs Retailers

  1. #1
    OptiBoard Novice
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    Private Practice vs Retailers

    I've been in this field for about 5 years now and I have worked both in large retailers and private practices. I know from conversation with a lot of my co-workers and some of the posts I've read on here that there is some animosity between the two types of practices. I am just curious, what are your opinions on this matter?


    I'll start:


    Private practice: To sum it up, I loved the freedom to choose. When I was in there I learned so much about the different types of coating, lens designs, brands, and other premium options. I was able to provide what I believed was the best for the patient and there was no one size fit all mentality. I can use my skills and knowledge and select a brand, design with all the add-on that I think will benefit the patient. There is no up-selling, I only sold what I thought was right for the customer.


    In addition, being the only optician also meant I learned a great deal about time management and multitasking. For better or worse there is no handholding since day 1 and I have to say I grew a lot professionally as I had to juggle between selling, educating patients, meeting with brand reps, edging, and the back end administrative works. I really think I developed strong work ethics just because I need to be on top of it all the time.


    But on the other hand, I had to deal with insurance. I'll spare you the details but I've read enough posts to know most of you knows what I'm talking about. I feel like I have spent a good 15-20% of my time on the clock just talking to different insurance companies instead of helping my patients or spending it on what I was hired for, being the optician.


    Also, there's no sugarcoating it: the pay was miserable. The only benefit I had was a measly PTO system that had horrible accrual rates. No 401k, health insurance, stipends, bonuses, annual raises, not even a COLA. And I know our office was not struggling to make ends meet either. The straw that finally broke the camels back was when the Dr. denied my week off request because the office needed to stay open when she herself went on vacation the same week. To be frank, compensation was a big reason why I decided to leave.


    Chain Retailer #1: Policies, policies, and more policies. We had so many rules to stick to that it was suffocating. Every time I wanted to do something right for the customer I had to check-in to make sure it was within the boundaries of our handbook. A few times I had a stern talk to because I did what is best for the patient that went against the guidelines.


    Along the lines of that is the numbers. Every single day it was always about the numbers. How many single vision, progressives, sun did I sell? Conversion, return, the average price per order, etc. etc. At some point, I got tired of seeing people, both coworkers, and patients, as just a number.


    The second (and smaller) retailer I was working for was much much better. There was still a plethora of policies and guidelines that had to be followed but the company adopted a do what's the best for the customer at the moment and ask for permission later stance. This took so much stress off me because I was able to provide the customer services I wanted to without fear of retaliation. There were still numbers and goals that needed to be met, and there was still up-selling and all the unwritten rules that come with retail, but I was much happier at that place.


    Workplace culture was horrible in the first retail company I worked for and fantastic in the second one. I think a lot of times, whether you end up liking or hating a company has a lot to do with your immediate manager and coworkers, they can really make or break your day. The second company really valued its employee and we reciprocated by doing our best even though we may not always agree with company policies.


    Compensation in retail was great. When I was negotiating, I was able to obtain a $5 dollar raise/hour from when I was in private practice. Health insurance, bonuses, 401K, stipends, better PTO all came with my new job and I did not know how much I was missing out until I landed my first retail job.




    Anyways, that is just my short take. Obviously, there is a lot more that can be said for both environments.


    How about you guys?

  2. #2
    OptiBoard Apprentice Optical Roy's Avatar
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    I started in retail and didn't learn a thing, went to a private practice and moved up to office manager in 10 years, ended up with an average 2 million revenue in just optical. Have since moved to another private practice as the new owner and I dissagreed on some changes and am back to bieng happy at the new private practice as the Optical manager/IT, this business gives you what you put in, we have 401k but nothing else, pe have PTO but I am fine with it, I think private is the way unless you want to move into more of a corporate setting by moving up. I get to make my patients happy and give them the best customer service. Get your ABO or your state licensing and continue to improve you way of doing things. Been doing this 20 years and looking forward to at least 20 more.
    Roy W. Jackson, Sr. ABOC

  3. #3
    Master OptiBoarder AngeHamm's Avatar
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    I found corporate to be very useful for lab training. I know much more about the way frames and lenses work than any optician I've ever worked with as a result. But the private practice environment has allowed me much more freedom, much more ability to tailor technology to my patients' needs, and a lot more money than any corporate gig ever did.
    I'm Andrew Hamm and I approve this message.

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