In 2005, right after I graduated from optometry school, I opened my first solo practice in a small town in Kansas. It wasn’t easy, but I built it into a decent practice. In 2016 I merged with a 20-location practice. I was on track to become an owner, but in 2019 they sold to private equity, and ownership was out. I like the business side of optometry, and I like controlling my own destiny, so my only option was to go back on my own.
The Rewards of Independence
Steve Miller, OD
We found a historic building in Hutchinson, Kansas,
on Main Street. It only needed a little bit of
work, and it was something my family could
do. We made it into a facility that really
serves us well – we love it here. We opened
in January 2020 with one employee – a rock
star scribe/optician. When we re-opened
after Covid in May 2020, we hired an amazing
office manager and the best receptionist/
optician. We’re like a family, and we have a
lot of fun together, even outside of work.
We’re taking advantage of being small. Our approach is that we’re local, we’re independent, and we use independent companies as much as possible. Everything is getting bigger and bigger, and I believe that there are a lot of patients out there who like things the way they used to be; where they’re on a first-name basis with their doctor, and the same front-desk people are there every time.
We like supporting
GSRx for the same
reasons our patients
like supporting us;
we all continue to
thrive when we treat
our customers with
I get upset about some of the business decisions made in our industry. People are selling the same name-brand frames as everyone else. If Luxottica is opening a Sunglass Hut in every mall, and LensCrafters and Pearle Vision are competing against me, why do I want to sell the same products as they do? I want to do business with companies that aren’t working against me, so all of our frames are made by independent manufacturers. We promote that to our patients, and they’re happy with it.
Finding a lab was one of the bigger challenges; we tried three different ones during our first year. I heard about GSRx from a friend. I contacted them, and I had three contacts in the company within three or four days. I was used to being a pretty small fish in a big pond, and having someone act like they wanted my business meant something. We’re with GSRx nearly 100% now. We like supporting them for the same reasons our patients like supporting us; we all continue to thrive when we treat our customers with kindness, integrity, and personal service.
If you can enjoy your day-to-day, that goes a long way toward making this career exciting, fruitful, and prosperous. A big part of that is getting rid of those things you don’t like, like business partners that people complain about but still sign contracts with. I want to like the people I do business with, I want to be able to trust them, and I didn’t feel that with some of the larger companies.
Every work/life coach says to single-mindedly strive for your goal. Mine was always an end-game goal: make a certain amount of money, retire at a certain age. Today, I work four days a week, and I spend a lot of time with my family. I like my workdays, and I like my weekends. I’ve realized what my true goal is, and I’ve already achieved it.
Dr. Miller is the owner of Visionaries Eyecare in Hutchinson, KS.