EyeQ Optometrists Ltd (EQO) have recently announced the launch of an Associate Network supporting independent full-scope optometry practices to compete in Australia’s congested optical retail environment. EQO is an Australian-owned, optometrist- led company with currently a total of 19 practices across all mainland states. Of the 19 practices, 16 are corporate-owned practices, with two Optometry Australia State Presidents among the first 3 Associate sites.
A founding director and current Executive Chairman of EQO, Sydney optometrist for 36 years, Ray Fortescue stated, “EyeQ has worked on developing this Network concept over a number of years. We needed to create systems and strategies which allowed our practices to be both profitable as well as professionally satisfying for the optometrist and practice staff while providing expert care to our patients. We also noted that many Generation X, Y and Next optometrists were not sufficiently confident utilising the existing business support options available, to commence a new practice or even to take over an existing independent practice on their own.”
The first Associate in the EyeQ network was Darrell Baker, the current Optometry Australia President in Western Australia, who has located in Karrinyup, Perth, commencing to trade in his own right on September 1st 2014. In Darrell’s words, “After many years in a large independent group- practice the time had come to branch out in my own practice. Obviously I was very comfortable with my clinical ability and experience but as so often happens in a multi-site group there were areas of practice management which had not been my responsibility and as such, I was looking for that support in any new venture I might consider. I felt that I needed more than a buying group could offer.”
He added, “After assessing all the available options, EyeQ Optometrists’ seemed to be the perfect fit. With a common vision and philosophy of ensuring the long term viability of the ideals of independent optometry, previous interaction with the executive team of EQO also gave me confidence and trust in those whom I would be dealing with. The first 7 months of the EyeQ experience have reinforced those initial views.“
“The business strategies now available through EQO deliver all that I could ask for. Most of the business back-end tasks are taken care of including marketing, payroll and accounts payable. There is constant innovation and an ability to move quickly when required. The recent launch of the revamped website which includes an e-tail CL site is a good example of where this company is heading. I see a great future for myself, EyeQ and independent optometry as more Associates join the Network,” he concluded.
The extent of the support systems available to an EyeQ Associate is quite broad. The key components which are on offer include comprehensive merchandising, marketing, training and back office functions.In early-December 2014 the second EyeQ Associate opened their doors. Bayd Rosenbaum opened a brand new practice in the idyllic seaside town of Merimbula in NSW and is very happy with the early signs he is experiencing.
“It is a big step to “Greenfield” an independent Optometry practice in today’s competitive market. With the advice and direction of EyeQ we have got off to a very encouraging start. The design phase and practice fit out has been relatively trouble-free. Our initial training, support on opening day and ongoing assistance has been wonderful”, commented Bayd.
“One of the founding partners in EyeQ Optometrists, Tony Ireland from EyeQ Ulladulla, was instrumental in steering me to the Network opportunities they had been developing. To say we are happy would be an understatement. So much of the “back end” practice management and support burden is taken care of by the National office team, freeing myself and my wife to spend quality time with our young family which is critical in our work/life balance. We look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with EyeQ,” he added. In Tony Ireland’s words “starting a new small business we expected to spend time on accounts and admin, but were very pleasantly surprised the EyeQ Optometrists National office does all this for us. It means we get the benefits of running a small business without the downside of out-of-hours bookwork.”
The EyeQ board and management team consist primarily of experienced optometrists, including Peter Rose from the NSW south coast who is well known to many in the industry with 36 years of practice behind him. The Chief Operating Officer is Ms Lily Wegrzynowski, also a very well known face across the country, an optometrist and former OA State president in WA. Ray added, “The extensive optometric experience in our executive team allows EyeQ to better relate to the needs of the independent practitioner. We understand the challenges of practice management. We respect the ideals of delivering a committed holistic approach to the eye care needs of all. Our offer appears to be “hitting the spot” following numerous enquiries already, with minimal announcements to the market as yet.”
Further endorsement of the strength of the EyeQ opportunity is the latest addition to the Associate network. Yet another OA state president, David Foresto who has held the position as President of OA Queensland/NT since 2012 has joined EyeQ at Spring Hill, a Brisbane CBD practice in April 2015.
The appeal for David was "being in a health care precinct like Wickham Terrace and having a strong focus on specialised contact lenses I wanted a practice where I can maintain absolute clinical independence whilst having the back-end monotony of book keeping and payroll taken care of for me. I'm looking forward to an exciting future for Foresto EyeQ Optometrists as well as the optometric profession which I love and will continue to serve" stated David Foresto.
A low key launch, with some high profile early adopters has announced the EyeQ Optometrists Network as a genuine player in this dynamic marketplace. Independent full scope optometry now has a viable Australian-owned, optometrist-led alternative to the current offerings with a goal to create a legacy to help fulfil the needs of future generations of optometrists.