Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and there are three topics you should avoid with your family: politics, religion, and corporate optometry. Let’s treat this article like the thanksgiving dinner table and avoid the first two. But just this once, we’ll break the rule on the third. Plenty of people have pretty strong opinions on corporate optometry, but I want to look at the reality of the situation for new graduates today.
According to U.S. News, tuition nationwide has increased nearly 200% over the last two decades, while wages have remained relatively flat. This has created a world in which $200,000 of debt for an optometry graduate is normal and some even have more than $300,000. Insert shocked emoji face… Corporate optometry has used this disturbing trend to thrive. Eyemart Express, EyeCare Partners, MyEyeDr, National Vision, and Luxottica are all in the top 10 optical players by U.S. sales in the previous year with $275 million up to $2.4 billion respectively. The gravy train has left the station, and new graduates are stuck eating gravy-less mashed potatoes unless you know how to tilt the boat towards your plate. Each year new graduates collectively lose $3.5 million dollars just by saying hello and not negotiating.
Huh? How can saying hello lose you money? Corporate entities are desperate for new doctors because of how aggressively they are expanding. They will pay a referral bonus if an employed optometrist refers your name to a manager. However, if you say hello to anyone affiliated with the company at a national meeting or at your school and they document your name before that referral is made, then you are no longer eligible to be referred. Poof, there goes $2,000-10,000 that you could have split with your friend just by being polite. And negotiating, sure that sounds good in theory, but it’s also dressed in overalls like your crazy uncle and looks like hard work.
I want to help each of you negotiate a better contract, but realistically that isn’t going to happen. New graduates, who pursue corporate, need to realize that you are the straw that stirs the drink for billions of dollars each year and use that leverage to negotiate very aggressively. Each time you don’t negotiate with corporate optometry, it doesn’t just pay you less with worse benefits. These companies are beginning to offer the following generation of ODs even less because of your willingness to say yes without hesitation. Negotiating is successful 80% of the time so be confident in yourself and ASK! Do it for the kids.
Corporate optometry is slowly learning and adapting at the expense of new graduates. They realized that one of their biggest expenses and obstacles to rapid expansion is doctor turnover (meaning a doctor leaves the company and having to hire a new OD). Some companies have started to increase retention bonuses (money paid out in a lump sum after an agreed upon number of years) and extend the years worked required for the bonus while at the same time lowering base salaries. This is attempting to keep the carrot out in front of new hires so they will remain with the company for longer. But more importantly, they’re paying you LESS through the years. Unless every optometrist negotiates resolutely, trends like this will continue and become more prevalent. Or better yet, contact your friendly neighborhood contract consultant for a free contract review and the most knowledgeable and proven negotiating strategies.
These corporate jobs are more readily available and often pay more than private practice jobs straight out of optometry school, so I’m not here to tell you not to take those jobs. I just want you to make as much money as you can while you work in the corporate world because they can afford it! Now pass me the turkey, I’m ready to eat.
Mark Phebus, OD
- Boyington, Briana. See 20 Years of Tuition Growth at National Universities. U.S. News & World Report, 20 Sept. 2017, www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2017-09-20/see-20-years-of-tuition-growth-at-national-universities.
- Staff. “Key Optical Players Ranked by U.S. Sales in 2016.” VM, 15 May 2017, www.visionmonday.com/vm-reports/top-50-retailers/article/key-optical-players-ranked-by-us-sales-in-2016/.
- Renzulli, Kerri Anne. “Millennial Career Advice: Negotiate Salary With First Job Offer or Regret It | Money.” Time, 14 May 2015, time.com/money/3855869/millennials-first-job-salary/.