What do opticians need to set up in practice?

Published on 6th November 2019 - Last update on 21st November 2019

You might have come into the profession to help people with their vision, rather than run a business. But setting up your own high street practice could be the best way to make the most of your professional skills as an ophthalmologist.

Running your own practice you let you help more people, give you a free hand in deciding the equipment you want to use, and let you enjoy the financial rewards for the hard work you put in.

But what do you need to set up in practice?

The challenges

Running your own practice may not all be plain sailing. Setting up on your own is possible - but remember you will face challenges from franchised businesses. They may have access to funding and marketing that you can only dream about as an independent.

However, people look for help from professionals that they know and trust. If you have people skills as well as optical knowledge, you can compete against the franchised chains. There are plenty of independent opticians up and down the country, and you can join them.

Of course, that means that you will need to make some substantial investments in your business.

“I had been working with one of the franchised names for a year or two - but I was keen to get my own practice up and running.”

Of course, the main obstacle to setting up a new practice will be funding. You will need premises, equipment and trained staff. You will also need stock, and working finance until your new practice finds its feet and you start filling your appointment book.

Despite your professional status, that can be a challenge. Many lenders are only interested in lending to established businesses with years of audited accounts. Even online business lenders will often want evidence of a year’s trading, complete with online accounts and VAT returns. You may feel like you need to dip into your savings or even call on wealthy relatives  - but, at Rangewell, we know that there are lenders who can provide Start-up Funding - and we can help you find them.

“I started adding up what it would all cost - and it meant I needed to find more than £100,000 if I was going to start my own opticians' practice.”

The first step is to look at the funding you need, and there are several costs to consider.

Need help setting up your business? Lacking the necessary funds to obtain vital equipment or carry out essential refurbishments? Find out more about for finance for your practice here

Premises - location is everything

You will need a high street, or possibly a retail park location with public transport available - as not all of your customers will be drivers.

To start with, you may need to lease your shop. However, for the future, you might think about buying your premises with a Commercial Mortgage - these can give you 20 years or more to repay, with rates that can be as low as 2% above base rate. However, for the first year or two, renting may be the most appropriate solution.

Fitting out retail premises with a consulting room will be another cost You may need to raise funds for refurbishment as well as for a deposit on the lease.

“I found a shop that was in the perfect location close to the station, and it had the space to set up a consulting room in what had been the stockroom. I knew I would need to smarten up the shopfront and build an attractive display area. Customers are style conscious these days.”

Funding for your equipment  

From a smart mirror to a keratometer, you need the latest equipment in your consulting room and in your shop to compete with the franchises. For equipment that will go on giving service for years, Hire Purchase can provide the ideal solution, whilst for the latest instruments - such as 3d imaging systems - leasing will avoid the upfront cost, and let you update when new technology becomes available.

Both are types of Asset Finance. It can be the shrewdest way to fund most types of business equipment, because the lending is secured on the assets themselves. If you can't make the repayments the lender will simply take back the equipment and sell it, so there is little risk for them - which they can pass on to you in the form of lower interest rates and smaller repayments. 

When you are starting up, used equipment can be a sound investment. However, many opticians miss out on the potential savings because they believe they need to find the cash to pay for it. At Rangewell, we know that it is not true, and we can help you spread the cost of used, as well as new, equipment with Asset Finance.

Don't forget your sales area. It’s not just your reception and surgery that need equipment. You need a bright attractive and stylish sales area.

Dealing with the costs of running your practice

Your new practice will take time to establish itself - and to bring in the income you need to pay the bills. Working Capital Finance can give you additional working capital, to provide cash to pay staff and suppliers during the early weeks and months of opening a practice. It is designed to be repaid in the short- to medium-term.

Of course, all funding can be complicated, so it pays to get some expert help.

“I added up al the costs I needed to cover, and called Rangewell. They have people who understand the challenges of setting up an optician practice - and, equally importantly, know the lenders who can help.”

At Rangewell, we work with over 350 lenders to offer you an overview of more than 23,000 business finance products. So if you’re looking for a way to support your plans for setting up your own opticians' practice, find out more about what we can do for you.


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