Member Spotlight: Jennifer Burke, OD & Jennifer Shane, OD
PECAA Mentorship Program Offers Hands-on Practical Advice & Support for Optometry Practices
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the only source of knowledge is experience, yet he never specified whose experience was needed.
Well, why not acquire knowledge by connecting with industry peers who have taken the same steps, overcome the same challenges, and are able to share their experiences in order to help members of their community facing similar scenarios?
PECAA’s Mentorship Program pairs optometric practices that are opening cold with members of the PECAA eye care community who have years of industry experience under their belts. These mentors are then able to share their expertise with their mentees to help advise and offer suggestions on the questions that arise when opening a cold start practice.
We recently had a chance to take an in-depth dive into the experiences of two PECAA Members that have participated in this Mentorship Program. As a fairly new PECAA Member, Dr. Jennifer Shane of Dr. Jennifer L. Shane and Associates is opening her first private optometry practice this Spring in Reno, Nevada after working in retail optometry since 2001. Her mentor, Dr. Jennifer Burke of Eyediology in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been running her private optometry practice for 3 years now and is more than willing to share her advice with Members who are eager to listen.
The Mentee Experience
Dr. Jennifer Shane has taken advantage of the mentorship program and knows how helpful it can be to have a mentor available to you when going through the process of opening an eye care practice cold. “I used to say I’ve had the education of finding out things through hard knocks,” Dr. Shane explains. “But having the ability to ask questions, ask someone with experience… greatly improves your learning curve.”
She inquired with Dr. Burke about several challenges she was experiencing throughout the process. “The biggest thing is when you get a business loan, they ask you to do a pro forma. If you haven’t been in this type of business, you have no idea what the expenses associated with it are.” Dr. Shane asked about what she should pay employees, and Dr. Burke sent her specific numbers as a starting guide. “That really helped me, in seeing things that I didn’t count on as expenses. The biggest anxiety I had going in was; Am I going to make it? Just looking at the financials coming in and going out, being able to look at what I could expect, was very helpful,” Dr. Shane explains.
Dr. Shane says that the encouragement and support that mentors offer is a big benefit, giving her the confidence to overcome difficulties. “In retrospect, I wish I opened a practice 16 years ago. I didn’t do it back then because I was afraid of the work and the hassle but now looking back I wish I had done it,” she says.
Being a Mentor
When she started her private eye care practice in 2015, Dr. Jennifer Burke was already a PECAA Member and got a lot of great advice from the MBA team. “PECAA had a really supportive environment, where ideas were shared at peer-to-peers, like ideas for how to market a new practice,” says Dr. Burke.
She then attended her first PECAA Annual Meeting and business symposium, and later became a Regional Leader for the Nevada area. So far, she’s mentored countless colleagues in the industry, including several PECAA Members as part of the Mentorship Program.
Dr. Burke says she is usually asked by mentees how she started, or how much her cash flow was. “I tell them I had humble beginnings of two patients a day, and I show them my initial cash and patient flow.”
Another common question is how she selected equipment and furnishings when designing an optometry office. “I’ve used some professional help, a PECAA vendor partner, and bought some things from Ikea,” she explains. “A piece of advice I give is to find a really good contractor. If you have a good contractor, everything else will fall into place.”
Dr. Jennifer Burke enjoys being a mentor and describes how her experience helping Dr. Shane was fulfilling; “I get personal satisfaction from helping someone navigate that process, making the whole process a little less stressful,” she says.
She recommends that anyone in private practice should be a mentor, even if they’re still learning the ropes themselves. “Although you might be unsure, you don’t realize how much you’ve learned,” Dr. Burke says. “You actually are a bit of an expert, and you’re very valuable because it’s so fresh in your mind and you know exactly where your peers are in the process.”
“Starting a practice three years ago is different from 10 years ago, and even starting 20 years ago —anyone at any stage can bring their own unique perspective to it.”
“For anyone who wants to be a mentor—it’s not a huge time commitment,” she explains. PECAA pairs her with one new mentee at a time to prevent burnout. “A lot of times it’s just quick emailed questions back and forth that take no time at all, but are really valuable for the individual on the other end.”
Interested in Becoming a Mentor?
Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a mentor for a cold start practice.