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Happy's Obsession
or what I do between bouts of Real Life
I can't believe I'm seriously considering...
... buying an optical to start my own business. I mean, I work for myself now, doing locum tenens (per diem) work, but my only overhead is gas. I have to find the work, then get there and do it, but then I just wait for the paycheck to come in. As long as I get the work, life is manageable.

But there is this little optical in the next town over, that's been there since 1958. The owner died 3 years ago, and it's been running on autopilot with 1-1/2 employees while the family figured out what to do. The kids aren't interested in it, so they are selling.

1) The space is small - about 1200 sq ft, most of it with windows. And no room to expand.
2) There is not a room big enough for an exam lane - remodelling is necessary. Also, another room must be added for a business office area - although that could be a room without floor-to-ceiling walls, since the ceilings are at least... 12-14 feet? Less cost for those, I think.
3) The decor is that russet orange & shiny gold stripes from the 70's - which definitely has to go.
4) The overhead lighting is kind of the reverse of a "disco floor" - big plastic panels with raised circles, that lights up with fluorescents behind it.
5) The frame selection is... bad. Well, there is a small percentage of usable frames, but most are old aviators or plastics.
6) The displays & counters suck - they are old/ugly/take up too much space.
7) I'll still have to work at least 3-4 days a week at other places, initially, until the doctor side builds up patients.
8) My meds still aren't adjusted right, and I've been having problems dealing with stress. And this would be a world of stress.
9) Can't forget - the huge loan that will be needed to do this...

1) Great location! Big parking lot, near Lakewood Town Center (the big shopping center in Lakewood). Near Fort Lewis military base, so can get a lot of military families.
2) Great natural lighting (see the big windows comment, above). Of course, that will need to be controlled somewhat, because it can be blinding, but that's what shades are for, right?
3) The changes needed are cosmetic (mostly) - only one main internal wall needst o be moved to make a bigger room for exams. The rest should be easy... but probably a bit expensive.
4) The business has been coasting for 3 years, but still made as much in the optical as the previous office I worked at (if you subtracted out the doctor fees). So it could run as an optical while I built up the doctor side of it.
5) I have 3 employees from where I worked before that want to come work for me. Which is also a con, since I could only take 2 initially, and I feel bad about hurting the other ones feelings. But I can't afford 3 people at once, when it's been running on only 1-1/2 people. Maybe eventually...

So right now, I'm waiting for the floorplan to see how I can redo the space to get what I need. Then I need to get with a remodeller to find out the cost of that, then I need to get a thorough frame inventory to see how many are discontinued (which means they aren't worth anything, since you can't get replacement parts), and what it would cost to get new lines in (since you have to buy them). Also what it would cost for an exam chair, and equipment stand, a projector, since that's what I need at a minimum. Plus, I need to plot out all the surrounding doctors & opticals, to make sure I'm not moving into a too saturated area... although the optical has been running itself for a few years (without profits, or losses) on autopilot.

Christ, there is a lot to think about.
12 Voices or Sing to Me
rhiannonhero From: rhiannonhero Date: August 26th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
wow! lots to consider! But it does sound promising!
darksylvia From: darksylvia Date: August 26th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whoo! That sounds really cool! Maybe they'd let you hold off on buying for a few weeks until your meds even out and you can handle the stress better.
From: salilu Date: August 26th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you wanted to host the vids , i have post all of them at QAFvids early today.
Would love you forever or something like that i you wanted to help me with that.
Love your vids by the way :)
qafhappy From: qafhappy Date: August 27th, 2005 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, they are other peoples I host. I'm not gifted that way. I only have a couple of fics I've written.

I'll work on getting them up over the next few days. I have to head out tonight, but I'll e-mail you when I get them up.
slashpile From: slashpile Date: August 27th, 2005 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Military base!

It's certainly encouraging that the shop is not losing money while it's neglected. It's almost the holy grail of owning a business. Lots of people don't know what part of their business is working for them, and they keep working harder on the thing they aren't making money on.

You sound like you've got good business smarts. I know it's not a good time because you're still recovering, but it does sound solid. And having locum work is a good position to be in. It's nice to know that you can count on cash flow, and you can (to some extent) choose how much you want to (need to) work.

I can imagine, someday, an LJ lending circle. In this reality, do you have a good banker?

I'm thinking very strong, chemical-balancing thoughts in your direction. :) It's exciting. You sound like you're ready for this.
qafhappy From: qafhappy Date: August 27th, 2005 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the good thoughts!

I'm working on determining exactly how much it will cost to get everything upgraded & revamped, so that I can keep the old customer base (as much as possible), while bringing in a higher end clientele too.

The main problem is the small space, but if I can find a way to make it work...

qafhappy From: qafhappy Date: August 27th, 2005 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
And no, I don't have a banker yet. I could ask my parents, but dread that - they are notorious for taking a pound of flesh, too.

I am contacting a fellow who works as a practice broker - he looks at the financials, does analysis to determine how the company is doing, and can be predicted to do, what expenses will be, etc. I'm just waiting to hear back from him, and the remodeller so I can get their estimates on success/costs.

It's a little overwhelming.
slashpile From: slashpile Date: August 27th, 2005 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)
It's enormously overwhelming :)

I actually meant a banker, to talk about cash flow, not specifically as a lender. Some of the big banks up here have started to offer small business services like payroll, accounting, and business coaching. The really big thing is, make sure the bank as an institution and your banker as an individual are supportive of women entrepreneurs.

You're already running your own business so you've obviously got a working system, but you need a financial institution that's on your side. Banks are not value-neutral. Make sure that yours believes that what you are doing is worthwhile.
bliss_ From: bliss_ Date: August 27th, 2005 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I so have to call you soon....when is good?
qafhappy From: qafhappy Date: August 28th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm - I'm working today 12-4. Maybe I could call you on the way home? It would probably be about 4:15-4:30 my time. Otherwise, I'm not working Tuesday, but I have a doctors appt at 9:30, a lunch meeting at 12:30, an appointment to give blood at 3:30, and a class from 7-10. Maybe I could call you on my way to/from my lunch meeting? When are you working Tuesday?

And when are you working the rest of the week? The place I'm at Mon, Thurs, & Friday is slow... so I can probably find time to call.

Let me know!
bliss_ From: bliss_ Date: August 29th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

I am off today, so if you get a chance you can call me then! Or I will try you :)
qafhappy From: qafhappy Date: August 29th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll definitely call today - I'm sure I'll have time, on my lunch break at about noon, if not sooner.
12 Voices or Sing to Me