March 6, 2006

Determining Size of Optical

From Ask The Expert:

I'm planning a new building about 4,000 square feet in size. I want to have an optical of about 700-800 square feet with four dispensing tables and 1500 frames. We'll have two doctors and four exam rooms to start, possibly adding another exam room or two in the future. What do you think about the size of the optical?

A. A good rule of thumb for the ideal size of the optical is 15 - 25% of the total square footage. Yours calculates out to 20%. In my experience your optical is a good size (actually larger than average) for a two doctor practice. Most other offices in this size range of 4,000 SF have six exam rooms, often with a somewhat smaller optical area than yours.

If you plan to do a lot of serious marketing specifically to increase your optical sales you might think about making it larger. However, I’ve learned from my clients that the physical setup of the office can usually handle more patients quite easily. The thing that can limit growth is lack of space for the increased number of staff members required to handle the higher volume of patient traffic.

This has to be a decision based on your overall vision and plan for your practice. Do you think those four dispensing tables will be adequate during busy times? How many opticians will you have working at the same time during peak hours? Will you provide space for more work stations for additional staff people in the future as the practice grows?

If you think you’ll need five or six dispensing tables, then you probably need a larger optical. If the four tables you are planning will be enough, then you probably don’t. Another idea that you could consider is having a separate delivery counter with frame warmer and tools in addition to your four dispensing tables. Then those tables can be used exclusively for styling and selecting frames.

Of course all this has to fit in to a realistic construction budget. If you enlarge the building and then can't qualify for the larger loan required, you will have lost a lot of valuable planning time and effort.

Some of my clients "hedge their bets" in this area. If your building lot is large enough you can plan for a future addition if and when it is needed. In this case, we layout the floor plan for the future addition and create an easy way to connect the old with the new when the time comes. If you build for now but plan for the future, then you will not be spending more money than necessary on initial building costs.

I think that this will give you plenty to mull over. Take the time you need now at the beginning stages of your building project to consider your options and their financial impact carefully.