Not content with status quo, doctor-turned-businessman sets his sights on expansion
When Dan Wendorff was a kid, he thought he wanted to be a pharmacist like his father.
But, "I was always interested in the eyes and excelled in physics and sciences," so when a high school friend suggested optometry, it stuck, said Wendorff, owner of Dan Wendorff Eye Care. His practice leases space and provides eye care services at two area offices of LensCrafters, an Ohio-based franchise.
Wendorff, a graduate of the Indiana University School of Optometry, bought an existing practice where the owner helped with the financing by allowing him to make payments.
Still, he had to jump through the financial hurdles required by LensCrafters before the Ohio-based company would contract with him for professional services.
"Taking over the practice was overwhelming at times because I had so much to learn about business," said Wendorff, 42, a Wisconsin native who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin. "Hands down, dealing with staff was my biggest problem."
He said he got "rid of the slugs" and replaced them with qualified people. He also relied on peer training, asking experienced personnel to work with new hires.
"I came out of school with no business background. At the time, I felt I could maintain the status quo, but learned quickly I had to do something else," Wendorff said. "I'm still learning.
"The biggest mistake I made was not having my nose in the accounts receivable. I've lost too much money and now I'm all over it. It has taught me to know all aspects of your business."
The practice has posted single-digit growth each year, but Wendorff said maintaining that momentum this year has been increasingly difficult. Privatepractice optometrists have seen eye examinations remain flat and their revenue eroded by vision plans and discounts. The Internet, where contact lenses can be purchased at a considerable savings, also has reduced income.
Wendorff earns money on the sale of contact lenses, but not eyeglasses; that revenue goes to LensCrafters, in accordance with his contract.
He says he hones his competitive edge by using state-of-the-art technology in eye examinations, treatments and billing.
"I cannot control the economy nor the Internet sales of contacts, but I believe in order for my practices to grow, we will need to bill medical plans to increase our revenue from our professional fees," he said. "This will be big for my practice."
Technology also brings better ways for him to examine and treat patients. For instance, he can use digital imaging to map the retina, revealing the entire area all at once without dilating the patient's eyes. The result is a much better image of the overall health of the eye without discomfort to the patient.
He also uses vision-shaping technology-special contact lenses that are worn at night to correct certain problems, such as near-sightedness and astigmatisms. These lenses eliminate the need to wear contacts or eyeglasses during the day.
Tamara Hanley has been going to Wendorff for eye exams and contacts for about five years, primarily because it is convenient and she is happy with the service. When she learned he offered vision shaping, she opted for that treatment and is pleased with the results.
"I had no desire to go to someone for this that lacked experience," Hanley said. "The staff also is very pleasant, flexible and very easy to work with."
How Wendorff treats patients is exactly why Brock Ward has been getting his contacts there for eight years.
"He's very professional in how he treats patients and I like the people in the office and the way they treat me," Ward said. "He also has new technology in his office that might not be somewhere else."
Wendorff said he loves what he does and has plans to grow his practices. He's working with employees to get them on board.
To own and operate your own business, he said, "you have to believe in yourself and don't accept the status quo."
Dan Wendorff learned optometry in school, but he had to figure out business skills on his own.