indicatorGrowth Management

FYidoctors: A vision for partnerships that drive growth

By ATB Financial 4 December 2019 3 min read

Dr. Al Ulsifer cares deeply about his patients, their eye health and ensuring they have access to excellent service. Being an independent provider, he was challenged with the financial cost of keeping up with the latest technology, ensuring his patients receive the best service at affordable price points, all while remaining competitive. He recognized other independent providers were struggling with the same business challenges and saw an opportunity to create a collaborative, doctor-owned enterprise.

Dr. Al Ulsifer was committed to creating a patient-centric company driven by independent optometrists rather than big box retailers. And, if he was going to drive an entrepreneurial vision founded on partnership, he was going to have to surround himself with the right partners—at every level. After convincing about 28 leading optometry practices to consolidate and take shares in the enterprise, Dr. Ulsifer then needed to make the move to building the corporation’s lens-crafting lab in British Columbia. ATB listened to his story, believed in the business case behind his plan and helped finance the initial stages of building the lab.


Strategies to drive a vision


The corporation was unique in several ways: FYidoctors operates under a collaborative framework. Shareholders (acquired practices) operate as independents, receiving dividends as part of their base compensation plus the technical and operational support of the company. Dr. Ulsifer invited industry leaders with large practices to launch the corporation. He focused on building a critical mass of experience and expertise to compete as a group in a market held sway by large players.

ATB met with the management team, went through the facilities, looked at and understood the vision for their business before coming back to FYidoctors with a holistic plan. Working closely with the corporation, ATB’s two-person team also gave advice on how and what the corporation needed to do to grow internally, helping put both a financial and operational framework in place, including buy-outs for retiring shareholders.


Scaling a business calls for evolution


As the enterprise grew, its needs became more complex and sophisticated. Within a decade, FYidoctors went from 28 optometry practices to 300 clinics while also operating the largest optometric lab in Canada. Today, they are Canada’s largest network of optometrists. The corporation anticipates acquiring 100 more clinics over 2020, in both Canada and the US. The management team has also grown, along with the depth of financial services, as advice on strategic planning shifted from executing on a concept to reducing risk in the corporation’s national and cross-border expansion. As the company’s needs evolved, so did their partnerships. For example, FYidoctors now works with a team of about 10 ATB experts, including a dedicated cash management person as well as the financial markets group, which manages the corporation’s interest rate requirements.


Invest in partners who invest in you


When you're looking to grow your business in a meaningful way, it's important to choose strategic partners who will take the time to truly understand your business. Whether as a sole lender, or by collaborating with a syndicate of financial partners, a trusted advisor will work with you to meet the unique needs of your business.

Dr. Al Ulsifer agrees, sharing "Having a strong banking relationship is absolutely critical for any business that has growth aspirations, or that has a vision to do something different. You have to have a financial partner that believes in you."

Building a collaborative team, whether you're looking at your own team or your financial services provider, legal team or accounting firm, enables a balanced approach to your business’ future. When you choose to partner with a team of experts, each brings their strengths to the table, further catapulting your success and driving your bottom line.

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