Business models within the private optometry sector in South Africa.
Souza, Mduduzi Terrence
The dynamic and evolving business environment continues to impact enterprises irrespective of the industry in which they are operating. These changes have not only increased competition, changed customer dynamics but also question business’s value propositions. The business of health care is not immune to these threats as constant changes of legislation, customer needs and other factors associated with globalisation are forcing independent optometrists within the private sector to revaluate how they operate their businesses in order for them to remain relevant and competitive. With new optometry graduates finding more opportunities within private practice, we have seen an increase in the number of practices in urban areas, thus increasing competition for the independent practitioner. Business models are argued to be crucial in assisting an entity to maintain a competitive advantage. This study seeks to understand what business challenges independent optometrists are facing within the business environment and what business models they are using to maintain a competitive advantage in a highly competitive environment. The research method is qualitative and non-probability sampling was used to select ten independent private practice optometrists based within the Gauteng region. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with these optometrists who were also business owners. Frame work analysis was used to analyse and interpret data and gather themes from the data while using Osterwalder and Pigneur (2009)’s ’s business canvas as a template. The key finding revealed that unique as they are, these small to medium enterprises faced similar challenges as other enterprises operating in different industries. Such challenges included increased competition, lack of funding, human resources and a lack of challenges for ever-changing legislation. Business models are however, being used within this industry and are mostly influenced by the location in which practices are based and the owner’s passion when it comes to a certain skill set. The most unique and competitive model seems to be a model that addresses the 2 needs of the knowledge economy and provides a service that focuses on an often neglected customer base. While some practices are using a trial and error method to arrive at a particular model, some have settled for a tested and tried model. Interesting enough, none of these models addresses health care needs for an affordable and accessible healthcare system, but optometrists are continuing to thrive. The study finds that for independent business owners to maintain a competitive advantage, they need to explore the clinical business model as it is difficult to replicate and it is more sustainable as it addresses the needs of the knowledge economy while also servicing a niche market. Training institutions should provide adequate practice management courses to assist practitioners post-graduation in the operation of their businesses. Government and other stakeholders, such as medical aid companies and professional bodies, need to implement legislation that will create an even environment for business owners.
Optometry -- Economic aspects -- South Africa,Small business -- South Africa -- Management,Industrial management -- South Africa