From No Patients to Booked Solid: How I Grew My Sam’s Club Sublease

Dr. Phan shares her experience of taking over a Sam’s Club sublease that went from having no patients to having a wait list.
Dr. Phan prioritizes personalized medical care for all of her patients.

Fresh out of optometry school in 2013, I knew exactly where I wanted to be: running my own practice and delivering exceptional and compassionate eye care. I started by gaining experience at different offices, seeing the behind the scenes of running a practice, and honing my clinical skills. At one office, the owner saw potential in me and envisioned me contributing to his growth. We discussed a partnership, but ultimately, it wasn’t the right fit for my long-term goals. This realization became a turning point. Why dedicate myself to someone else’s dream when I could build my own?

Starting from Zero
In 2015, the opportunity came up to take over a sublease at a Sam’s Club location that hadn’t had a doctor for over two years. While the low overhead and the turnkey operations were attractive, the challenge was clear: the location hadn’t appealed to previous doctors due to the low patient volume.

However, I saw potential. I knew building a successful practice wouldn’t happen overnight. I started with just two and a half days of patient care and worked outside the practice to supplement my income. The initial days were indeed tough, with some days seeing only one patient. Yet, I remained undeterred, determined to grow a thriving practice.

Creative Ways To Get Patients Into My Office
The biggest challenge? My office was tucked away, easily missed by the bustling Sam’s Club crowd. I knew I needed a proactive approach. My first step was a user-friendly website with online booking for a seamless appointment process so that patients can find my office when searching for local eye doctors.

But that wasn’t enough. A personal touch was crucial. So, I started a bold strategy: stepping outside my office and introducing myself to everyone who walked by. I would greet Sam’s Club shoppers by saying, “Hi there! I’m the new eye doctor and I’m accepting most insurance plans! Would you like me to check your coverage?” This genuine interaction proved transformative. Patients appreciated the effort, came in for exams, and spread the word. Additionally, being moderately fluent in Spanish, I started asking if I could invite family members into the exam room with Spanish-speaking patients. Witnessing the process firsthand with their family members fostered trust and encouraged them to schedule appointments for themselves and their own extended family members.

Recognizing the limited hours of operation (two and a half days a week), I sought a solution to capture potential patients even when the office was closed. Enter my ingenious brother, the engineer! He designed and built an online booking kiosk right outside my office. This user-friendly system allowed patients to schedule appointments directly at the kiosk with a secure system that kept their information protected. The kiosk proved to be a game-changer, generating appointments even during off-hours.

Dr. Phan installed a kiosk outside of her office for patients to schedule appointments at their convenience.

Lastly, I focused on developing a strong online presence through Google and Yelp reviews, capitalizing on free marketing opportunities. Our dedication to patient care and a personalized approach earned us the distinction of being one of the highest-reviewed optometry practices in the city of San Bernardino. We consistently receive calls from patients mentioning our excellent online reviews as a key factor in choosing our practice.

A Practice in Full Bloom
Fast forward eight years, and our Sam’s Club location has undergone a remarkable transformation. We’re now open six days a week, welcoming an average of 15-20 patients daily, and our books are full for the next two weeks. This remarkable growth is a testament to our unwavering commitment to our core values: genuine interactions and exceptional eye care.

We’ve also embraced technology to streamline the patient experience. Our real-time booking system allows patients to seamlessly schedule appointments at their convenience, with online intake forms to add another layer of ease to their experience. It’s all about making eye care as easy and accessible as possible.

Investing in Excellence for Our Patients
We’ve reinvested a significant portion of our revenue back into the practice, acquiring cutting-edge equipment to provide the best possible eye care to our patients, including no-puff air pressure checks, OCT, virtual reality visual field testing, and wide-field retinal imaging displayed on a large 55-inch TV screen. These advancements not only enhance the accuracy of our diagnoses but also create a wow factor for patients. Our patients know that we offer more than just glasses and contacts exams – they come to us for medical eye care, myopia management, and specialty contact lens exams. Though located within a Sam’s Club, we operate with the same dedication and personalized approach as a private practice. We’re passionate about their long-term eye health, and it shows in the loyalty they demonstrate by returning for annual exams.

Dr. Phan’s office features all of the latest technology to best care for her patients.

Leading the Way, One Patient at a Time
While technically a sublease within Sam’s Club, this practice feels entirely my own. I have complete control over staffing, equipment, and the services we offer. The only limitation lies in the store’s hours of operation.

Today, I not only lead a thriving practice but also have the privilege of having hired an associate to support the growing demand. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned? Building a successful practice requires unwavering dedication and time. You can’t simply wait for patients to come knocking. You must actively engage with your community, create a strong online presence, build trust, and inspire confidence in your expertise. That’s the true path to success!

  • Julie Phan, OD

    Dr. Julie Phan and her husband, Toan Nguyen, OD, co-own a successful boutique private practice in San Marino, CA, as well as a thriving Sam’s Club sublease in San Bernardino, recently being recognized as Sam's Club Optometrist of the Year in 2024. She's also the Marketing Director for ODs On Finance, the largest finance community empowering optometrists to achieve financial freedom. An entrepreneur at heart, Dr. Phan has built a real estate portfolio spanning a dozen properties across multiple states, generating passive income. Motivated by inspiring others, Dr. Phan shares her knowledge of practice ownership and real estate investment, empowering friends, family, and colleagues to pursue their own financial independence. Family remains a top priority, with quality time dedicated to her husband and their two young sons.

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