Local Grand Rapids, MI team analyzes demographic, market and property data to help its clients assimilate new partnering practices and reach targeted patients.
What does a healthcare organization do when it starts growing so fast that there’s not enough room for the large influx of new medical and administrative staff, patients and procedures? In Western Michigan, it calls the experts at Colliers International.
Scott Morgan, senior vice president and designated broker at Colliers’ Grand Rapids, MI office, has worked with Grand Rapids Ophthalmology (GRO) for many years, helping with their real estate needs, including a new headquarters location in late 2017. Kristen Moore, associate, joined Colliers in the last year and also helps GRO with its 10-plus offices.
But Colliers’ assignment became a lot bigger in early 2017, when GRO became a part of Blue Sky Vision, a management services organization and a unit of an investment group, which is headquartered in Chicago. Blue Sky, which is a partnership among eye doctors, members of its leadership team and Sterling Partners, invests in and partners with ophthalmology and optometry practices throughout Grand Rapids and Western Michigan. The partnership has grown quickly through acquisitions and there are now approximately 31 affiliated practice locations, with plans for even more growth.
Bob Wolford, retired executive director with GRO, has been a part of Blue Sky’s leadership team, serving as senior advisor. On the strength of his previous relationship with Colliers and the firm’s proven track record in serving as GRO’s real estate advisor, Mr. Morgan and Ms. Moore were selected about 12 months ago to serve Blue Sky in a similar capacity—and more.
“We advise the partners on the best acquisitions that position them for future growth,” explains Ms. Moore. “We also have been doing a great deal of demographic research on the residents in current and potential locations, as well as research on the best type of facility for each area.”
Mr. Wolford says that the Colliers team is helping Blue Sky focus on areas where it can reach its ideal patients and most qualified prospects.
“We know who our target audience is: It’s usually people over 40 who are looking for eye care services such as Lasik and cataract surgery,” Mr. Wolford says. “Colliers is helping us with our goals of finding better locations that offer more space and appropriate access to our patient base.”
He adds, “Every time we work with Colliers, we find the exact right spot for a new partnering practice.”
The Colliers team also has done rent analyses on potential facilities, including providing comparables. This enables Blue Sky to negotiate with the facilities’ owners and ensure fair market transactions that satisfy all parties, according to Mr. Morgan.
One of the biggest challenges at fast-growing Blue Sky Vision is assimilating new staff members, including administrative departments such as operations and finance. The main GRO building previously served as Blue Sky’s headquarters, but it was overcrowded, needed updating and there was minimal room for expansion. Colliers found an ideal new location, helped structure the lease with the building owner and oversaw renovations and the move to the new facility.
“The new headquarters is fun and collaborative and it’s helping Blue Sky recruit new staff,” Mr. Morgan says. “The relocation also freed up about 4,000 square feet in the old headquarters building for more optical lab space.”
Mr. Wolford notes, “The new headquarters building had a perfect layout so we didn’t need to do a lot of renovation other than to add a couple of conference rooms. We were also able to move in quickly. Now we have a beautiful, spacious new headquarters. I definitely attribute the success of this to Colliers.”
With the addition of new practices comes more patient work, and Colliers has helped with that as well, according to Ms. Moore.
“The Colliers team helped Blue Sky with an expanded lease of an optical lab that enables them to do three times more work than in the past,” says Ms. Moore. “That was really needed to accommodate all of the practices they’ve absorbed.”
Mr. Wolford explained that many vision companies don’t have their own optical labs and need to outsource the work. Plus the primary vision service insurance firms often require companies to use their optical labs. But Blue Sky’s management didn’t want that.
“Blue Sky wanted to retain its own lab to control costs and quality and ensure we don’t waste time farming out work to labs in other states,” Mr. Wolford says. “With Colliers’ help, we have a much larger, state-of-the-art optical lab, and the three main vision payors now designate our lab as a preferred lab for companies’ optical work. And just three months after the expansion, Colliers helped us expand the lab again.”
Managing rapid growth can be a tremendous challenge for many companies. So why is the Colliers team succeeding in helping Blue Sky Vision build its new company and prepare for even more growth?
Mr. Morgan says that working with Colliers is like reaping the benefits of working with three different companies. “Locally, we offer experienced researchers and marketing staff, and our headquarters team brings excellent national expertise,” Mr. Morgan says. “In addition, the Colliers Phoenix office provides great mapping data and analytics and they know how to use client feedback to comprehensively research each market.”
“Colliers offers a breadth and depth of experience and great service,” Mr. Wolford says. “Over the years, we’ve worked with other real estate firms, but I don’t recall any of them being able to offer demographic market analysis and all of the other services that Colliers provides.”