Bauer & Clausen Optometry of Billings has been recognized as an outstanding family business in the New Business Category, of the State Farm Montana Family Business Program awards, presented each year by the Montana State University Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

David Bauer and Robyn Clausen Bauer became entrepreneurs when they purchased a practice from the previous owner in January 2008. “But our passion for what we do, both as optometrists and business owners, actually started long before that,” they say.

“We were both heavily influenced by personal family friends who were also optometrists. It was exciting to see the opportunities that these optometrists had in their impact on their patients’ lives, and to be an integral part of their communities.”

Becoming an optometrist is no small feat. It demanded “a huge commitment, requiring us to complete our bachelor’s degrees and then continue on with four additional years of graduate school, earning our doctorates in optometry.” David earned his in 2004, and Robyn in 2005.

It was in optometry school, however, that David and Robyn met each other. They married after their schooling was complete.

They worked together, in acquiring positions with other practices, with the aim of one day achieving their dream to eventually work together and to own their own business. With David leasing space in a corporate setting, Robyn was able to take a chance and step out to accept the role as an associate in an already-established private practice. When the previous owner, (Dr. Mark Reynolds) retired, they bought the business.

“In the first few years of practice ownership, we were faced with challenges that we had learned very little about in optometry school; including understanding the financials of running a business, hiring and managing staff, and keeping up with a changing industry.”

Changing technology has been one of the biggest challenges. While helpful, keeping up with the latest technology can be expensive and the learning curve is always a challenge for any business. The Bauers met those challenges, head on. Their first technology was just a simple computer on the front desk that was used for billing purposes, but now they have over 30 computers throughout their offices, which allow them to maintain health records, manage insurance billing programs, product ordering and to interact with patients. In addition, the Bauers have made a commitment to be on the cutting edge of technology for detecting, monitoring and managing eye diseases – assuring “we always provide the best care possible.”

Another challenge to private practice optometry over the last several years has been the rise of online sales of both contact lenses and glasses. By continually improving our patient experience, our patient education on lens technology, our offering of premium products, and our customer service, we have been able to continually grow each year despite such competition.”

In no time, the Bauers were discovering that they were out of space, a problem that could potentially limit future growth. So, in August 2016, after extensive planning they broke ground on the new, larger location for Bauer & Clausen Optometry. They moved into their new location at 100 Brookshire Boulevard, Building 2, Suite 2, in March 2017.