Our Story

Alan Cleinman and Thomas Schinkel

Alan Cleinman and Thomas Schinkel

In the year 1977 while working at Brillen Optical under Dr. Bill Lusk, 21-year-old Alan Cleinman had occasion to meet a young international business consultant, Thomas Schinkel. The former Managing Director of the Dutch Wholesaler’s Association, Thomas had emigrated to the US to obtain his MBA from Ohio State.  Following his graduation, Thomas worked with a variety of European firms, including a Swedish frame manufacturer seeking a US distributor. Together, Alan and Thomas were successful in landing that business opportunity in September 1977. Enamored with Tom’s perspective and approach, Alan would come to say, “Someday, I want to be a consultant like Tom.”

Two years later, having read the book, How to Borrow your Way to a Great Fortune, Alan left Brillen Optical. Following the book’s guidance, he walked into several banks on the same day and completed loan applications at each. With $10,000 in borrowed funds and an idea, Alan drove to Boston to reunite with Tom Schinkel.  Together they created what became Co-Optics of America, a forerunner to the optical buying-group industry. Tom and Alan worked side by side for five years, breaking new ground for an entirely new industry segment that, today, touches the vast majority of the eyecare industry’s professionals.

Alan would eventually buy out Tom’s interest in the company. Tom would go on to become a leading world-wide expert in the office products industry, a position which he holds to this day. But Tom also left Alan with an important life lesson:

Alan Cleinman, circa 1986

Alan Cleinman, circa 1986

In 1985, having sold controlling interest in Co-Optics of America to a group of venture capitalists, 29-year-old Alan became CEO and Chairman of the Board.  Over the ensuing three years, he worked in an enterprise that rapidly moved from a mission to help private-practice optometry compete, to a mission of taking the company public. With the company’s Red Herring prospectus having been printed around the time of the 1987 “Black Monday” stock market crash, it became clear to Alan that he needed something a bit more stable and fulfilling for his future. In 1988, Alan reached back to his dream from 1977 and began to set in motion his plan of becoming a consultant.  His mission was to gain more time with his young family and a better work/life balance.

His strategy set, Alan issued a press release prior to Vision Expo East in March of 1989.  “Cleinman Quits Co-Optics to become Consultant” was the headline. In May of that year, at age 33, Alan left Co-Optics of America and launched Cleinman Performance Partners.

Original Cleinman Performance Partner Logo

Original Cleinman Performance Partner Logo

Alan’s mission at the time was to work closely with a select group of optometry owners to assist with organizational development. The firm’s first client, Dr. Ron Blum of Roanoke, Virginia, retained Alan to assist him and two colleagues (Dr. Barry Fuller of Havre de Grace, and Dr. Joel Halpern of Dover, DE) in improving their leverage with vendors. Within a couple of months, Alan was inside their respective practices, establishing financial controls and hiring and coaching their management teams.  During the latter part of 1989, Alan would devise what became the Cleinman Performance System, the first operational benchmarking system for optometry.

The system proved popular with early clients, and in January of 1990 it was presented to the Eyecare Management Group (“EMG”), a small study-group of ten practice owners who met twice annually. This early experience with EMG became the inspiration for what would later become the Cleinman Performance Network. Nearly all the members of EMG would become clients of the firm.  Throughout the 1990’s, Alan worked with them and an ever-increasing number of other clients to help them build and grow their practices. As a group, the EMG members’ total business value  in 1990 was likely less than $20 million.  With Cleinman Performance Partners’ assistance,  these leaders  built enterprises that ultimately turned into a market value exceeding $1 billion.

The 1990’s would be a period of formative growth for Alan and his new company, as employees were hired and a first office was leased. Then, in 1995, Cleinman purchased what would become a permanent headquarters at 343 Main Street in Oneonta, NY. By 1992, the Cleinman Performance System reached 100 subscribers.

By the end of the century Alan again reached back to a past experience, this time to his initial encounter with the Eyecare Management Group.  He fell in love with the mastermind group concept,  a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members. In 1999, Alan would retain a former client from California to assist in the development of a new business model, Cleinman Performance Network.

First Cleinman Performance Network Meeting

First Cleinman Performance Network Meeting

In June of 2000, Alan and a group of nine optometrists met in Ft. Worth, TX to spend two days sharing ideas. Cleinman Performance Network was born. Today, with ±200 practice partners and ±350 participants, the Network is the leading “think tank” for owners of larger optometry practices.  The Network gives Cleinman Performance Partners the ability to leverage experience and expert knowledge to impact far more lives than a classic consultancy.

Today, with approximately 35 employees and outside associates, Cleinman Performance Partners is recognized as a leading visionary force within optometry; a watchdog for the herd.

Team Cleinman proudly shares the vision of its founder and assists in the development of an enterprise that delivers so much to our stakeholders, in terms of both profitability and quality of life. As Cleinman Performance Partners goes forth into our 4th decade, we hold to our mission of “Transforming Lives through Recognized and Realized Possibilities.”  We thank all of our clients, past and present, all of our associates and business partners, and all our friends, families and community that have been with us on this journey. Thank you for helping us arrive at this important milestone.

Timeline