Day in the life … dispensing optician Stuart

Stuart is a dispensing optician who also runs Eyecare Education, helping optometrists and dispensing opticians stay up to date with their ongoing education events. If you like the idea of combining running events with a clinical career, read on to find out about his work and how he combines time in practice with working on his business.

What do you start with every day?

If I’m working from home then the day will start with the school run, followed by a 5km run, then setting up a list of tasks to work through. If it’s an event day then it’s a case of loading up the car, checking Google maps and hitting the road. Depending on where we’ve got an event it could be anything from a 30 minute to a 4 hour drive. 

How did you start your business?

I started my business completely by accident. I set up a peer review with a group of DOs and Optoms who worked in my region as an excuse to have a catch up. It went really well and some of the other locums we worked with asked if I could do another one. It takes a bit of time to set up and navigating the application process can be tricky so I thought it would be a good idea to start charging for the service. I set up a provider account with the GOC and started from there. The it was just a case of building from there with a Facebook and Instagram page. I was lucky to have a good friend who worked for a supplier who put me in touch with lots of other suppliers to get them on board as sponsors and it just grew from there. 

I always wanted to start a business and had been throwing some ideas around with my business partner Hiten for a while when we worked together previously, but it was just a case of finding the right project. 

What do you love about your job? 

It’s just genuinely fun. I love optics, I love the technology, pathology and education side of it so having the opportunity to chat about it with people all over the country is great. We get to meet people from all over the industry and make friends so it’s always great to go to a different city and catch up with people. 

I love the freedom to plan my schedule and work on what I find interesting, especially when it comes to creating new CPD. I often have to educate myself on a topic whilst I’m writing it so it’s great for my own personal development. 

Also, what I genuinely love and appreciate is the positive feedback we get from people. 

What are the challenges?

In a word: Covid. The pandemic has definitely thrown a spanner in the works in terms of us being able to run events. We’ve had to cancel and reschedule a number events over the last couple of years. But every challenge brings an opportunity and its opened up a whole new avenue with our online events. 

Finding venues can also be difficult, especially post Covid. We had a venue booked for an event in Leeds a few years ago and the caretaker totally forgot and didn’t turn up to let us in so we had about 90 people waiting outside the venue and we couldn’t get hold of them. Luckily there was a church hall across the road who’d just finished their service so they let us hire it out there and then. That was stressful to say the least so now we try and stick to the same venues we trust. 

One of the biggest challenges though, as with any business, is getting responses from other companies. I would imagine we’re as guilty as anyone so it’s not a criticism, but when a large portion of your business is interacting with other businesses you have to understand that you’re not necessarily their priority. Everyone is working so hard at the moment, often with staff isolating, so it can be difficult to get replies to emails, which is understandable. You just have to be patient. 

What do you do to wrap up the day and prepare for the next one?

After an event we might not be home until 10pm so it’s just a case of falling into bed. The events can be physically hard work if we need to set up tables and chairs for 100 people so you just want to go home and sleep and worry about unloading the car in the morning. 

If it’s just a working from home day I tend to wrap up in time for the school run, but then the laptop will probably come out again after dinner. I also try and answer any emails straight away, which can be any time of the day. 

In terms of preparing for the next day, I would be lost without my Google calendar so its just a case of adding tasks for the next day so I know what I need to prioritise.