Day in the life … DO and business owner Jim

What do you start with every day?

I start with a healthy breakfast and see my family off to school or work. I then jump in the car and start my commute to work. During my drive to work, I will often have a call with Dan Pederson, my business partner to discuss the previous day’s activity across our group of practices and discuss any pressing matters ahead.

When I get to the practice, we start the day by having a ‘huddle’ – a short 10-minute Practice Team briefing. We review the previous day’s activity and sales figures and thank team members who’ve gone over and above. We then report on what the forthcoming day will look like, analysing the clinic to see if there are any patients who have requested to see a specific team member or any clinic notes for the team to be aware of and advise the team of any visitors to the practice that day.

We also discuss any specific jobs that need to be carried out throughout the day, and discuss if there any ‘pinch points’; busy times. Throughout the week, on various days we read out our positive comments from our customer surveys, which helps motivate and praise the team. It’s all about setting the tone for the day.

At the beginning of each week I have a conference call with the other practice managers where we discuss the previous week’s activity and make plans for the coming week.

How did your business start?

Eyesite was originally founded in 1984 by Duncan Ashby and over the years has had a number of different independent ownership structures. Over time practices have been added by either starting from scratch or by buying existing practices and integrating them into Eyesite as the former owners have retired.

I always felt that I would like to own my own business, probably harping back to my childhood where my parents set up and ran an Audio and Visual Retail shops and workshops. The idea of being in charge of my own destiny appealed to me. But I knew that this would have to be a long term vision.

After qualifying as a dispensing optician, I joined Eyesite in 2005. I learnt the ropes and was able to expand my knowledge and grow professionally. In 2012 I became the Brighton practice manager, and was able to work closely with the Management Team.

In 2013 I was fortunate enough to be involved in a management buy out, and in 2017 I took the role of Managing Director of the Group. In 2018 we made the strategic decision to join forces with the Hakim Group, a large group of independent opticians. Since becoming Managing Director I have seen the business go from strength to strength. To date, we have four Eyesite practices in Brighton, Reading, Weybridge and Winchester and we have an awesome team of 55 likeminded and committed team members.

In 2021 my business partners and I bought shares in another independent practice in Bognor Regis, Walsh Opticians, and we have been working with the team to develop and futureproof the practice.

What do you love about your job?

Over the years what I love about my career has changed, in the early days it was the ability to be able to provide beautiful eyewear for patients, by understanding their needs, wants and desires. In more recent years I find joy at designing the strategic direction of the business and creating the conditions for our amazing team to be able to provide first class eyecare and eyewear to our communities, with the long term vision of doing so for generations to come.

What are the challenges?

In the last 24 months the biggest single challenge has been navigating Covid. Throughout this period our Management Team has been incredible and have worked tirelessly to keep our teams and patients safe, and thankfully in this time we have not had to reduce the number of team members, in fact, our team has grown. As with many other independent optical practices we have found a surge in demand for our services and products as the lockdowns have eased and more people are able to visit us again.

Going forward, as we hopefully see the Covid years in our rear-view mirror, I see the challenges changing. As our retail high streets evolve and become more experience-based, we too will need to evolve if we are going to compete for our patients’ attention.

I can also see some industry challenges with regards to the availability of qualified persons, as it would appear that demand for these roles is at an all-time high and there is a shortage of optometrists, dispensing opticians and contact lens opticians.

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

Part of my daily wrap up routine is to run through the group sales figures and update the relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) and then spend some time checking in with the practice teams. In Brighton, I work with the Practice Management Team putting together the following day’s huddle notes. Then it’s the commute home, where I normally check in with my business partner, and listen to one of my many audiobooks. Then it’s home to spend time with my lovely family.