Activeyes founder and Managing Director explains why he gave up the security of big business to help independent practices.

So many people have asked me why I am launching a new Activeyes service that I thought I’d put my responses to ‘paper’.

I fell into optics quite by chance, in early 1991. Although born in the UK, I had spent many years in South Africa and was developing a successful early career as manager of a group of sports retail outlets in Pretoria.

As many young people do, I decided to take a sojourn and travel the world. I landed in the UK with the intention of earning sufficient funds to start my voyage. Having family in Bristol, I spotted an advert in the local paper – Vision Express (Bristol was to be the 28th store) were opening and looking for Retail Associates.

My envisaged temporary role at VE lasted almost a decade! I revelled in the fast-paced, dynamic environment, where hard work and ambition was rewarded with such rapid career progression. The provision of clinical, retail and manufacturing (onsite lab in every store) was also very stimulating.

I spent the rest of the ‘90’s within what became the GrandVision group and enjoyed many roles, both domestically and in Europe – including spells based in Brussels, Warsaw and Budapest.

Throughout the early-mid 2000’s, my life straddled South Africa and the UK, with those countries being the birthplaces of my two children. My vocational homes included Specsavers, Spec-Savers South Africa (unrelated to the Guernsey-based group) and my own business, Opus, which specialised in recruitment of optometrists and veterinarians from South Africa into Europe. During one of my spells in the UK, I managed a group of independent practices – PG Allders.

Having made the tough but final decision to raise the children in the UK, I returned from South Africa in 2007. This heralded a move into the wholesale optical market, initially as Managing Director of Shamir UK and then within the Essilor Group. By applying the same principles that underpin growth within optical retailing, I enjoyed similar success as a supplier.

In mid-2014, I realised that my entrepreneurial feet were itching and left the security of the corporate world to devote time to my own creation – Activeyes. Until December 2016, my primary client was STORM, for whom I also acted as Managing Director.   There is no doubt in my mind that STORM provides an invaluable online resource for independent practice owners and will become a prominent feature of the marketplace.

However, I believe a large, unmet need still exists within the independent sector. Over the past quarter of a century, I have visited hundreds, possibly thousands, of practices that are not running optimally. Some require a little fine-tuning, others a major overhaul.

So often, I have wanted to provide advice, support or even – where practice owners and/or staff are clearly unhappy or stressed – a shoulder to cry on.

Through Activeyes, I can provide that guidance and support. The various roles I have filled, successes I have enjoyed and – yes – failures I have encountered – have been hugely educational. I believe I know what works within optical practices and, as importantly, what strategies and activities should be avoided.

Activeyes has drawn upon that experience, knowledge and understanding and distilled it into a simple, effective and supportive programme.

Activeyes doesn’t adopt the ‘independents fight back’ mantra or mentality. The multiples are here to stay and, by making subtle but significant changes, so are most independents.

The objective is not to grab a larger slice of the pie but, instead to bake a larger, more wholesome pie ….and have consumers bite into it more frequently.

One way in which independents can do this is to learn from what the multiples do well, in areas such as processes, people and time management, purchasing, marketing and the ability to understand their customers’ expectations.

Although Activeyes has a clearly defined growth and resource plan, we will never be able to work with every practice, nor is that the aim. Not all practice owners wish to change, or are not prepared to make the commitment required to achieve their goals. Activeyes isn’t for them.

However, if you are a practice owner that hankers for a more profitable, less pressured and easier to manage business, and just need a helping hand, we would love to work with you!