Reflections on 30 Years of SightCare
Reflections from Martin White – SightCare Chair and Founding member
With the demise of the NHS spectacles and moving towards the voucher system we have today there was a need for an range of glasses to take over from the stalwarts of the 524, 322 and the ever popular 924. The Professional Selection was created with the PS80 in grey, brown, crystal and blue. From these humble beginnings the formation of SightCare as a business support organisation was conceived. This is at a time when there were only 60,000 people on the internet and Nelson Mandela had just been freed. In 1980 my father and I joined as founder members. The early years my father attended a few of the meetings and made notes which he promptly ignored when he got back into the practice. Then as he moved towards his retirement, he then handed over to me.
I can remember attending quite a few regional meetings and taking on the newer, modern frames that SightCare produced. Making use of the private prescription pads and the thrill of maybe getting one of the corporate contacts that SightCare had negotiated centrally into the practice.
We were in those early years just one of the many half-heartedly participating but happy to support an organisation designed to support the small independent. I was aware of the overseas conferences that were put on but looked at them like an expensive luxury. Following my father’s retirement in 2000 I fully computerised all our practices and then more actively participated in all the meetings that I could get to and finally attended one of the oversees conferences.
Being an Independent business owner is incredibly lonely and thankless task. One of the great things is to be able to talk to others in the same position, with candour. If you are thinking about doing something it is sure that someone has already done it or is about to do it. That sharing of knowledge is invaluable. Strangely I cannot remember where it was in 2000 but one of the presentations was a very powerful model of how to introduce retinal imaging. I was struck by the numbers of people who had already started to offer this and using their knowledge and experience I finally plucked up the courage to buy 5 Cameras, one for each practice. Without the collective SightCare knowledge and experience I know I would not have done that.
It was at that overseas conference that I was approached by Paul Surridge to see If I would be happy to be more engaged, and thus I spoke at regional meetings around the country, conferences and then was appointed to the Board in 2001.
The overseas conferences were great events, a good social time but networking and catching up on the latest made it then an allowable business expense. But times change and this type of event became outdated. New ways of communicating came about, we had emails and email forums. The regional meetings were expanded and the Annual conference just grew. It was again down to a SightCare networking and educational event that I was first shown an OCT. This time I was keen to be at the front of the line and soon, because of the advice and support received from members of SightCare ordered 4 OCTs at once, the biggest purchase I have ever made and one of the best decisions for the business. All delivered in 2010 it took quite a few years for the bank balance to recover but it was all down to SightCare.
From my early time on the board it was clear that we needed to get people more active within SightCare and we talked about different levels of membership. With the launch of SightCare Premium we have now achieved just that. For those prepared to put more effort in they can now achieve far more in growing their business and ensuring its future.
Then out of the blue comes the pandemic and once again SightCare has helped all of us and the wider independent community keep up to date and abreast of all the developments throughout.
From its humble beginnings we have so much to be proud of. I have to thank Margaret Packmen and Bob Chappell for their insight in those early years. For Paul Surridge’s guidance and finally for John French who has been a strong hand at the tiller during these turbulent times and I know has invested a lot of himself in your company.
From those humble beginnings it would have been difficult to imagine where we are today.
Reflections from John French – SightCare CEO
3 decades of SightCare supporting the independent optical practice
I’m not one to be overly emotional about business, but it is with a little ripple of pride that I’m writing this post.
Why? Because this year marks the 30th anniversary of SightCare. When I joined SightCare almost 5 years ago I had to learn a huge amount about the independent optical practice and the optical sector in general, both technically and commercially.
The technicalities and trends of independent practice have changed almost unrecognisably over the last 30 years, but the support within the SightCare community has been exceptional ensuring that its independent practice owners, clinicians and staff have moved with the times and grown in strength and numbers. I think there is something about small businesses supporting other small businesses that helps us stick together. Each understands the challenges the other might be facing.
Celebrating the good stuff
As busy people, we often forget to stop and celebrate the good stuff that happens everyday. Think of all the motivational stories you see on social media about self-belief and the importance of acknowledging your successes. Yet, it’s rare that we actually sit back and give ourselves that much deserved pat on the back.
There is no doubt that running an independent practice requires grit and determination. Statistically only 40% of small businesses survive beyond their 5th year of trading. So, whilst this 30-year anniversary is a personal milestone for SightCare, I often reflect on how long our many members and their staff have been successfully running their optical practices. SightCare and its loyal members are navigating the highs and lows of independent business life together.
With time comes wisdom
I don’t for one minute claim to be an expert on all things independent business, but I have learnt some useful pearls of wisdom along the way. Here are a few little gems that I’d like to share….
· Good business is about good relationships.
· Worrying about it won’t get the job done.
· It takes a community to raise an independent business – get a network you can count on.
· Fresh air and exercise helps with creative thinking.
· Coffee really does fuel independent business.
· Taking a leap of faith and trying something different can lead to great things.
To those of you that have been part of the SightCare community over the past 30 years, thank you – we truly appreciate your support.
And to those we have yet to welcome – let’s stick with it, as great things might be just around the next corner!
We don’t know what the next few years will bring, but here at SightCare we can promise the same level of commitment, support and service that has come to define our business and reputation.