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ProVision Members Connect

In October, the picturesque resort town of Sanctuary Covewas home to more than 300 ProVision delegates andguests who gathered for the Group’s biennial conference.

Delegates were there to ‘Connect, Learn and Enjoy’, and there were plenty of opportunities to do all three, with a line up that included a ‘Who’s Who’ of celebrity speakers as well as eye health practitioners and professional business consultants.

Ian Bluntish, Chairman, and Steven Johnston, CEO of ProVision, welcomed delegates to the conference and provided a snapshot of the current market.

Quoting Charles Dickens from the Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Bluntish said, “We are in the ‘best of times… worst of times’… We are seeing a revolution in the optical industry with the players, and the change in retailing and technology. This is against a globally volatile economic environment. It can be the best of times if we look for it”

Anyone can do anything they want if they are committed to learning and improving…

Mr. Bluntish told delegates that ‘competitors coming in will increase the opportunity and overall market size”.
He said corporates provide a one size fits all model, but the ProVision model sustains independent practice.

“The ProVision model is one of the most successful models for connecting optometrists…being connected gives us strength,” he said.

Looking Good

ProVision is looking strong. As Mr. Johnston stated, the group “has a plan; resources; and the scale; the desire and the connections”.

ProVision’s Comprehensive members’ average turnover is approximately AUD$738k, which is up by 3 per cent on the previous year. Total group turnover is estimated at AUD$250million with a net profit of 15.7 per cent.

Mr. Johnston said the Group plans to continue in this growth path. “Our goals are to increase our member base; increase our recall and develop our brand and marketing,” he said. “I have great optimism for us to take advantage of the opportunity of our ageing population. The lifespan of people now is 82. It was 72 in the 70s and 63 in the 1930s.”

On that optimistic note, the conference moved on with an inspirational presentation from Peter Davidson, one of the paramedics aboard the first rescue helicopter to reach survivors of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Mr. Davidson was introduced by his optometrist John Warren, from Kay Street Eye Care in Traralgan, who said, “Take a step beyond. If you do it regularly, that will become your standard.” It was a salient point – Mr. Davidson said at no time during the rescue did he feel brave, and while the rescuers did what they had been trained to do, there was no way they could have saved the men if they had stuck to what they had always done. “If we didn’t change what we were doing we would have failed and lives would have been lost.”

His final words: “When you are in times of self-doubt, if you stick together and work as a team, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.”

Peter Davidson received a standing ovation.

Prepare for Success

Seasoned corporate speaker Laurie Lawrence led the way on day two of the conference and as he stood, delegates squirmed in their seats, fearing this incredibly successful sports coach would have them in the pool and knocking out the laps before they knew it.

Instead he used his experiences training Olympians to make the point that “If you want to grow, you need to connect”.

Mr. Lawrence said he still believes the Sydney Olympic games were the best because “the volunteers connected better with visitors than other games”.

He stressed preparation is the key to success. “Once you’re prepared you can do things. It’s all about preparation. Everyone in a team has to perform.”

Mr. Lawrence said he believes James Magnussen ‘failed’ at the Olympics because he didn’t race for three months beforehand… he wasn’t prepared. By comparison, he said, Sally Pearson raced 35 times in a year and won 33 races. “What made her great? She was focussed on what she was doing and she was the
last to leave.”

“Anyone can do anything they want if they are committed to learning and improving…. Don’t be frightened to do things. Try new things… If you prepare properly you have a chance to win, but if you don’t, why would you expect to?,” said Mr. Lawrence.

Customer Engagement

Customer relationship expert, Kirsty Spraggon took to the stage next, informing delegates that, “relationships are more than just sales… value the intangible… these are deposits on your future bank account.”

She spoke about the customer “incubation period” – the time it takes for someone to do business with you, which she said, can be up to 18 months, so “don’t expect people to want to do business with you straight away.

“You need to stay in touch and follow people up. The one reason you lose business is customers feel they’re not appreciated.”

Good Design

Then it was time for merchandising and store design specialist Kevin Hennah to talk about positioning stock to maximise sales. Having worked for small businesses and global brands including Virgin Mobile, Kathmandu and Westfield, Mr. Hennah had plenty of wisdom to impart. He told delegates, “eye level is buy level”. He’s spot on – in supermarkets and the alcohol industry, brands fight for eye level.

He stressed the importance of tracking sales and margins of eyewear categories, and setting budgets for hot spots (like eye level) in store.

“The internet has changed the rules of the game – pre and post internet decision making. Be proactive not reactive and take the Monopoly board approach (position your best stock on Mayfair and Park Lane),” he said.

Ms. Megabyte

Yvonne Adele is often referred to as ‘Ms. Megabyte’ for her ability to demystify social media. She spoke about the importance of online opinions and blogs, and said even though only two people in the audience said they read blogs, “47 per cent of Australians read them and 71 per cent of all Australian’s are online reading other people’s opinions”.

Based on this premise Ms. Megabyte suggested business owners track what people are saying about them by setting up Google alerts. One hint she gave for connecting with customers via social media was to use photos and videos on your Facebook page as these “drive the most engagement”.

Four Phases of Business

Business educator, Frank Romano summed up what many speakers had suggested: to make sure “conversations with people are engaging, effective and efficient,” and that “our success in life is directly related to our conversations”. His ‘how to’ teaching provided delegates with simple, easy to remember and apply maxims, some of which are worth framing: “the purpose of business is to stay in business”… “businesses go broke by losing one customer at a time”.

He presented the life phases of a business and relationship. Phase 1: ‘Birth’, which leads to a period of ‘Life is Good’. Then he said every business and relationship hits Phase Three ‘The Wall’. He stressed that when you do, “you can’t simply go back to basics – that’s the kiss of death!” When the environment changes you move into Phase Four: ‘Adapt or Perish’.

The topic of sales was one he spent a lot of time speaking on. “Sales is not forcing people to buy something they don’t want,” he said. “Selling is an exchange of values and sales people have influence ‘good’ or ‘bad’… The way to effectively influence a customer is to help the customer perceive value.”


A series of workshops followed, led by sales and customer service expert, Martin Grunstein, psychologist and consultant Dr. Maree Sleeman, industry research specialists ReSurg, Tim Thurn from platinum sponsor Essilor and relationship expert, Kirsty Spraggon.

On The Social Side

With such an incredible line up of speakers and workshops not to mention the preferred supplier night which showcased the latest products and technology, there was barely any reason to add anything else to the mix… except of course for the many social gatherings, which kicked off with the beachside BBQ on the opening night, through to an afternoon of golf, a high tea and the fabulous gala dinner, hosted by comedian Peter Berner, to close off the conference. It was a packed weekend. Sarah O’Connor, Marketing Manager for ProVision said the entire conference was a fantastic success. “There was a really positive vibe among the delegates,” she said. No arguments here. What a great conference!