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HomemioptometryEyecare Plus National Conference

Eyecare Plus National Conference

A changing of the guard, a call for Eyecare Plus to maintain its collegiate focus and a line-up of high-quality, practical presentations on ‘The Future of Independent Optometry’ marked this year’s Eyecare Plus National Conference in Sydney in October.

With ‘The Future of Independent Optometry’ as the theme of this year’s Eyecare Plus 2014 National Conference, it was perhaps fitting that founder and long-standing chairman Tony Hanks opened the conference with news that he would pass on the baton.

Declaring that it was time for a change, Mr. Hanks said after 14 years, he would not be standing as chairman. Instead, the next chapter would be led by optometrist Justin Durkin, who owns two Eyecare Plus practices in Toowoomba. Mr. Hanks will remain a Director, while Dale Rolfe will continue as Deputy Chairman.

Future Trends

With the opening formalities concluded, the National Conference, held 11–12 October at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney and hosted by leading Australian comedian and media personality James O’Loghlin, moved into a presentation on future trends in optometry.

…the first goal in communicating in a competitive market is to get people’s attention

First up was Howard B. Purcell, Senior Vice President of Customer Development for Essilor America, with a powerful presentation, “The Practice of the Future”. He warned delegates about the disruptive trends and technologies in eye care. More importantly he demonstrated how independent optometry could use these new technologies in its favour, before they were employed by a competitor.

Eyecare Plus Consultant Damian Morgan has worked closely with the group for more than five years. Drawing from a vast experience in branding, professional development, advertising, and public relations, Mr. Morgan was well qualified to deliver a strong presentation on ‘Practice Growth’.

He implored delegates to recognise that the first goal in communicating in a competitive market is to get people’s attention. The second is to get them to remember the message. He outlined key strategies on how to achieve this then finished his session by giving delegates a peek at Eyecare Plus’ new consumer advertising materials.

Also speaking on branding was Dan Gregory, CEO of innovation and engagement company, The Impossible Institute, and regular panellist on ABC TV’s The Gruen Transfer. Dan presented an entertaining and informative presentation called “Brand Plus – Implementation”. He challenged delegates to ask themselves four key questions:

1. What is your practice’s identity in the market place?

2. How do your values align with those

of your customers’ needs, and where do they conflict?

3. What are the barriers preventing new business coming through the door?

4. What stories do you create for your customers to share and evangelise on your behalf?

Optometry Giving Sight

Ron Baroni, Country Manager Australia for Optometry Giving Sight, and Tony Hanks presented the merits of the ‘Seeing Eye to Eye Program’, an initiative that benefits eyecare in Indigenous parts of Australia, as well as Africa, Asia and South America.

Inspiring Eyecare Plus delegates to get involved in the program, Mr. Hanks presented the results of a Neilson Research Report that was released in June this year. The survey, which polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, reported that 67 per cent of people prefer to work for socially responsible companies and 55 per cent of consumers would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to a positive social and environmental impact.

Forty-one Eyecare Plus practices signed up to participate in Optometry Giving Sights’ ‘Seeing Eye to Eye’ program at the conference.


Throughout the afternoon a series of practical workshops were on offer. Continuing on from his morning presentation Dan Gregory demonstrated how a small practice could establish a powerful brand within its community. He highlighted several practical ways for businesses to maximise ‘touch points’ to enhance customer loyalty.

Nick Hornsby, from Essilor UK, and Christine Jouvenceau from Essilor France, presented a workshop on using technology to engage patients. This practical workshop demonstrated to the delegates how to improve their consultative skills, boosting their professionalism in the eyes of the patient and ultimately improving patient outcomes. The end goal, Mr. Hornsby said, was to be able to “sell without selling”.

Tracy Lenihan and Bradd Payne from Eyecare Plus’ in-house advertising agency, Marketing Plus, presented a workshop on how to get a message heard over all the other noise in the market place. The pair demonstrated the various marketing tools developed by Eyecare Plus for use across print, email and social media.

Contact lenses were a major part of the conference proceedings, with Colby Hanks and Michael Jacobs launching the Eyecare Plus consumer Contact Lens website.

Incoming Chairman Justin Durkin, Martin Gregory and Dale Rolfe presented a practical workshop on how to most effectively implement a frame and lens package in a practice. The workshop covered purchasing, displaying, promoting, pricing, inventory management, patient invoicing and practice management systems to most effectively run a frame and lens package.

Gala Dinner

With an entertaining mix of awards ceremonies and outstanding acts – both scheduled and impromptu – the gala dinner was an opportunity for Justin Durkin to be officially welcomed as the new Chairman of Eyecare Plus. Mr. Durkin acknowledged Mr. Hanks’ contribution, leading the group from 20 practices to 170 at a time when the optical landscape was experiencing massive change.

He assured delegates that the core focus of Eyecare Plus would remain optometry and clinical leadership.

Mr. Durkin urged members to meet together frequently, to support each other, saying it was the collegiate nature of the organisation that made the difference… “so you can expect me at all the meetings and we will grow from there”.

With the formalities out the way, the entertainment began. Raymond Crowe, otherwise known as ‘The Unusualist’ thrilled guests, living up to his moniker with an unusual mix of ventriloquism, mime and magic that culminated in an amazing tango with Safilo rep Grant Chick’s dinner jacket, that would have qualified them as contestants on Dancing with the Stars. The night was danced away to the tunes of Sydney band Cover Crazy. But the unscheduled highlight of the evening had to be the acrobatic dance skills of Tiger Vision rep Greta Perko, who impressed everyone with her long-lasting handstand.

Eyecare Plus Awards

One of the highlights of the Eyecare Plus gala dinner was the presentation of various awards.
Most Efficient Practice: Mudgee

This award is defined by the practice that generates the highest fees per full-time optometrist.
Best Practice Award: The Junction

This award is given to the practice with the highest score on the Eyecare Plus accreditation.
Patient Satisfaction Award: Karalee

Awarded for the practice with the highest overall score for patient opinion surveys.
Practice Growth Award: Castle Hill
Based on percentage growth for 2013–14.