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HomemiprofessionLeaping into Ownership

Leaping into Ownership

The concept of practice ownership is daunting, especially when you’re an early career optometrist… yet it’s possible with preparation a supportive team’s back-up.

The appeal of optometry for me, has always been the ability to combine a healthy profession with the challenge of growing a business – even while I was studying, I knew that one day I wanted to have my own store.

I started my career with Specsavers as their focus on mentorship and training appealed. As a graduate, I quickly put my dreams of business aside as I realised how important it was to hone my skills in my new world where there were no university supervisors to pick up on mistakes.

Three years after graduating I began itching for something new. I’d always had an interest in behavioural optometry so I toyed with the idea of further study. I also contemplated locuming to experience variety. At that time, I was privileged to be working in a store that challenged us to think beyond optometry and come up with ideas to better the practice. I enjoyed the daily challenge and it gave me an insight into how I could run my own store. I knew that before I seriously considered ownership, I’d need to understand how a business really works – I also needed to become a strong leader.

FIRST STEPS

Specsavers offers Pathway, a six month development program for future directors. It focuses on leadership development and business management. So in my fourth year out of university, I ventured in this direction.

Pathway taught me a lot about myself. It challenged me to reflect on who I am and how my personality fits in the workplace. I identified my strengths and areas that needed development. Through workshops and by completing an in-store project, I developed my understanding of business.

Even while on the program, I did not envisage becoming a store owner immediately upon completion. My goal had been to own a store before the age of 30 and, although I felt ready to be a business owner, I wanted to take the time to continue to grow personally.

I considered owning an independent practice but found the idea frightening. Although there is plenty of information out there, as a recent graduate I wanted to ensure I could practice as much as possible without worrying about administration.

Being a Specsavers franchisee was highly appealing. I had seen the joint venture partnership work successfully and I believed in their vision and values. I knew day-to-day I would be free to focus on being an optometrist and concentrate on growing a team and store – things like payroll are taken care of, there’s the support of brandpower and help is always available.

When, soon after completing Pathway, an opportunity arose for partnership, my first reaction was to say no. I was concerned that I was too young and that I needed to develop my leadership skills. However, with encouragement from friends and family, colleagues and the support office, I decided to take the leap… I took on the responsibility of becoming the optometrist partner at Specsavers Sylvania.

WHAT I LEARNT

You can easily talk yourself into thinking you’re not ready for something, but if you think you can do it, then take the challenge and prove yourself. No one ever feels truly ready – we constantly grow and acquire new learnings, regardless of age or experience.

It’s been 12 months since I became a franchisee and I have no regrets. It was daunting to enter a team as a boss and as the third youngest I had to prove myself as a leader right from the start. I’ve grown immensely from this challenge – I’ve become stronger and I’ve learnt about my capabilities. Throughout, I’ve been constantly supported by Specsavers, my retail partner and my team.

Every day is truly rewarding, knowing that I’m working for myself, I’m growing a store and I’m helping my employees grow. One day I may do further study, or perhaps locum, but right now I am happy with the challenge of running a store, growing it and developing myself.

Michelle Cremona is the optometrist partnerat Specsavers Sylvania.