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Thursday / June 13.
HomemiprofessionFinding a Niche in Retail Optometry

Finding a Niche in Retail Optometry

As the first Joint Venture Partner with Bailey Nelson, Linh Lam is leaning in to develop both her business and clinical expertise.

As the youngest of five from a Vietnamese immigrant family, I was always trying to carve out a little pocket of the world for myself.

All my sisters were short-sighted; they planted the seed for a career in optometry. My parents were farmers, so I knew it was better than hard labour! My eldest sister Jenny was my role model growing up; she wanted to be an optometrist too but chose physiotherapy to stay close to home.

Since starting my study, I knew I wanted a clinic to call my own. Cultivating a healthy and fun work environment where people feel like they can do their best work and grow has always been important to me. The ability to turn a visual ailment into a fun, fashionable, and educational experience for my patients is the most satisfying part of the day.

In my graduate year, I joined Specsavers Ballarat, where I had the pleasure of working with a vibrant and engaged team. After commuting between Melbourne and Ballarat for a year, I moved to Bailey Nelson Highpoint, five minutes from home. I was ready for a new challenge and a break from my car.

FINDING MY PLACE

From the interview with Bailey Nelson Eyecare Director Lawrie Jacobson, to my first week in the store, I felt at home instantly. I was the only optometrist on site, which was daunting, but the tight-knit team made me feel supported, and I started to grow as an optometrist and a manager. I was forthright regarding my interest in partnering with Bailey Nelson. I believed in the company’s vision, was impressed by the quality of the products, and could see myself kicking goals with this young, down-to-earth Australian company.

While waiting for the opportunity to arise, I stayed engaged with training days and social events, learning about the company’s goals and seeing how it planned to grow with its young consumers. I needed to feel aligned with the business and its direction.

EXPANDING MY SKILLSET

During my four years at Highpoint, before signing the paperwork and becoming a small business owner, I co-managed a high performing store, had optometry students for placements, and made lifetime friends, all while weathering two years of COVID lockdowns.

During lockdown two, I started my MBA with Victoria University, and recently received my Graduate Certificate in Business Administration. It was a different world, and I had to speak a foreign language; it was exciting and a welcome distraction from all things COVID. Now I am the first Joint Venture Partner (JVP) at Bailey Nelson Williamstown. We have a small, tight-knit team, and I am engaging with my local community in ways you can only be as a small business owner.

The hardest part of being a JVP is that you are acutely aware of the slow days. You know the exact sales target to break even for the day, so it can be stressful when no one comes through the door. Taking a step back and realising it takes time to build a clinic and your reputation in the community is vital.

I keep myself in check by maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Every day I wake up early enough to ensure I go to the gym, walk my dogs, and eat a full breakfast before work. I try to do something fun in the evenings, like a dance class or seeing friends, ensuring work is only part of my long day.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

The plan is to complete my MBA; through my studies and acquired business acumen, I hope to bridge the gap between clinical optometry and commercial performance. With retail optometry providing most optometric services in Australia, we should ‘lean in’ as clinicians.

Over the next few years, my focus will also be to grow the Williamstown store while developing myself clinically as an optometrist. With the support of Bailey Nelson as a JVP, I will find my niche in the diverse world of clinical optometry and establish my role in the local community, in the ever-growing western suburbs of Melbourne.

The hardest part of being a JVP is that you are acutely aware of the slow days

Linh Lam completed a Bachelor of Optometry at Flinders University, a Master of Optometry at Deakin University and a Grad Cert in Business Administration at Victoria University, where she is currently doing a Master of Business. Linh is the first Joint Venture Partner with Bailey Nelson. Her store is in Williamstown, located in   Melbourne’s western suburbs.