In the beginning, Anssi had doubts about the new and rivalling chain, as he initially saw it. However, his scepticism eventually turned into excitement. Before much time had passed, he joined forces with his optical partner, Hanna Rautava, and took the lead in setting up one of the earliest Specsavers stores in Finland.
As an experienced manager, Anssi had realistic expectations for return on investment. He had calculated the payback period for the initial investments to be seven years. In seven months, the partner duo had paid back all loans. The new store was a huge success, and the new concept attracted customers from the start in an exceptional way. Anssi and Hanna also invested significantly in the examination equipment. Despite the affordable price level, eye tests were technically very advanced.
The new store made Anssi and Hanna Specsavers franchising pioneers in Finland, which wasn’t out of character for Anssi. His part of Finland, Southern Ostrobothnia, is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and fearlessness in the face of new challenges. True to his tribe, Anssi has also been active in Specsavers marketing. Over several years, he made a name for himself in chain advertising within Finland. "Marketing has continuously intrigued me, and there were occasions when I became deeply involved in it. For instance, when the new sight test was introduced, my face was featured in the advertisements. Experiencing my own face displayed on every street corner during a trip to Helsinki felt incredibly unique. Subsequently, this image spread across all Nordic countries," Anssi recalls.
Photo shoots took place both in Denmark and Finland. But Anssi has demonstrated his passion and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in other ways as well. He became interested in contact lenses and their technical details in an early stage, spreading the word and selling innovative products when contact lenses still made up a small part of the revenue. "People have individual, unique eyes, and contact lenses involve many variables, such as the makeup of tear fluid. It is important to understand different materials and how they behave. I feel I have enough experience to select those new products that have the most to give to our clients and that are financially sensible,” Anssi says.
As a store owner, financial sensibility is a crucial factor. According to Anssi, revenue has been substantial since he hopped aboard the Specsavers ship. "I employ people so that they can bring in their part of the revenue, and that is their main job." Anssi means that good revenue enables all other things: salaries, store and personnel development, and technical equipment. So keeping the store financially healthy keeps the eyes of the customers healthy as well. "Of course, it also enables us all to have comfort in our lives," he adds.
Anssi considers the simplicity of the Specsavers partnership business model to be a key factor. "The concept and the products are there – all you need to do is start taking care of the daily running of the store", he says. "We have the nicest customers in the world, and this is something you can influence. How you treat customers directly impacts how they treat you in return."
That’s why Anssi thinks having a genuine fondness for people in the optical business is important. At the end of the day, customers return due to the personalised service and the familiarity of the store. "They come to connect with the nice person who helps them."
As an employer, Anssi believes in the power of the persona: "We never hire degrees but people". And those people need to be outgoing and ready to make contact. They must have the courage to offer customers different solutions to their problems, such as contact lenses or cleaning solutions. In other words, the same qualities that the owner embodies.
According to Anssi, the employer is responsible for providing security by setting clear boundaries for operations and defining responsibilities. The store owners also take care of both their customers and their team. "We'll never have a soft drink machine, but the fridge is always fully stocked, and everyone working with us is welcome to make use of it. We also make a point to recognise and celebrate exceptional performance. These acknowledgements can be a day spent outdoors or a team event that brings everyone together."
To effectively monitor performance, Anssi has developed straightforward yet effective techniques for tracking sales. These methods provide a clear picture of individual and collective achievements. "I want everyone to recognise that our store's success is a shared victory, fostering a sense of personal fulfilment as we work together to achieve our goals," Anssi adds.
His 15 years at the helm of a Specsavers store has taken Anssi to many places within the chain, where he’s had an opportunity to influence how the chain develops in Finland. Experience has brought expertise and "know-how you can’t pour into anyone's ear", as Anssi describes. Anssi's entrepreneurial spirit hasn't gone unnoticed. This year, NÄE ry awarded Anssi with a golden badge of merit for his active role in developing Finland's modern contact lens business.