Technical leadership for the common good

03/01 2022 - Stores

Technical leadership for the common good

Sami Hämäläinen is the optical partner at Specsavers in Mikkeli, Finland. At Specsavers, entrepreneurship is often a joint-venture partnership: an optometrist is responsible for eye health and a retailer for glasses and other products. Sami has been running the store for six years with Teemu Mynttinen, the retail partner at Specsavers Mikkeli. “As a brand new entrepreneur, I was initially a little scared. But over the past years, I have achieved peace of mind and a stable clientele that I got to know well,” Sami says.

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Sami and Teemu became store owners when the previous entrepreneur moved on. The fact that the store and its staff were already in place lowered the threshold enough for them to dare to leap into partnership. “The road was still long, but Specsavers impressed me with their professionalism during the interview rounds. That convinced me.”

Often the route to Specsavers partnership goes via a special development programme for new store owners. Sami already had a long career as an optician and had gone through training that prepared him for entrepreneurship. A former colleague had taught him the right mindset and the importance of precision and immediate response. “For example, store lights that have burned out should be changed right away and not when there’s a row of them off. It’s a small detail, but it speaks volumes of how we take care of things on a larger scale.”

Support from the family

A Specsavers optical partner is a family member and receives strong support from the partnership. Marketing, frame selection, and store location are among the things that the support office automatically handles. “Optical research and equipment are also advanced, and we are on the top of the game in that aspect,” Sami says.

The partnership still requires constant self-development and active initiative. Sami has had to learn about financial management and accounting, for example. Some things have been easier since the Specsavers concept includes clearly defined roles and a well-planned customer journey. An optical partner can trust their staff to know their responsibilities and to be able to carry them out. “I usually go home after a normal workday. Having to do overtime is a rarity,” Sami says.

Expertise speeds things up

Versatile support from Specsavers means that an optical partner can concentrate on their duties. In Sami’s case, that means performing high-quality eye examinations to as many customers as possible. “The Specsavers business model is based on high volume and the affordable prices it brings along.” The speed of the process is not the result of cutting corners, however, but of using the latest technology and of competence and training, which creates an advantage that is transferred directly to customer prices.

Expertise is what Sami thinks characterises Specsavers most as a company. It includes precision and careful compliance with national and European legislation, among other things. “Even training on the new data privacy legislation was well ahead of schedule,” Sami says. Yet being thorough doesn’t mean being uptight. “The Finnish support office works for us partners. It’s a people-oriented organisation that’s on the same level as us,” Sami sums up.

Faster lane for eye health diagnostics

The Specsavers store in Mikkeli has invested heavily in the latest optical equipment, which the public healthcare system also recognises. “Ophthalmologists can refer their patients to us for certain diagnostic tests. We have very advanced equipment to monitor glaucoma, for example.”

Tests conducted at Specsavers cost as much as those done in the public healthcare system. That means expense doesn’t stand in the way of using private health services in this case. “We have a shorter queue than public clinics and store diagnostic data in the public health database to be available for both the public sector and the patients themselves.”

There are also other perks in the arrangement. “An elderly person with reduced mobility benefits from being able to get all their examinations in one place. It also reduces the pressure at the public eye units. That’s a genuine advantage to the community,” Sami adds.

The advanced diagnostic equipment and high-level training at the Mikkeli store are advantages also to optometry students. “We would gladly be a model store where students can come for their practises or summer jobs. Unfortunately, Mikkeli seems to be too remote viewed from optical schools,” Sami says. Mikkeli is a vibrant summer city with people, events and activities, and even accommodation has sometimes been arranged for the students. Practice in a top-of-the-line store must be a dream come true for many.

Many opportunities to make a difference

Sami very much enjoys his role as an optical partner. His advice to those considering the same career path is to be ready to work hard. The number of performed eye examinations is linked directly to the development of glasses and contact lens sales and thus to financial results. “I’ve considered expanding but concluded that for me, one store is enough. Specsavers has given me other kinds of possibilities to use my expertise and do good. For example, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, where I examined the eyes of local people and dealt out used glasses we had collected from our customers.”

Sami has also received invitations to several working groups. One of them is a partner group that meets a few times a year. It plans the future and sums up the past. “We don’t have operative power but can report our experiences to the support office. In return, we get to know what’s ahead.”

In his free time, Sami keeps physically active because his job is relatively immobile. “I ride a bike, ski, play floorball and go to the gym. When I was younger, I played football on a division level. The highpoint of my career was after a training game in Hungary where we were considered such stars that the audience came to ask for autographs,” Sami laughs. He’s still a football enthusiast and follows West Ham and the Premier League keenly. He has even visited London several times with his son for West Ham home games.

Are you also ready to take an active part in the eye health of the community and be on top of technical development? Read more about Specsavers partnership and see available job openings.

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