CLO Director, Brad Parkes, has been running Specsavers stores across three decades. Heading up the stores of Solihull and Shirley, he shares his experience of Partnership and the value of having CLOs within the business.
He started working weekends alongside his studies before his career took a rapid rise from trainee DO in 1990, to qualifying as a CLO, to becoming Partner of his first store in Solihull with his brother in 1993. “I had a reasonable amount of experience from working weekends and a great pre-reg position as a DO. This made going from DO to CLO Partner a relatively quick transition.”
You drive the business as a Joint Venture Partner
As a Partner, you are in control of your own destiny. We were really lucky and were far busier than we ever expected when we first started, playing catch up from day one!
The Specsavers system allows you to implement it with autonomy. You can use your own ideas to overcome challenges at a local level. You say, “we’ve got this challenge let’s try doing it slightly differently, does it work now?”, and in the usual corporate world, you don’t get that. It’s do it this way or no way. You try things out and if they work, fantastic.
Partnership also brings a benefit to the whole work/life balance because as Partners we’re in control of the hours that we work.
Job satisfaction is the key to success.
A happy work environment is the foundation for business success, and my employee’s satisfaction and personal development is crucial.
Each time the team test someone’s eyes, or saves someone’s vision, or saves someone’s life, or improves someone’s life that little bit, their personal job satisfaction multiplies my own. These are wonderful things the team is doing to help others. With over 40 in the team, that’s an enormous amount of job satisfaction that I feel!
Allowing my managers to ‘manage’ and make decisions, and get things right, is deeply satisfying to see.
Family level support from top to bottom
I remember one Saturday morning, we’d been open for about two or three weeks, we came in and the computer system was down, and it felt like the end of the world.
I phoned Guernsey straight away and Doug Perkins answered the phone. I was taken aback that I was talking to the head of the organisation in the Guernsey office on a Saturday morning. It quickly became clear that he knew more about our trade over the last two or three weeks than we did. He could tell me, “You’ve seen this many people, you’ve done this many tests, etc”, it was incredibly inspirational, and he gave me the guidance I needed.
That level of knowledge and help runs right through the company from top to bottom. The support Specsavers gives to Partners, both aspiring and established, is incredibly helpful. It’s given in a way that is reminiscent of working in a tight-knit family. I came to the business with clinical qualifications, but I have gained management and business skills through the support Specsavers provide.
Adding value with a CLO
As we grow the contact lens business, it’s highlighted a natural need to have dedicated CLOs.
I think CLOs in the business bring huge value; they are specialists in contact lenses, and they can dedicate time to new contact lens fits. The patients we are attracting appreciate that specialist service. Our contact lens customers get continuity with seeing the same CLO at each visit and they’re getting a personalised service.
I find having both a CLO and DO in my business really raises the standard. With a DO customers benefit from a specialist who understands spectacle dispensing, who has the knowledge of the latest lenses, and can advise on back up glasses and alternative optical solutions. And not to forget that CLOs are qualified DOs too, in some ways they are the most multiskilled and flexible members of the team.
We are always looking for ways to further develop our CLOs One of our CLOs has done extra training to carry out DVLA screening. He’s over-the-moon because he never thought this would be available to him. This takes the task away from our Optoms, who can then focus solely on improving customer’s sight and potentially saving lives. This provides job satisfaction for both roles, enabling each to get on with their own priorities and develop their careers.
Advice for aspiring Partners
If the last 12 months have proved anything, it’s that I would much rather work for an established company like Specsavers, with their support and backing. I don’t believe anybody else in the industry is in as strong a place as we are now.
Every part of the business has a professional team of great people, experts in their field who support you, so you can concentrate on what you’re good at.
Go for the Partnership Pathway as soon as you can.