Climbing the retail ladder to Partnership with Conor Dewey

We caught up with Conor Dewey, a Retail Director of two stores in Ireland, Maynooth and Liffey Valley, to find out how his career has excelled to extraordinary heights since joining Specsavers.

He shares his passion, determination, and ambition for climbing the career ladder, alongside the training and support he’s experienced with Specsavers.

Conor Dewey Retail Partner SpecsaversJourney to Specsavers

After a former role in Airport Passport control, it was a walk through his local town of Santry, where he noticed a job advertisement for a Lab Technician in the window of Specsavers.

“I was keen to have a full-time role with greater stability and regular hours, and handed in my CV. I went for an interview with Matt Richards, now the Store Director of Swords, who rang me back a week later to say ‘… so I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I don’t think you are right for the lab role; the good news is you could have a great career on the shop floor.’

He could tell customer service was my background and offered me a position as an Optical Assistant. So that’s where I learned the trade, and when Matt opened his own Specsavers in Swords, I joined him there.

In the five years I worked with Matt, I worked my way up from Optical Assistant, to Assistant Manager, and on to Store Manager. I then moved to another store and the opportunity for Retail Partnership came up at Liffey Valley, which I snapped up. I’ve been here for three and a half years now. One year ago I opened the store in Maynooth, so I am now the Retail Director of two stores.

What has the training and support been like?

I’ve been very lucky and have been in the right place at the right time to take advantage of some great courses. Matt put me on all the customer service courses and specialist courses, and I would attend the offsite training centre in Kildare.

It hugely benefited me. There was a lot of learning on the job and learning from Matt’s experience. I knew I wanted to be a manager and did the Specsavers foundation course and after that did ILM level two and three, which were fantastic. They really helped provide me with the tools I needed to juggle different staff situations. After that I did Pathway to Partnership the build-up to directorship. I found Pathway very similar to ILM. There’s a lot involved with managing people, and I felt very well prepared. It also taught me a lot about the business side and how to approach each area.

Work/Life balance, how do you fit it all in?

I would describe my early career approach as old school, perhaps in today’s view. Back then we’re talking 5-year plans and knowing your career goals. I had competition around me and was working with people who had ambitions to be managers, or who were working towards becoming directors.

To help my studies Matt would take the time to discuss the stores performance. I could then use the tools I gained with ILM and put them into practice. When it came to the projects it was easy to approach them as they related to my everyday working life on the shop floor, identifying issues and coming up with solutions for the team to complete. I would spend time outside work completing the tasks, but it never felt difficult or a sacrifice because I could see the long-term goal.

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What has been most challenging? and the best bit?

Managing a team and handling different scenarios has had me digging deeply into my experience and training. I’ve been on Specsavers coaching courses to get the best out of my team, you really must bring them on a journey. I make sure I spend a lot of time on the shop floor getting to know my customers and working closely with the team, I think it’s important to be seen and not hidden in the office.

I would love to give someone else the opportunity that my fellow , gave me. 10 years ago, we were all fighting for positions and to have someone knocking down my door who I could mentor would be great.

I have a huge sense of pride when I look back on my experience. From the day I handed in my CV I have worked my way up and am today a store director. The personal satisfaction is huge. The fact that I’ve climbed the company ladder has me brimming with pride.

What’s Partnership really like?

I get on really well with the other three Partners. It’s partly because we are friends as well. Lisa and Emma were friends before I started. They knew me a little before I came on board, and then Patrick joined who I had been through Pathway with. Yes, we all have different opinions from time-to-time but fundamentally we all want to get to the same goal and work out the best solution. The relationship between Partners is hugely important. I feel very lucky that I’m part of a great bunch and we enjoy others company and socialising together outside of work.

What’s the best advice you’ve received and how would you advise someone wanting to join Specsavers?

Back at the start of my career, Tracey, the store manager, took me to one side and said, ‘you need to take this seriously if you want to have a chance to go on and become a manager.’ It was the wakeup call I needed. Tracey had high standards and for her to say she saw potential in me to be a manager, has stayed in my mind. People have seen the potential in me and have given me the guidance and pointers I’ve needed along the way to become a partner.

I’ve hired people from retail businesses who are amazing. They left their last role because they could not progress, there was no training or career path. At Specsavers we offer training and progression in abundance. I am living proof that the journey is successful as I’ve worked my way up.

You are always learning. When I started each role, I was still learning on the job. Take every opportunity, even if you’re not yet an expert, you will pick it all up as you go. Drive yourself to succeed!”

Ready to start your Specsavers journey?

Click here for our latest store opportunitites


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