From overcoming cancer to winning awards, the story of Imogen Hoyle and her rise to becoming a successful Partner is a highly inspiring one. Imogen joined Specsavers in 2005 as a Store Manager in Manchester, and after winning Best Store Manager at the Eye Care awards back in 2009, she was approached by the Specsavers Partnership programme.
Imogen spoke to us about her experiences in those 12 years, as well as building her own team, the benefits of the Apprenticeship scheme and much more.
The birth of Imogen’s Partnership pathway
“After I won the Best Store Manager award, I was greeted off stage by the board of directors, and they said, “I think we need to talk to you about Partnership”, that was my journey in…”
An unexpected but unique route into Partnership, Imogen may have been surprised with how her Partnership journey started, but she always knew that’s where she wanted to end up.
“I secretly wanted it, but probably never had the belief in myself that I could do it. I didn’t do particularly well at school, and I didn’t think I had the intelligence to execute the role well enough, but I’ve learned it’s not about that. The way Partnership is set up means people, like me, run the retail side of the business, with an Optometry Partner to focus on the clinical aspect. This lets me focus on the things I know I can make a significant impact on.”
Family feel work environment
Imogen spoke about the support Specsavers gave her “From both a business point of view and from a personal point of view. “The support I’ve received has been amazing. In 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I needed a hell of a lot of treatment because it was quite advanced. Specsavers were incredibly supportive, and they were very quick to communicate that they would support myself and my Partner in any way they could. They kept checking on me when I was going through my treatment. I was in work sometimes and then had to have chemotherapy, which was quite draining. I’ve seen first-hand the family nature of Specsavers, and from a holistic point of view, I’ve experienced Specsavers treating me like I am part of their family. [Since her diagnosis in 2018, Imogen has thankfully made a full recovery.]
“From a business point of view, taking on the Partnership in 2009, the support that we could tap into was incredible. I recognise the Specsavers framework is there for me, but if I don’t need their support, they’re not on my shoulder all of the time interfering, they just let me get on, which is really good because you don’t want someone ringing you up or visiting you all the time.”
Assembling a team from the ground up
When asked what she loved about being a Partner and running her own stores, Imogen didn’t hesitate to highlight that building your own team from scratch is incredible, “Definitely the people. The potential of being able to grow your own team and lead your own team is an amazing feeling. I love bringing people in with no skill and building them up to be amazing members of the team.”
With this in mind, Imogen highlighted how brilliant and useful the Apprenticeship scheme is. “I’m a great advocate of Apprentices because we can mould them ourselves. They are generally fresh out of school, with not much experience in industry. We can show, teach and coach them to be outstanding performers in our business, and we’ve had some real successes. I came out of school without many qualifications, and someone believed in me and I wanted to do the same for them when I became a Partner.”
The Apprenticeship scheme provided the solution to Imogen’s biggest hurdle since becoming a Partner. “Recruiting the right talent has been a big challenge. We need people that are prepared to study, to learn, to develop and do more outside their seven-and-a-half-hour a day work. We have had to recruit people from outside the area which is costly, and when you recruit someone that’s good and they decide they want to work somewhere else; it can be frustrating. With the Apprenticeship scheme you can grow and develop people from the ground up which is definitely the way to go.”
It’s all about the people around you
It was Imogen’s family who helped her overcome her self-doubt and find her confidence to go for the Partnership role. “My family gave me a push in the right direction, they kept telling me I’d won a lot of awards and kept reassuring me I have proven myself in my ability.”
“I had some really great mentors in my career, most notable are Richard Kirby and David Bistacci in Manchester. When I told Richard that I’d been approached to become a Partner, he said do it. Which was amazing because that clearly meant I was going to leave his business!”
Reaping the rewards
Imogen’s major highlight so far has been winning the best overall store at the Eye Care awards in 2014 for the Mansfield store. “The best of the best goes for those awards, there are a thousand Specsavers stores in the UK, and to be shortlisted was a win in itself. To go to the award ceremony and win, was incredible, it’s massive winning an award as a Partner, it is a completely different feeling. It made me incredibly proud of all the things that we’d achieved here.”
Now Director of three Specsavers businesses, Imogen feels her passion and excitement keeps her focus. “I’ve just had my 50th birthday and I’m at a point in my life where I am fully focused and committed to the three businesses. I absolutely love my job. Taking on a store and becoming a Partner is a huge commitment and has the potential to change your life. With the help and guidance of colleagues around you, any risk is worth it. It’s great, it’s absolutely changed mine and my family’s life, it’s given us opportunities and financial rewards that I could only have dreamt of.”
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