Lee Palmer, opens up about work-life balance, recruiting from the NHS and why he loves being a Specsavers Audiology Partner

We shared a virtual cuppa with Audiologist Partner, Lee Palmer, to chat about his career with Specsavers and the challenges 2020 brought.

Specsavers hearcare accessible to all

Lee Palmer Audiologist Partner

During the first lockdown, and throughout 2020, Lee really had to adapt. “We were still in the store and the door was locked, but people would constantly knock on the window and ask for help.” It’s the accessibility of Specsavers hearcare that Lee suggests as the reason people looked to them for help at that difficult period, “if you look back 10 years ago you could spend 5,6, £7,000 on particular hearing aids, whereas now, you can get top of the range products and quality service for £2000. Specsavers is making access to hearcare more accessible on the high street and across the board.”

Lee is optimistic about 2021 even after being plunged straight into another lockdown. “I think most people can see light at the end of the tunnel. There was this perception, after the November lockdown, that coming into the new year everything would be good. We’ve been very lucky that Specsavers has been able to remain open and help people in need.”

Journey to Partnership

Rising through the ranks, Lee’s journey to Partnership started in 2005 as a Lab Technician. Promoted to Store Manager, he then trained and practised as a Dispensing Optician Manager. He attended courses to become a Contact Lens Optician, and an Audiologist – although he wouldn’t recommend studying these in tandem as he did! It was through his training he met his wife and they moved to Norfolk. “I qualified as an Audiologist and took over the business in Norwich in 2013.”

The major attraction of store Partnership for Lee was the self-reward of running his own store, “When you work with Specsavers, Partnership is today’s golden goose. It’s what you’re working towards. You start as a trainee and set goals for yourself. Succeeding in a unique business that allows you to be your own boss without the risk. In comparison, if I had taken on an independent hearing centre, I might do OK, but I might not, and that risk then falls on me; whereas with the Specsavers name above the door, you know it’s going to do well.”

The benefits of Partnership

There are many things Lee loves about being a Partner, but most of all, it’s the freedom of “being allowed to make decisions for myself and my team. A lot of people get trapped into other companies, you go to the interview and are promised the world but nine months in, those promises evaporate. I was given so many opportunities from being a lab tech to where I am now, and I like to give that back.”

The Partnership also brings financial benefits. Lee said, “being a Partner, your earnings reflect the effort that you put in. Most businesses are limited by their location, but you always earn more as a Partner than you would if employed by another company. I feel the job offers more than financial rewards, they speak for themselves, you can make certain decisions for the good of the business and staff.”

Building a team

Another benefit of Partnership is the freedom to build the right team. Attracting audiologists from the NHS is incredibly valuable to Lee as they bring the foundations needed to succeed. “It’s not as big and scary as it sounds, to step outside the hospital and into Specsavers. Almost all the skills are transferable and anything that’s not transferable is teachable. It’s an interesting change and one that opens a lot of avenues.”

Lee states that his customer base is 60-70% NHS, but whereas “the NHS trust can limit the things that you can do for patients, at Specsavers the person making the decisions is in the room next to you. Somebody I hired from the NHS brought a whole host of qualities to the business, a new system of working and operating practice.”

Achieving a work-life balance

A question on the mind of every prospective Specsavers Partner is work-life balance. After initial teething issues, Lee found the solution. “When you own the building, and you know everything you do is attached to your phone and iPad, it takes a bit of effort to separate yourself and not constantly bring work home. As a Partner you make the decision to separate the two. I work for the day and then I go home.”

Not stopping there, Lee also provides a good balance for his team. “During the first lockdown, we changed everyone’s working hours to give people more time at home while still filling their hours. We went to longer days, four days a week, giving everybody three days off. And the benefit of an extra day off, reduces expenses like parking, travel time, and meals at work.”

To those considering Partnership

Lee would advise any budding Specsavers Partner that if you are willing to grow and develop, he couldn’t think of a reason you wouldn’t want to do it. “There’s a certain amount of personal development to go through, particularly if you’ve come from a clinical role, you may need to have secondary help. I have a clinical position and I run the business. I have to understand accounts, invoicing, payroll, general health and safety in the workplace, and legislation. With all of these different elements coming together, it’s very dynamic. Things change very quickly, and Specsavers are always open to suggestions that can help the wider business. It feels great when you know your actions and hard work creates change within a very big business.

“It’s your own business, there’s nobody stood behind you telling you what to do, and this is exactly how you successfully run a business.”

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